Idea #22: Get rid of every last skywalk

The skywalk system at the Bennett Block will be undergoing major modifications this year, as the exterior staircase is removed, but there’s still an ugly, scarcely-used skywalk there, ruining the aesthetics of an otherwise-beautiful building. (PHOTO: travelandrew.wordpress.com)

Can we talk about the elephant in the room?

Why do we have dead skywalks all over the place in downtown Spokane? Many of them no longer receive much use–especially the yellow-roofed system radiating from the Parkade. And don’t even get us started on the “skywalk level” of the Crescent Building. What was once a bustling food court and mall-like shopping area has become a glorified pathway to the STA Plaza.

Hmm…I wonder if there’s a connection there. What if some of downtown’s supposed issues (if you listen to those who complain about the STA Plaza) could be blamed (at least indirectly) not on humans, but on human design? What if the solution were as simple as ripping out a few skywalks?

Perhaps it is. Our skywalks already receive much less use than they once did. Perhaps it’s time for a detailed usage study to determine which crossings receive the most use, and which ones should be removed. Fewer skywalks means more people on sidewalks, which means more “eyes on the street.” Gradually, opportunities arise for more streetfront retail (along Riverside, please) and remodeled office space on what was once the “skywalk level.” The end result? A more efficient use of space, more vitality and foot traffic on the street, and perhaps a lower risk of crime in the downtown core.

What do you think? Should the skywalk system removed or extensively remodeled? Are there improvements that could be made that would clarify the use of the skywalks? Are they for shoppers or for general pedestrians or for businesspeople? Is the three-month benefit worth the twelve-month downsides of the system? Share your thoughts below in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you.

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8 thoughts on “Idea #22: Get rid of every last skywalk

  1. Agreed! A simple traffic counter would tell us which ones are not being used. Either do that and/or take the roofs off and plant gardens in them. They could all become urban gardens.

  2. Urban gardens…awesome. A multi-block sky park (with areas designated to supply restaurants with fresh fruits and veggies?) could become popular for tourists and increase pedestrian activity for the remaining skywalks and businesses. With creative planning and collaboration, this idea could really change the feel in the whole of downtown.

  3. I don’t know about gutting the entire system, there’s some neat coffee shops in certain buildings past Sherwood. Crescent Court could use a rework, though

  4. Remodled. I don’t think you are old enough to remember how vivrant they once were especially in the winter months. One thing Spokane has especially for its size is a great Skywalk network. I am all for exploiting them and look for new things to enhance them but tearing them down would be about as dumb as when they burnt all the trolley cars in Spokane. Networks such as Minneapolis and Montreal should be used as an example. Climate wise it opens free moving versus sub freezing standstill. Spokane needs not destroy more of its foundation.

  5. On a purely self-serving level, I’d like to see the system remain intact. I exclusively walk, bike, and bus, and the skywalk system is a lifesaver during the worst cold of winter. Love the idea of edibles growing in there! They are all wide enough for four wheelchairs, which means they could be narrowed by half to include some kind of greenhouse layer between people and outside. I do also yearn for a better sidewalk life in Spokane, though, so I would be open to strategic changes to encourage that type of interaction.

  6. I remember what it used to be like before the Crescent and Pennys closed. The Orange Julius seemed to keep busy (at least for a while). If we could get some interesting shops/restaurants/cafes in the right places, it would make a big difference. I would think long and hard before removing anything. Of course I don’t remember too many people going to the Bennet Block other than to get to the Bon or back to parking. And I always thought the outside stairs by the Parkade and Bon were dangerous in winter.

  7. When I was working with people with disabilities, I used the skywalk system all the time either because of the extreme weather (my clientele was pretty delicate) or because the curbcuts/sidewalks in downtown make it nearly impossible to get from place to place if you have any wheelchair that isn’t standard size and shape. I would welcome a greenhouse space that would spruce ’em up a bit or a revitalized business center. Walking them, you can find all sorts of interesting shops and cafes and I think some of the businesses need incentives to come back. Could we hold a business fair for local owners to recentralize some smaller businesses?

  8. Pingback: Seven photos illustrate how an obsession with parking is destroying downtown Spokane | Spokane Rising

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