How to (temporarily) fix the empty lot at 3rd and Division

3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years since the Best Western Peppertree Inn proposal was abandoned. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

You heard it here first, folks: 3rd and Division is officially the worst intersection in Spokane. No, it doesn’t have the ruts and crumbling asphalt of High Drive and Grand Boulevard, but it does have an empty lot with extremely unsightly rebar and concrete, remnants of an abandoned low-rise hotel project which will be the subject of a future If It Had Happened post.

City leaders have repeatedly tried to entice developers to this site, starting with the original owners, who are presumed to have finally sold the lot in the spring of 2013. Naturally, 3rd and Division serve as a gateway to Spokane and the south end of the Division Street Gateway project, so it’s not surprising that the City is attempting to get more involved. But despite this interest, the site still sits, languishing further by the day. Literally nothing has been done to improve it in the interim, despite the fact that an extremely small investment could result in a much more pleasant intersection.

Here’s our short term solution: erect a temporary construction fence and set local artists loose. What do we mean? Check out some examples and a call to action after the break. We want to make this actually happen.

This art installation at a construction fence in New York City featured an apparently-but-not-actually-spontaneous atmosphere and “opening.” (PHOTO: The New York Times)

While many New York City residents suspected that this art installation was some sort of guerrilla campaign, it was actually installed with permission from the site owner. Note that this project utilizes individual pieces rather than placing the art directly on the wall.

This mural was installed at the site of a future mall in downtown San Diego. Evidently NBC provided assistance at the Westfield site. (PHOTO: NBC San Diego)

These types of large construction walls can offer unique marketing opportunities. While we’d prefer that such a construction barrier not become just another billboard, smartly-planned marketing could work if it’s well-integrated into the larger art project.

This mural in the Mission District of San Francisco highlights the artistic opportunities offered by such a long blank wall. (PHOTO: Art & Architecture SF)

Because few indoor sites offer such long wall space, construction walls offer a unique venue to experiment in the craft that cannot be had with any museum installation. This project in the trendy Mission District of San Francisco offered a space for the artist to spread out. Note that the graffiti on the left-hand side of the piece hardly squashes the beauty of the totality of the wall.

This wall in Toronto blocked a large construction site in a public park. Note the somewhat Northwest-friendly graphic. (PHOTO: Gone to Swan)

Remember the artistically decorated moose that once stood in Coeur d’Alene sidewalks? Or the similar bears that did so in Spokane? Those projects were so affectionately loved because they just fit so well with the inland Northwest. Perhaps the art installation could do the same.

Such a large wall also offers the opportunity for historical and educational content. Perhaps the MAC could offer a history of the Great Spokane Fire? (PHOTO: BlogDowntown)

Imagine the world of educational content possible with a construction wall! The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture could offer content and information for such a project. Perhaps an exploration of the Great Spokane Fire is in order? Better yet, maybe the 3rd and Division site could host a Great Spokane Fire exhibit and the Convention Center Hotel site could host one focusing on Expo ’74.

This type of chalk wall engages the street unlike any simple blank wall (or empty lot) could. Similar past walls have included “I am inspired by…” and “My dream is to…” (PHOTO: The Catskill Chronicle)

This might be our favorite option, although the educational content possibly wins for practicality. This construction wall featured a full chalkboard and asked passersby what they would like the storefront to become. Similar projects have asked pedestrians about their inspirations, their passions, their dreams. While there is the problem of maintaining chalk (or perhaps people would have to bring their own?), this option is unique in that in this case, it engaged the sidewalk unlike anything else–maybe even more than if the building had been open!

Anyway, we think that construction walls buoyed by public art at both the 3rd and Division site and the Walt Worthy Convention Center Hotel would positively impact the City of Spokane. Because the 3rd and Division site serves as more of a gateway to the city, it is our priority, although we do believe that both sites should be shrouded.

We believe that this type of temporary investment should be of such high priority that we’re committing to help make it happen. By partnering with local advocacy group ForwardSpokane, we intend to engage with potential project initiators to look into the feasibility of this proposal. But we can use your help.

Comment on this post and engage with @spokanerising on Twitter and The #spokanerising Project on Facebook. We need your help thinking of people to contact in order to make this possible. If you have any tips for us, contact us via our tip form located above. You can also email us at

We want to make this happen. But it’s not going to happen without your help. Start brainstorming. Start engaging. Start putting together ideas. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.




22 thoughts on “How to (temporarily) fix the empty lot at 3rd and Division

  1. I’ve heard hearsay that Mars Hill, which bought the church next door, might buy this blight and build a megachurch from 2nd to 3rd along Division and level the old First Covenant that they’ve already purchased.

  2. It’s amazing that Spokane chooses to keep fast food joints, old, abandoned or un-kept buildings, and empty lots on either side a major freeway that is the main entrance to the city. There seems to be no effort to beautify current structures, infill lots, and clean up the dirt (structures/billboards) that has spread out mostly along 2nd and 3rd avenues. The sign of a healthy downtown is how friendly it is to the curious traveler who sees it from the freeway and stops to explore. Would you want to stop and hang out in Spokane if your first impression was third avenue? I’d get out quick and spend my time in CDA. We should address this issue and beautify the south end of our downtown with pedestrian friendly streets/sidewalks, greenery, and storefronts.

    • A few months ago, I met someone from California whose family has a cabin at Priest Lake. Because Division is US-2 and it passes right by this intersection, evidently their impression was not good. Upon telling him that I was from Spokane, he immediately responded with, “I’m sorry. Spokane is so run-down-looking.”

      Longtime Spokanites think that these intersections aren’t a big issue, but they really are sucking the life out of our tourism and visitor business. This family probably would stop and hang out in Spokane (this individual indicated that he never had), but their first impression of the city based on 3rd and Division convinced them to keep on driving to Priest Lake.

  3. Pingback: #insteadofsprawl | #spokanerising

  4. I’d like to see the City to pass an ordinance requiring owners/speculators/developers/property mgmt people to clean up this and other eyesores all over town. Throwing up political crony re-election signs does help either.

  5. I like the art installation idea best. This is not a heavily used pedestrian corridor, so educational or get-involved approaches would likely not get much use. But an attractive art installation would be a good drive-by improvement. You did not feature the great wall on Broadway in Seattle for the construction of the light rail station – also educational and interactive, but a heavy pedestrian corridor.

    • Good point. The corner certainly could use some help, and public art would be a good way to do it. I know that SUMAC (Spokane Urban Mural Art Collaborative) has started work on a number of the railroad overpasses, but they don’t have the funding to take something like this on without help from the property owner or the local community.

  6. All we need to do is get them off the freeway and into Riverfront Part, Huntington Park or Manito. I never judge an area by its view from the interstate, or railroad track. Those areas are less desirable locations anywhere. The internet helps penetrate into the worthwhile places to visit, experience; locate the local foods restaurants, the zoos, the museums, the arboretums, etc.

  7. Why not put community gardens there? Other cities do it all the time in empty lots. We could feed some of the downtown people and beautify the area at the same time.

  8. Maybe the reason “The city” has yet to do anything is because whenever they do do something people throw a hissy fit about the amount of money we are spending. I like the letting local artists take it over, an urban/community garden, but then again people would find something wrong with that too,

  9. First they tore down a church to build a hotel. Then the plans fell through and now it’s crap. I say fill it in and turn it into the new permanent home for the farmers market.

  10. Pingback: Mobile Murals Project goes live with a public Call for Submissions | #spokanerising


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