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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Commerce Department awards Spokane’s efforts on East Sprague

FILE - New landscaping and sidewalks, part of the City of Spokane's recently completed street reconstruction of Sprague Avenue between Helena and Stone Streets, seen in September 2017. The street improvements are part of the reason Spokane was recognized this week for its work to revitalize the East Sprague corridor, along with several other partner agencies. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The city of Spokane’s efforts to revitalize the East Sprague corridor have earned plaudits from the state’s Department of Commerce.

The pilot project, first announced in 2013, that funneled investment dollars for streetscape improvements, promoting housing construction and improving pedestrian access in alleyways, earned the state’s Smart Partnership Award for 2018, part of an annual recognition of “smart growth planning” in Washington.

“This partnership model is replicable in most communities, and demonstrates effective prioritizing practices, high-quality design, and sustainable principles,” said a news release from the Commerce Department announcing the award.

A cornerstone of the East Sprague revitalization, a $4.3 million overhaul of the arterial between Helena and Stone streets, opened last fall. Private investment in the area has been booming, to the tune of $4 million in real estate sales dating to 2014. Other improvements, including construction of stormwater tanks and a planned, 24-hour crisis children’s center, demonstrate the payoff of the investment, said City Council President Ben Stuckart, the project’s chief backer on the panel.

“That’s great news,” Stuckart said when informed of the award Friday. “That validates everything we’re trying to do on Sprague.”

The award notes the partnership among the city, the Spokane Regional Health District, Community Frameworks and the East Sprague Business Association.

Brian Coddington, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said Friday the award showed Spokane was being recognized for its smart planning. He said the next step is the completion of the University District Gateway Bridge, connecting the Sprague corridor to the higher education incubator at the eastern edge of downtown.

“You’re seeing a lot of the smart investment on Sprague, and it’s starting to be recognized on the national scale,” Coddington said. “It’s pretty exciting to see Spokane at the center of that.”

The city of Kennewick also received a Smart Partnership award for its work on the Vista Field project, focused on redevelopment of the city’s decommissioned airport into an urban center that includes canals, mixed-use buildings and a performance art center.