It’s a historic vote for historic preservation.
Browne’s Addition voters have chosen to designate the city’s oldest neighborhood as a historic district.
The designation would establish historic guidelines and a review process for the development of new buildings or rehabilitation of existing properties within district boundaries, all aimed at preserving the neighborhood’s character.
“Everyone is so excited,” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who sponsored legislation adopted last year that enables neighborhoods to designate themselves as historic districts. “It shows the tenacity of a neighborhood that wants to protect and preserve their character and it shows what a group of people can do when they’re determined.”
The designation required 50% of property owners – some of whom had more than one vote because they own more than one property – in Browne’s Addition to return a ballot in favor of the designation.
By the voting deadline on Thursday, about 54% of ballots had been returned in support of the designation. If a ballot was not returned, it was counted as a no vote.
Of the ballots returned, 82% were in favor of the designation and 18% were against it.
About 62% of property owners participated in the vote.
“Really a high number of folks that returned ballots said, ‘We want this to happen,’ ” said Megan Duvall, the city’s historic preservation officer.
The effort to maintain the neighborhood’s unique aesthetic began in earnest following the 2016 demolition of three old homes on Coeur d’Alene Street. In their place, a Seattle-based developer constructed a 21-unit, three-story modern apartment building.
Following that demolition and others, the Spokane City Council enacted a moratorium on demolitions in Browne’s Addition in 2017.
The following year, Kinnear successfully spearheaded the legislation enabling neighborhoods to establish historic districts.
The Browne’s Addition designation requires the final approval of the city council. The Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission will make a final recommendation on the designation at its Wednesday meeting.
“People in Spokane love the character of their neighborhoods,” City Council President Ben Stuckart said in a statement released by the council on Thursday. “The historic designation comes with great incentives that will keep our housing stock in Browne’s unique and livable for many generations.”
City officials expect Cliff-Cannon neighborhood to be the next to embark on the historic designation process.
Neighborhoods like Browne’s Addition and Cliff-Cannon are already dense and, as a group, the council believes “that directing infill to centers and corridors is the best way to provide infill because that’s where services are and that’s where transit is going,” Kinnear said.
“The best bet is to go to places that are less dense right now that have opportunity,” Kinnear said.
In addition to setting standards for development, proponents of the designation noted that it will allow property owners to qualify for incentives such as a Special Tax Valuation and the Facade Improvement Grant program.
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