Avista Utilities is reshuffling its infrastructure on the south side of downtown, opening up opportunities for redevelopment and public space along Post Street and Third Avenue that planners aim to take advantage of.
Those development possibilities are the domino effect of Avista’s determination that its 43-year-old power substation located on the west side of Post Street, just south of the railroad viaduct and directly behind the Steam Plant, was due “to be upgraded and replaced,” according to Josh DiLuciano, Avista’s director of electrical engineering.
But when the company determined it wasn’t feasible to build a temporary substation downtown and then construct a new facility on the Steam Plant site, Avista scouted for a site to relocate the substation.
The company found one when the nearby Domino’s Pizza decided to relocate from its longtime home on the 700 block of Third Street and the entire blocklong lot stretching from Post Street to Wall Street became available.
Avista purchased the property in 2018, with an eye toward making it the home of a new substation that will serve both downtown and part of the South Hill, DiLuciano said.
The proximity of the old site to the new one meant the move would require “minimum line rerouting,” DiLuciano said.
While crews recently cleared the shuttered Domino’s Pizza branch, a small grocery store and an expanse of parking lots from the Third Avenue parcel, the company is still designing the new substation, with construction expected to begin in 2022 and continue through 2023, according to DiLuciano.
But planners with the city of Spokane and the Downtown Spokane Partnership have already eyed the existing substation site and the Third Avenue parcel as they look for ways to energize the area.
Both parcels have been identified as “opportunity sites” in the draft Downtown Master Plan that’s nearing completion and that will chart the neighborhood’s development over the next decade.
According to the draft plan, the Steam Plant substation’s relocation will open “the lot directly east of Steam Plant Square for potential development fronting S. Post St. and Steam Plant Alley. This is an opportunity to enliven the Post St. frontage and complement anchoring nearby restaurants and entertainment uses.”
As for the new substation, the plan states the site “could integrate public space, cultural space or other amenities as part of development. These placemaking elements can help … enliven this part (of) the South Side near an area with more intact Downtown buildings with some active dining, retail and service uses.”
Asked about how the substation sites fit in with the Downtown Master Plan, Avista Communications Manager Annie Ganon wrote, “Avista works closely with the City of Spokane to ensure our plans are aligned. We believe there is a way for this vital infrastructure to blend in seamlessly to the downtown landscape in a way that is beneficial to the community.”
Nathan Gwinn, an assistant planner in the city’s planning and development department, said the inclusion of the substation sites in the master plan draft speak to a broader desire to revitalize the area south of the viaduct and north of the interstate.
“The idea was to look at south downtown, south of the tracks, to look at some of the emerging opportunities,” Gwinn said.
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