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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

CdA group seeks height restrictions

The Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association wants the city to preserve views of Lake Coeur d’Alene in the downtown corridor.

That means perhaps limiting the height of new buildings or only allowing developers to construct tall buildings if they agree to leave a portion of the lot open to maintain the views.

The group, which represents more than 300 downtown merchants, wrote a letter to the Coeur d’Alene City Council on Tuesday, asking it to research the creation of new height rules.

“We believe this should be done to preserve the view corridors of the lake, all while making new projects economically feasible for potential developers,” President Ed Muehlbach wrote.

Currently, there are no building height restrictions for the downtown area.

Carrie Cook, manager of the downtown association, said its goal isn’t to eliminate high-rise buildings such as McEuen Terrace, but to set rules to preserve the views that make downtown Coeur d’Alene unique.

The idea is to give developers additional floors if they agree to give something that benefits the town. For example, a builder could add an additional story by making the structure pedestrian-friendly or leaving a portion of the lot undeveloped. Cook said other incentives also are possible, and that’s why the city should have a consultant study the idea and hash out a plan.

“Nobody wants to see steel and glass go from floor to ceiling,” Cook said. “That doesn’t fit in the downtown.”

Mayor Sandi Bloem wasn’t available for comment.

Cook said the association’s proposal isn’t in response to a seven-story building planned for 609 E. Sherman between the Potlatch Building and a new office for Hatch Mueller, an urban renewal agency.

Contractor Mike Dodge and Patano Architects have had initial talks with the city about replacing the Pre-Press Color building with a tower housing parking on the first level, two office spaces on the second floor and apartments on the remaining five stories.

City Planner Dave Yadon said only a building permit is needed for construction to start. Yet, he said, the developers may ask the city for a special-use permit to allow for more residential units.

Preliminary plans submitted Feb. 17 to the city show a building with 10 condo-like living spaces.

Yadon said that the current rules allow for 34 units but that the special-use permit would allow for as many as 70 units.

Mike Patano, of Patano Architects, wasn’t available for comment Tuesday. He and Dodge are on the city’s design review committee that makes recommendations to the Planning Commission.

Design Review Committee Chairwoman Susie Sneadaker, also a member of the Planning Commission, said the review committee has talked about height restrictions but nothing concrete has resulted.

Miller Stauffer Architects plans to start construction in April on another seven-story building directly across the street from 14-story McEuen Terrace on the northwest corner of Seventh and Front.

The Parkside will be a $15 million brick structure with retail and office space and 12 condominium units.

All the tower projects reflect elements of “new urbanism,” a movement that advocates pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods where people live, work and shop. New urbanism started in the late 1980s as a reaction against the sprawl that led to dying city centers and distant suburbs.