A fenced field with a radio tower and mounds of dirt command a very conspicuous stretch of Regal Street on Spokane’s South Hill.
Three years from now, however, a retail shopping center, nearly 300 apartment units and a renovated city park will replace the old farm and grazing land. Cows, shrubs and wild grasses will be swapped for weekend tournaments, parked cars and shopping carts.
The properties directly across Regal from the Target shopping center have long been eyed for development, and now work is happening that will transform the land. The city of Spokane is in the midst of a $1.2 million upgrade to the Southeast Sports Complex at Altamont Street and 46th Avenue, which has an eastern border at Regal.
The land is called the KXLY site, and development could begin in a matter of months after the project’s slow meander through City Hall.
A first phase will include 147 apartments. When complete, the site will have seven commercial buildings offering a total of 180,000 square feet of retail space. It will be worth about $40 million and have about 700 parking spaces.
Carl Guenzel, a broker with the commercial real estate company Kiemle & Hagood who is involved with the KXLY site, said the development was a long time coming but promised it would be a great fit for the neighborhood and city, and credited collaboration with the city and Southgate Neighborhood Council for its eventual success.
“We’ve been very involved with the city. We’ve had a really good collaboration with all three,” he said of the city, the parks department and the neighborhood council. “We continue to collaborate with the city.”
Guenzel acknowledged that the growth would put further stress on Regal, which carries up to 20,000 vehicles a day on average. But he said they’ve worked to minimize the impact, while praising the benefits related to increased traffic.
“We want it to be neighborhood friendly. We want a little bit of a walking community. We want the neighbors to be able to freely walk through the project, and ride their bikes there,” he said. “Traffic is good and bad. People like density, they like retail sales, they like taxes, but they don’t like traffic.
“The city needs to address the bigger picture. The problem isn’t just Regal. The problem is the lack of dedicated arterials. Stifling development isn’t the answer.”
From nothing to traffic jam
The fate of the southern reaches of Spokane, and the KXLY development, was decided decades ago, as new homes were built on old agricultural land and cars made the backcountry commute a paved breeze.
But it was only in 2007 when the project was kick-started. That year, both Walmart and Home Depot said they were planning to build on Regal. Though both eventually pulled out, Black Development began the process of changing the KXLY land use from commercial to residential. Black sought the land-use change in conjunction with the property across the street, which eventually became the Regal Plaza shopping center where Target opened in 2014. Black is no longer involved in the KXLY project.
Though the land-use change from residential to commercial sailed through City Hall, it hasn’t exactly been open seas.
When the City Council agreed to rezone the properties in June 2008, it required an agreement among the developers, the city and the Southgate Neighborhood Council, as well as a traffic study and “integrated site plan” defining pedestrian and vehicle connections. These were all done and approved in May 2013.
Two years later, in 2015, the City Council agreed to sell the small parking lot at the intersection of Regal and Palouse Highway for about $900,000.
In 2017, the city’s parks department and owners of the KXLY land struck a deal benefiting both. It gave the city’s sports complex new parking areas, better access off Regal, new restrooms, a new pathway and a new soccer field. In exchange, KXLY got access to parking near the soccer fields, which will be shared by park users and customers in its development.
As a groundbreaking drew closer, KXLY did another traffic study in 2016. The report, done by engineering consultant Morrison-Maierle, said the shopping center would generate an extra 12,625 weekday trips. Most of those trips would come from the north, with only about 35% coming from the south.
The report recommended that “city officials should plan long-term congestion relief for Regal Street.” The only solution it recommended for such relief was the Ray-Freya Crossover, an idea from 1966 that envisioned an arterial street winding through Ferris High School and by its running track that was taken off the city’s planning books in 2017.
The study also noted that the project is on the hook for $645,000 in environmental mitigation fees. Some of these fees went to construct the traffic signal at the intersection of the Palouse Highway and Regal, which the developers paid $200,000 to help build. The outstanding dollar amount will go to other city street projects related to the project. The report also said the developers should “anticipate” paying at least $75,000 to “help mitigate evolving traffic congestion on Regal Street.”
Guenzel said the development is bound by what the city dictates in regard to transportation.
“We do what the city tells us to do. We originally were willing to grant some of our property to widen Regal. They didn’t want to do that,” he said. “We are bound by what the city does. We can’t control it.”
First apartments, then grocery
The original plan was to build retail first, followed by residential. But plans change.
Guenzel said it isn’t clear yet which retailers will be the project’s tenants. Yoke’s Fresh Markets and WinCo Foods both showed interest in opening grocery stores there, but have “decided to pass at this point,” he said. Regardless, plans show space for a 45,000-square-foot supermarket.
With a lack of a retail anchor, the plan now is to build the first phase of residential, on the western end of the development. It will have 147 units, and construction could begin as early as January, lasting 18 to 24 months. A second phase to build another 147 apartments will come in the future, but before then Guenzel suggested the retail portion of the project would be on track.
Guenzel said the development could eventually have between 10 and 15 retail tenants, but “that’s up in the air.” Regardless, he predicted that within three years the land would be humming with residential and commercial activity. And he predicted the southeast part of town would just continue to grow, which he said is inevitable – and profitable for the city.
“There’s still a lot of land to be developed, and tax dollars are good for the community,” he said.
Spokane’s soccer HQ
One parcel that won’t be developed, at least from how it is now, is the Southeast Sports Complex.
The name of the game is soccer, as any Saturday passerby can attest, which is why the three softball fields there are being converted into multipurpose sports fields. The backstops are gone, an old restroom taken out and the play structure removed.
In their places, everything new.
Instead of static soccer fields, the complex will have “programmable” fields that can be moved around and change size. About 60,000 square feet of sports field has been added, about 1.25 acres.
“We’re concentrating soccer activities up there,” said Nick Hamad, Spokane parks’ landscape architect. “It wasn’t a real ideal layout. This is a big improvement.”
New restrooms are being built, and there will be a picnic shelter for people seeking shade or a spot to have lunch.
The northwest corner of the site will become home to a new playground. The city is installing a rubberized surface that will provide a safe spot for kids to land while they play and that will be easily accessible for people with disabilities.
An all-too-rare swingset will be installed, a reminder of yesteryear increasingly being left out of parks and playgrounds due to liability and injury concerns. Thanks to the rubberized surface, the swings are safe again.
Ringing the new amenities and space will be a 12-foot-wide path, offering access to the neighborhoods, the fields and the shopping centers, both present and future.
For some parkgoers, the improvements to the surrounding streets may be the best thing of all. Forty-sixth Avenue has been rebuilt, and new parking is being installed on the park’s western side.
“It was a big crater. We paved about a city block there,” Hamad said.
The road work drained the project of enough money to delay construction of a splash pad near the play structure. But water piping for a future one will be installed during construction so the city can easily add it later without digging up the park.
Hamad said the work will be done in time for the fall soccer season.
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