The revival of West First Avenue in downtown Spokane suffered a setback when the Children’s Museum of Spokane abandoned plans to move there. It didn’t suffer a defeat, however.
Landing the museum and Spokane Marketplace as wholesome, vibrant, family-friendly tenants in the once crime-plagued district was considered a key part of reversing the decay on which drug dealers and prostitutes had feasted for too long. The Marketplace remains. As its first summer rolls into fall, it has plans for an expanded holiday season later this year and, ultimately, for year-round, seven-day-a-week activity.
Like the Marketplace, the Children’s Museum and its predicted 35,000 visitors a year, would have generated the kind of law-abiding foot traffic that gives civic vitality to a neighborhood while discouraging criminal activity.
Unfortunately, just when it looked as though the museum would move into the premises at 1017 W. First, a couple of complicating discoveries occurred:
Mid-City Concerns was operating a senior citizen meals program at that site - for which it had a lease. Thirteen registered sex offenders were living around the corner, in the Otis Hotel.
Those problems may have been more of image than of substance. With concerted effort, another suitable location probably could have been found for the Meals on Wheels program, whose clients are among the prime beneficiaries of the neighborhood’s safer streets. While a sex offender program so close to a children’s attraction sounds alarming, police say there is scarcely a place in town where registered sex offenders aren’t close by. The Otis, meanwhile, agreed to stop taking new placements, and in the past month, two of the 13 have been eliminated from the highly structured program.
Children attending the museum under their parents’ or group leaders’ supervision would have been at no greater risk there than in most neighborhoods of the city.
The Children’s Museum will be a community asset wherever it locates. It would have been nice if it could have been part of the rebirth of West First. If it won’t be, something else will. Business owners and others there have collaborated with police to achieve dramatic reductions in criminal activity. Their efforts to find appropriate neighbors to sustain the turnaround continue.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board
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