Idea #21: Bicycle transit center

The “bike center” concept offers a unique, low-cost opportunity to increase the number of individuals using alternative transportation to get to work. (PHOTO: Natural Resources Defense Council)

Spokane has a vested interest in decreasing the number of vehicle trips made per day in the city. Not only does driving alone to work markedly increase carbon dioxide emissions, but it also increases traffic, making Spokane feel more and more like a larger city. By taking drivers off the road and redirecting them to safe, convenient bicycle lanes, our city becomes more active, more engaged, more green, and more efficient. Unfortuntately, in order to do that, we must provide safe, convenient places to store bikes–and places to get ready for work. Enter the bicycle center.

It’s a simple idea, really. Let’s build a location downtown with rows and rows of indoor, protected bicycle storage. Hire an attendant to staff the facility during operation hours, or develop a card-key or smartphone-activated access system. Offer shower and locker facilities, and you’ve got a bona fide bicycle transit center that can be open for users at least nine months of the year. You could charge a small “subscription” fee and offer a drop-in rate for more sporadic users. We’ve already got the STA Plaza. Shouldn’t someone cater to bicyclists as well?

What do you think? Should a bicycle transit center be developed in downtown Spokane to encourage more workers to ride downtown? With increased bicycle infrastructure around the city, where would you like to see investments made to the system? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you.

Huntington Park and City Plaza officially open to the public

Downtown Spokane is known nationwide for the Spokane Falls. With Avista's Huntington Park, the falls become more accessible (and beautiful!) than ever before. (PHOTO: Avista Utilities)

Downtown Spokane is known nationwide for the Spokane Falls. With Avista’s Huntington Park, the falls become more accessible (and beautiful!) than ever before. (PHOTO: Avista Utilities)

After almost a year of construction, last Friday, Huntington Park and City Plaza officially opened to the public. The new park and plaza, funded by Avista Utilities as a gift to the city in its 125th Anniversary Year, offer an up-close and personal view of the Spokane Falls. Featuring refurbished staircases, a new grassy area, and a shelter of sorts, the park is a marked improvement from its previous iteration. Even better, it offers a clearer entrance area: the soon-to-be-christened City Plaza offers an amphitheater-like area, a direct connection to Riverfront Park, and clear entry to the entire complex that doesn’t make it feel like you’re trespassing.

Perhaps more than anything else, Huntington Park offers a tantalizing vision of what Spokane’s future could look like with a potential full renovation of Riverfront Park, additional shoreline and river access improvements, and direct trail connections through the Centennial Trail and Kendall Yards. And we can’t help but notice that this park with dramatically increase property values for the Post Street Substation/Washington Water Power Building and City Hall. Perhaps it’s time for Avista to relocate the substation and turn it into loft condos? Better yet, perhaps the City could swap City Hall with a developer willing to build a residential tower. Anything to get more residents downtown!

Huntington Park and City Plaza are certainly the types of projects that will get them there.

What do you think? Have you visited Huntington Park yet? Would you buy a loft condo in the Washington Water Power Building? Do you think City Hall should relocate and sell to a developer?

Spokane’s biking and running “heat map”

Spokane's biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat, with obvious deficiencies on the  north side. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)

Spokane’s biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat in some critical areas, with obvious deficiencies on the north side and in the City of Spokane Valley. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)

 

Strava is a GPS tracking system that’s become quite popular amongst runners and cyclists. The app allows users to track their rides or runs and save them for record-keeping. Not content with merely providing a great service to end users, however, the company also anonymizes its data and compiles it in order to create a global “heat map” of its users’  biking and running paths. These paths can tell a surprising story, especially for Spokane.

Above, see the biking heat map for Spokane. Notice the areas where bikers are concentrated; namely, around Riverside State Park, the High Drive Bluff, and Beacon Hill. Notably, downtown seems to attract bikers as well; this could indicate that infrastructure is improving. That said, it’s clear that some critical deficiencies exist in the overall biking system. The north side between the Spokane River, Monroe, Havana, and the Mead area is almost a complete desert. Is this because people just don’t bike in that area, or is it because there is no infrastructure there? Would adding bike lanes in this area increase biking? A similar situation appears to be unfolding in the South Valley area. What could be done to improve utilization to the rates seen on the South Hill and elsewhere? Are there equity issues at play?

See more on running after the break.

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The Value of Public Space in Urban Environments

“Pocket parks” like this one in New York City can create vibrant urban gathering spaces that entice passersby and residents alike. And they pay long-term economic dividends too! (PHOTO: Sustainable Cities Collective)

Urban Land reports on the importance of public spaces in making livable communities work. Specifically, the article focuses on the value of parks, gardens, rooftop gardens, and other spaces in urban environments, as well as the return that they generate. The High Line, in New York City, for example, cost the city $115 million in public funds and $44 million from the private sector, but increased boosted property values around the 1.5-mile elevated former freight rail line by as much as $2 billion and added 12,000 jobs to the local economy. That’s a killer ROI.

In addition, the article notes that safety and accessibility are key, as is adaptability. If the park or public space cannot be used for other purposes, then in many cases it may as well not be built. Hopefully the planners of the Riverfront Park Master Plan will keep this in mind when working on designs. We’ve also heard that the South Hill Coalition has some pocket parks and other small urban spaces up their sleeves as well, so perhaps we could see some nice urban spaces in neighborhoods in our future.

