On a sunny Sunday afternoon in July, you can stroll through any of Spokane’s traditional neighborhoods and recapture a luxurious sense of the past.
You’ll wander over ancient sidewalks, past an eclectic assortment of houses, through parks in full bloom. As your tour continues to a neighborhood grocery, ice cream parlor or espresso stand, you’ll probably remain under a canopy of maple leaves.
It’s a design that has worked for more than century in Spokane, one that continues to lure new residents and soothe the old. It was created by architects and planners who based their vision for the city on the needs of people, not the requirements of automobiles.
We were delighted to encounter this endearing design in the work of Spokane Horizons, a group of 200 volunteers who have spent the last year devising a plan for Spokane’s development in the 21st century.
Values at the turn of the last century were usually sound. People walked to visit their neighbors, rode bicycles to the park, caught streetcars to downtown. They savored time to connect with family and friends, and created architecture with tucked-away garages, large front porches and inviting front walks.
In 1911, the city approved a $1 million park bond issue. That brought the Olmsted Brothers, nationally known landscape architects, to design parks as beautiful as any in the country. Today, young families push strollers through the same parks, raising a new generation in the solace of these timeless sanctuaries.
Time moved more slowly a century ago; human relationships loomed larger. People didn’t cocoon or commute. They conversed, they sang, they connected.
In those hours ordered so differently from our own, a number of Spokane residents found time to imagine the future and to create enduring legacies. Spokane Horizons volunteers have made a similar commitment of time and forethought. They have developed an urban design which takes us back to the future. It’s a blueprint which would allow more Spokane residents to enjoy the traditions of our favorite neighborhoods: sidewalks, trees and parks. This new urbanism vision keeps the needs of humans, not cars, the focal point.
The work ahead will be difficult. Not everyone will agree with the volunteers’ proposals for improving Spokane. Business and government must become involved. Additional voices, especially those from ethnic groups, the poor and the young, must be heard. Meanwhile, we’re grateful for the time these volunteers have lavished on Spokane.
We’ve always loved living in this city. And, with the Spokane Horizons vision, we can imagine a new century in which the oldest reasons for residing here remain among the very best.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board
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