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Opinion >  Letters

Preserving Spokane

Gary Webbenhurst (“Let Jensen-Byrd Go”, March 26) has an oddly contradictory critique of Spokane Preservation Advocates, where I volunteer. We’re apparently “impotent” while also wielding immense power to block demolition of historic buildings. We’re also elite “socialites,” a tired cliché used to disparage the preservation community.

None of this is accurate. Historic preservation, according to many studies, is an economic driver and a celebration of the unique character of communities, including Spokane.

SPA was founded in 1997; it has 600 active members. SPA leaders include architects, Realtors, writers, preservation-friendly developers and many local homeowners who cherish our historic neighborhoods. We provide Heritage grants of up to $5,000 to churches, businesses, and nonprofits to revitalize properties. We also volunteer hands on for “Doing It” projects.

SPA has no “hold” on the Jensen-Byrd warehouse, as Webbenhurst claims. However, we’ve strongly encouraged Washington State University to preserve it for campus use, as the University of Washington did when it repurposed old warehouses on its Tacoma campus. SPA also opposes demolition of the Chancery Building (now for sale) in the Riverside Avenue Historic District.

When SPA hosted the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2012, delegates met in the renovated Fox Theater, rescued from demolition a decade earlier and newly providing $16 million in economic benefits. Delegates were riveted by Spokane’s history, including its Native American tribes and natural resources. Spokane’s iconic buildings, from small Craftsman cottages to mansions and commercial structures, are vital to our sense of place.

Karen Dorn Steele



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