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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Project spruces up downtown

Downtown Spokane's color palette is improving.
 (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Downtown Spokane's color palette is improving. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
By Amy Klamper Correspondent

Spokane’s urban business owners and residents can expect their environment to take on a more cohesive look next year when the Downtown Spokane Partnership implements a street enhancement strategy that will make trashcans, bike racks, bus stops and other infrastructure more pedestrian friendly, pleasing to the eye, and discouraging to vandals and other unsavory characters.

Earlier this year the Partnership invited design firms to identify specific improvements to the streetscape that would reinforce a unique identity and improve the image, function and livability of downtown Spokane. Spokane Downtown Partnership President Marty Dickinson says the nonprofit organization expects to engage a winning firm this month, with a design review process to take place in the fall.

Dickinson says the effort aims to help pedestrians move and interact throughout the downtown core while creating a memorable experience for visitors by reinforcing the positive image and character of the area.

“If you go to larger cities like Denver or Austin, there’s a consistent theme downtown,” she says. “The light poles are standard, they have clustered areas of garbage cans, bike racks, benches – things that tie them in.”

Dickinson describes Spokane’s current downtown streetscape as a mishmash of different lampposts, planters, waste receptacles, and a handful of benches.

“Look at the various kinds of garbage cans we have – we have some that are brick, some aluminum, some that are chained to the street, some loose and they seem to move from corner to corner,” she says. “We’re looking for a theme to be woven through the downtown area, and having more of a streetscape.”

Primary funding for the project will come from the Spokane Business Improvement District, which represents some 1,800 businesses and property owners who pay an annual assessment based on the size or value of their property. Dickinson says other sources of funding will be vetted through the community.

In addition, the project plans to utilize existing inventory, particularly along Wall Street, with its planters, trees, brick walkway and decorative poles.

Dickinson says bidders were asked to develop a framework of design principles to help implement the strategy, including a downtown color palette using natural materials to create a timeless design that recognizes the historic and natural aspects of the downtown core.

The plan also calls for low maintenance and vandal-resistant elements, like durable and cleanable surfaces, natural stone or brick surfaces that are sealed, ground-mounted fixtures, designs that deter skateboarders, and benches designed to discourage lying down.

One important aspect of the project aims to create a safer urban environment through strategic placement of entrances and windows, clear boundaries between public and private property, and reinforcing maintenance to thwart crime along the lines of the “Broken Windows Theory.”

Effective use of lighting will be implemented along pathways and other pedestrian-use areas at proper heights for lighting people’s faces at night. And landscaping with low, thorny bushes beneath ground level windows, combined with dense barrier plants, will help direct pedestrian movement.

Dickinson says the Downtown Spokane Partnership will seek buy-in from the community as well as Business Improvement District ratepayers as the design process unfolds. In addition, the organization will assist downtown business and property owners who want to incorporate elements of the new design into their storefronts, entries, sidewalks and other infrastructure.

“We could help facilitate the process of finding those (street enhancement) elements if they want to participate,” Dickinson says, though she stressed that such changes aren’t mandatory.

“No one is going to be told they can’t have a round planter there – we just want to enhance what we have,” she says.

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