North Monroe might just be Spokane’s coolest urban district. It’s about to get even cooler.

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This draft design shows what the redevelopment and targeted investment might look like at Monroe and Montgomery. Note the wider sidewalks, more pedestrian-friendly environment, lighted crosswalks, and abundant on-street parking. (PHOTO: Land Expressions/City of Spokane)

North Monroe might just be the coolest urban district in Spokane. In addition to the abundance of hip shops, restaurants, and bars which have recently opened or relocated to the area, which stitches together the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood, the corridor has for many years played host to one of the best collections of antique and vintage shops in Washington State. Between Boulevard Mercantile, Tossed & Found, 1889 Salvage Co., and many others, thrift shoppers and vintage enthusiasts have an abundance of options and opportunities to search for hidden treasures. In recent years, the district has also added a number of boutique retail and other shops, like Brickyard Barbershop and Kingsley & Scout.

But the real magic of North Monroe might not even be the craft coffee at Vessel Coffee Roasting, the craft beer at Bellwether, or the food at Prohibition. No, the real magic of North Monroe lies in its inherent contradictions. Like Spokane, it lies at the bleeding edge between the positively mundane and the relentlessly urban. Not content to pick just one, it embraces the past, present, and future all at once, playing host to vintage shops, craft coffee roasters and breweries, and the creative, positive Urban Art Co-Op. The district reflects the polarized nature of our city and our nation, as typified by both the aggressive, hostile signs seen in the windows businesses like Azar’s and the warm, welcoming spirit of the North Monroe Business District social media presence, which attempts to support all businesses in the area––not just the ones with which they agree. Like Spokane, North Monroe has one foot in each camp of the new urban divide, constantly questioning what it wants to become, while simultaneously exuding everything that’s hip, cool, artsy, and entrepreneurial about the city.

That might just make North Monroe our most interesting, coolest urban district in one of the coolest neighborhoods—Emerson-Garfield.

And now, thanks to the leadership of numerous highly-dedicated area residents, city staff, and our elected officials, this urban district is about to get a lot more attractive. The City of Spokane has announced that the North Monroe redevelopment will be moving forward as planned, with construction beginning in spring 2018. The project, which will add various pedestrian- and business-friendly features, such as wider sidewalks, curb bulb-outs, enhanced and widened parking, street trees, among other amenities, would create the opportunity for the district to evolve into an urban neighborhood on par with South Perry, Garland, or West Broadway. In addition, it will widen the traffic lanes while narrowing the street as a whole, going from four to three lanes total and making driving a more hassle-free experience. Taken together, these types of traffic improvements induce visitors to stay longer, spend more, and return more often. And stay more safe! For a vibrant urban district like North Monroe, that’s huge––and it will greatly benefit local business owners.

In the meantime, it will be critical for agencies and organizations like the City of Spokane, Spokane Transit, Avista, and all of the others which will be performing work associated with this project to perform broad, intentional outreach to affected business owners. Construction can take a significant toll on businesses, and it’s now on project supporters to prove that this is the right investment for the right time in Spokane history. The North Monroe Business District will also be performing outreach, and we encourage readers of this blog to patronize the affected businesses––even those which oppose this project––over the course of construction.

In addition, the City of Spokane should consider including a generous bonus in the construction contract for an early completion. This would entice the general contractors to speed up work––potentially even by working through nights and weekends––to complete the project has quickly as possible, minimizing impact on the businesses and organizations along the corridor.

In the end, though, North Monroe will certainly be better off for it. The coolest urban district in Spokane will become immeasurably cooler, and the businesses along the corridor will be the primary beneficiaries of easier access, increased and friendlier parking, and a more walkable urban environment that invites residents to participate in the community, rather than stay in their homes and cars. North Monroe may even surpass South Perry or Garland as a “destination neighborhood.” But even if it doesn’t, the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood, the community, and the city will all gain. I am super excited to walk down North Monroe, grab a coffee at Vessel, keep wandering down the street through the local thrift and vintage shops, like Boulevard Mercantile, then finish with Happy Hour at Prohibition or Bellwether. And I hope you all are too.

COMING UP: This weekend, join neighborhood residents, community groups, and local nonprofits to brighten up and improve the North Monroe area at Cleaning from the Corridor. A number of teams will be volunteering in the district, and it gives you an opportunity to meet local business owners and community leaders as you improve the neighborhood. Find more information at the link above.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Is North Monroe the coolest neighborhood in Spokane? What’s your favorite business or restaurant in the district, and why? Are you excited about the planned revitalization and reconstruction of the street? And would you invest in the corridor, given the opportunity? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you!

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11 thoughts on “North Monroe might just be Spokane’s coolest urban district. It’s about to get even cooler.

  1. While I am, in principle, for smarter urban planning, I am slightly concerned about potential gentrification arising from the Monroe project. The surrounding area has typically been lower income, and while a project like this could make the area cooler, I wonder what the pricing out effects will be on the current tenants and local businesses.

    • It does not reduce capacity. It reduces the number of lanes. There’s a big difference. And it also adds a significant amount of on-street parking.

      • Reduced lanes means reduced capacity. If there are half as many lanes in each direction, then half as many vehicles can travel through simultaneously. It also prevents drivers from being able to go around someone who is driving slowly or in the middle of parking.

        Also, the parking is angle parking, which means people will be backing out into the arterial to leave. Every time someone gets back on the road, traffic will have to stop.

        • Reduced lanes does not necessarily mean reduced capacity. This section of roadway currently sees 17,000 daily trips. The designed three-lane roadway is capable of handling 26,000 daily trips with no significant difference in travel time.

          In addition, I don’t know where you read that this is angle parking. It isn’t. Glad we could clear that up for you!

          • Why would you compare current daily trips to the project’s potential capacity? Wouldn’t comparing the potential capacity of a three-lane and five-lane version be more appropriate, especially with the expectation of 1. growth in the Spokane area and 2. more people coming to North Monroe?

  2. Not to be pedantic, but North Monroe is the business corridor. Emerson-Garfield is the neighborhood. We’ve been working for years and years to build cohesive a neighborhood identity and it would be great to have that recognized, especially now that North Monroe—a project Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood helped to initiate—is garnering so much attention and will hopefully no longer divide the neighborhood as it has. We really appreciate the post and the support you’ve shown for the project, but calling it the North Monroe Neighborhood instead of the North Monroe corridor (at the heart of Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood) does blur some crucial distinctions.

    • It’s not pedantic at all! It’s a fair critique, and I probably shouldn’t have muddied the distinction so much. North Monroe is the Neighborhood Center (to use the Comprehensive Plan language) for Emerson-Garfield.

      Anyway, I made a few changes you might like.

      • That’s great. Thanks so much! You should drop in at one of the E-G Neighborhood Council meetings. They’ll restore your faith in grassroots civic engagement (should it need restoring, of course).

  3. Anthony – I’m sure you can answer this. While I don’t recall huge problems with the two lanes going up Post, Monroe Hill seems to turn into a disaster at the first and susequent seasonal snow fall. Will the hill remain 4 lanes?

    • My understanding is that the hill itself will be three lanes, although I don’t remember if that includes a turn lane, or if it might be two lanes up/one lane down. I can take a look!

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