Developer Marshall Chesrown envisions the 77 acres of land he owns on the north bank of the Spokane River as an urban village, with people walking back and forth across the Monroe Street Bridge into downtown Spokane.
However, that vision conflicts with the city of Spokane’s plans to divert traffic to the northeast after crossing the bridge. In 2001, the City Council approved plans to build a “crossover,” which would move some traffic off Monroe Street, just after crossing the bridge. Though both Monroe and Lincoln would remain two-way streets, the crossover was to help disperse traffic and to relieve congestion on Monroe.
Now, after meeting with city officials and sending a memo to economic development leaders voicing his concerns, it appears Chesrown has succeeded in convincing the city to develop an intersection with a traffic signal at Bridge Avenue, just north of the bridge. That would allow pedestrians to cross there and would pave the way for retail development at the intersection.
“We have everybody basically in agreement on our connectivity ideas,” Chesrown said. “We urged everybody to take a fresh look at this thing. The biggest thing is to get the intersection.”
Chesrown paid $12.8 million in January for the so-called Summit property, in a Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities bankruptcy auction. He plans to develop 1,000 residences and 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space on the land that stretches west from the Monroe Street Bridge on the river’s north bank.
His working name for the project is “Kendall Yards,” a reference, he said, to an early Spokane resident who owned land on the river. The name of the development also reflects its history as a railroad yard, he said. In addition, plans call for five plazas within the property that will pay tribute to the Native American tribes that fished the Spokane River in that spot, he said.
Eliminating the crossover to Lincoln Street makes sense to Spokane City Council President Dennis Hession.
“That idea to me was inconsistent with the pedestrian-friendly atmosphere we were trying to create on the north side of the river along Bridge Avenue,” Hession said. “I see the effort to connect Kendall Yards and downtown as being extremely healthy for both.”
Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch did not return calls seeking comment.
Chesrown wants the neighborhood he is planning to develop to be connected to downtown Spokane, not to be an isolated, self-contained island. He said the signalized intersection at Monroe and Bridge is crucial to achieve that goal. He’d also like to see Ide Street, directly north of the bridge, converted into a Centennial Trail extension that will run through the development. And, he’s working with the city to develop a public market on a slice of Riverfront Park between the Post and Monroe street bridges.
“Our pitch has been since Day One, you’ve got to connect this property to the rest of the city,” Chesrown said. “We want it to be part of the city of Spokane, as a destination, not our own little world over there.”
In a May 19 memo to city and economic development leaders, Chesrown laid out his concern that the planned traffic configuration north of the bridge would ruin the possibility for ground-level retail at Monroe and Bridge and would disconnect his development from downtown and the West Central neighborhood.
He proposed a variety of alternatives that focus on moving the Monroe-to-Lincoln crossover farther north, perhaps to College or Broadway avenues. The principal goal, Chesrown said in his memo, is to create a “commercially viable intersection at Monroe and Bridge.”
Chesrown said the plans are still preliminary, but that city officials have been receptive to his ideas. In order to improve access to his development, Chesrown has proposed the relocation of some roads and the reestablishment of some roads that have been vacated, which likely will require modifying the original planned unit development approved for the property.
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