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

STA Plaza remodel planning under way

The cavernous second floor of Spokane Transit Authority’s downtown bus station could find a new use in a remodeling project planned by the agency.

A consultant hired to look at potential uses for the space considered retail, a food court and offices, but none of those is currently feasible, said Susan Meyer, STA’s chief executive officer.

Another idea is to turn part of the second floor into exhibit space for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

“They are my top pick,” Meyer said. “They will bring a tremendous asset.”

MAC officials said they were approached by STA but have not fully considered the idea of expanding into the Plaza at 701 W. Riverside Ave.

“The first thing that comes to mind is, ‘What would this cost?’ ” said Al Payne, president of the MAC board of trustees. “We certainly like the location.”

The museum has coped with budget problems over the past five years, cutting staff and putting greater reliance on private donations to continue operations, he said.

At the same time, STA has been talking about reconfiguring its footprint inside the Plaza for several years.

The STA board of directors has held back funding for remodeling the Plaza since 2008, in part because of the instability of tax collections in a weak economic recovery.

But the board recently authorized Meyer and her staff to prepare a budget for the remodel and to embark on initial design work. The overall budget for the remodel had not been determined, but it could run in the neighborhood of $1.9 million, Meyer said.

One challenge will be the weak demand for retail and office space on the skywalk level downtown, and a food court project would likely fare no better, STA’s consultant said.

The second floor is currently little-used.

Meyer said part of the idea is to integrate the Plaza into the surrounding area by expanding its uses, and to reduce loitering and bad behavior.

“When you have a lot of space, you leave a lot of room for people to hang around,” Meyer said.

The remodel involves moving customer service and second-floor vendors to the first floor to free up space for other uses on the second floor.

Public restrooms, which are currently only on the second floor, would be added to the first floor.

The escalator and waterfall, as well as skywalk access, would be retained.

Parts of the second floor could be walled off if the museum or another tenant is not secured, she said.

Planned improvements to provide real-time information on bus arrivals and departures would allow riders to move inside the first floor and off sidewalks.

Currently, riders boarding on Sprague Avenue often gather on the sidewalk because they cannot see arriving buses from inside the main floor. New interior monitors would announce when buses arrive for the next departure.