Two years from now, a 17-story residential tower could rise from Peaceful Valley, 100 feet above Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane.
Developer Mick McDowell and his wife Shelley are planning to build a 52-unit upscale condominium tower called Riverview on Riverside. It will include an 80-slot parking garage and three to six townhouses in front, facing Riverside.
McDowell said the units will range in size from about 800 to 3,000 square feet and prices will start around $250,000. He anticipates spending $30 million to build the multi-tiered structure, with construction beginning in the spring. The three-story townhouses facing Riverside were designed to provide a “visual softening” and blend in better with the Carnegie Square neighborhood, he said. Likewise, in Peaceful Valley, the tower will be stepped back from a three-story brick parking garage to lessen the impact on that neighborhood, he said.
“We’re being extremely sensitive because of my absolute requirement to be a good neighbor,” McDowell said.
However, some residents of Peaceful Valley say the 200-foot-high building will block their sunshine, create traffic jams on their narrow streets and strain city services to their neighborhood.
“If they build it, I’m moving away,” said Lori Aluna, who rents a home diagonally across from the proposed project site. McDowell’s property in Peaceful Valley begins just east of the staircase that descends from Riverside Avenue into the neighborhood. On a recent weekday morning, Aluna glanced out her living room window as the sun filled her home. If the building were there, she said, “I wouldn’t have the sun right now.”
But Jim Kolva, a consultant working with McDowell, says downtown Spokane needs housing, and that stretch of Riverside is a perfect place for it. People will be drawn to the river views and to the short walk downtown, he said.
Some Peaceful Valley residents, like former state legislator George Orr, look up at the rim stretching above their neighborhood and worry it one day will be lined with residential towers. Other landowners along that stretch of Riverside are said to be contemplating projects, too.
“It’s going to ruin the aesthetics of the neighborhood, with all these big buildings,” Orr said.
But Kolva said he hopes that will happen because the site is perfect for downtown housing.
“I’m surprised it hasn’t developed more quickly than it has,” Kolva said. “I think the market is here and it’s going to strengthen the downtown.”
Orr lives about two blocks from the proposed development and worries that the additional residences will clog up the neighborhood’s narrow streets. He says many low-income people live in Peaceful Valley and he fears they eventually will be driven out by the upscale developments. Scattered among the older homes are a growing number of residential construction projects and new homes, some built into the hillside to capitalize on river views.
Zoning regulations restrict buildings on McDowell’s Peaceful Valley property to 35 feet, so he must seek permission from the hearing examiner to build what he is planning. Some Peaceful Valley residents say McDowell should not be granted permission to build something six times higher than what the rules allow.
However, on the more southern part of his property, McDowell could build a building 150 feet high, starting at Riverside Avenue, with pilings driven down to the bedrock to support it. That would create a structure at least 50 feet higher than what he is currently planning.
Instead of the “softening” approach of three-story townhouses facing Riverside and a three-story parking garage in Peaceful Valley stepping back to the tower, the building would rise directly from Riverside, he said. McDowell said he is trying to create something that will be more appealing to the neighborhood by varying his design.
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