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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Spokane, Coeur d’Alene downtown facelifts are long overdue

First impressions are important, and Spokane and Coeur d’Alene plans for facelifts are moving forward rapidly after years of study and public comment.

Both are sprucing up – literally – the main approaches to their downtowns from Interstate 90. In Spokane, the city is focusing on the Division Street off-ramps and Third Avenue intersection. Coeur d’Alene’s plans would amplify work already done along Northwest Boulevard.

The Lake City’s ambitious plan extends two miles along the boulevard and encompasses 40 acres, most of which is Bureau of Land Management land, and would therefore would require some arrangement that gives the city the necessary access. The conceptual drawings are impressive, with bike and pedestrian paths, athletic fields and other amenities.

The project extends all the way to the city’s waterfront and takes visitors almost to the remodeled McEuen Field, which was also a visionary project. After a second round of public comment, a final plan should be ready this spring. The transformation will be remarkable.

If all goes according to plan, work in Spokane could already be under way as Coeur d’Alene puts the finishing touches on its project.

An overhaul is overdue and made more urgent by the timetable for completion of the Davenport Grand Hotel and expansion of the Spokane Convention Center, with a remodeling of Riverfront Park soon to follow.

The projects are expected to bring thousands of new visitors to the city. But those coming down the overcrowded ramps at Division first see a truck rental lot, Dick’s Hamburgers, a service station and vacant lot only recently screened by Spokane Urban Mural Artist Collaboration.

Plans envision a sculpture, plantings and other landscape features intended follow a theme set by the river. The centerpiece on the south side will be a sculpture of a Native American spearfishing, set in basalt and new plantings.

On the north side, the ugly jersey barriers will be replaced by concrete walls cast and stained to look like basalt. The rental lot’s chain link fence will be supplanted by wrought iron with trees spaced along the curb. Trees and boulders will provide a screen along the westbound exit ramp and Dick’s; those intended in part to discourage the panhandling of drivers waiting for the light on Third Avenue to change.

Total cost will exceed $800,000, covered in part by parking fees generated by city-owned lots beneath the interstate. But it will take more support than has so far been forthcoming by the private interests that have clamored for the changes.

The Monroe Street exit needs beautification too, but that can start with repairs to the street itself, which are scheduled for next year.

When all the work is finished, the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene projects will assure first impressions are not the last.

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