What do you think? Could Spokane use more urban spaces? What does the ROI for the High Line tell you about the economic potential of open space and public space investment? Share your comments here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!

The case for co-opting Kendall Yards’ “Urban by Nature” slogan

From this vantage point, it’s clear that Spokane truly is “urban,” yet also is astoundingly close to nature. How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory identities? (PHOTO: Young Kwak via The Inlander)

What do you think of “Urban by Nature” as a refinement of Spokane’s current “Near Nature, Near Perfect” mark? Greenstone has been using that slogan to market Kendall Yards, but perhaps it would be better suited to market Spokane itself. It’s already proven to be more than capable of describing that mixed-use urban village development near downtown, where the Centennial Trail provides easy recreation access, yet also a five-minute walk to all of downtown’s urban amenities. Perhaps it could be re-tooled or re-purposed by Visit Spokane.

Sure, “Near Nature, Near Perfect” is great, but it fails to encapsulate the essence of our city because it neglects the urban amenities that Spokane offers. It’s clear from the mark that something is located close to nature, but just what is it? It could describe any size of city. What makes Spokane great is that it has all of the benefits of a larger city, and yet is still located just five minutes from amazing hiking and biking trails in Riverside State Park, or half-an-hour from Mt. Spokane. “Near Nature, Near Perfect” doesn’t work because it fails to acknowledge that. And who wants to be near perfect, anyway?

By contrast, “Urban by Nature” offers a somewhat obvious, yet also sophisticated alternative. We retain the “near nature” or “by nature” aspect, highlighting our region’s easy access to world-class recreation. But we also add the “urban” aspect, keying ourselves into what should be our target demographic: young urban professionals and entrepreneurs. It also highlights the broader trend in urban design and affairs: millennials aren’t living in suburbs like their parents did. They are living in cities. They want all of the amenities and benefits that come with living in a city and all the convenience and recreational amenities of the suburbs. Spokane can offer that distinct choice, and the “Urban by Nature” slogan offers a unique opportunity to show that off. The play on words only helps the cause.

What do you think? Would Spokane be better served by a better slogan? Would “Urban by Nature” be a good alternative? Or does “Near Nature, Near Perfect” still fit the bill? Share your thoughts in the comments, on social media, and in person. We love to hear from you!

An Update on Riverfront Park’s U.S. Pavilion

A possible rendering of Riverfront Park's iconic U.S. Pavilion, part of the legacy of Expo 74, with a new high-tech domed structure underneath the cables. (PHOTO: Olson Kundig Architects/Spokane Journal of Business)

A possible rendering of Riverfront Park’s iconic U.S. Pavilion, part of the legacy of Expo 74, with a new high-tech domed structure underneath the cables. (PHOTO: Olson Kundig Architects/Spokane Journal of Business)

New renderings were unveiled Friday illustrating a possible future for Riverfront Park. Under this scenario, the U.S. Pavilion, the most iconic piece of the legacy of Spokane’s World’s Fair in 1974, would be extensively remodeled with a new night-lit superstructure underneath the cables. This is in stark contrast to the last plan we heard, which would have recovered the entire pavilion with a new type of durable teflon-coated fiberglass.

Also released were images of a potential new building for the Looff Carousel (which nicely matches the style Fountain Cafe, built in 2013, while more than doubling the square footage) and for a world-class climbing gym that has been proposed by a private developer for the North Bank. It’s anticipated that a bond measure will be brought to voters in November to pay for these improvements.

We won’t lie: the Riverfront Park plans, combined with Walt Worthy’s Convention Center Hotel and the remodeling of the Bennett Block and the former Huppin’s Building, promise to do more for Spokane than anyone realizes. The next few years are set to bring a lot of positive change to downtown, and we’re so excited to be sharing it with you.

View more photos after the break.

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Idea #11: Make the U.S. Pavilion a Community “Lantern”

Imagine this, but spread throughout the entire Pavilion superstructure on a new, translucent material. (PHOTO: CardCow)

Among the proposals being considered as part of the Riverfront Park Master Plan, the Parks Board and the Riverfront Park Advisory Committee are exploring the possibility of recovering the U.S. Pavilion structure in Riverfront Park and lighting it in order to make an incredibly unique architectural statement.

During Expo 74, the Pavilion was covered by a white vinyl material that easily ripped and tore, exposing the structural steel underneath. After the World’s Fair, Spokane residents chose to keep the superstructure, but the vinyl cover posed a safety hazard, and was taken down. Now, we have the opportunity to re-cover the Pavilion with a “durable, translucent material like Teflon-coated fiberglass,” (The Inlander) that didn’t exist back in the 70s.

Most interestingly, however, this recovering invites the possibility of lighting the superstructure as a sort of “lantern” for the community. A color could be chosen for typical nights, but events would offer an opportunity to show some character. Imagine the possibilities! The Pavilion could be lit in blue and green for Seahawks games, or lilac for Lilac Festival, or the color of the Bloomsday shirt for that year, or rainbow for gay pride events, or blue and red during the Zags’ March Madness run.

What do you think? Should the Pavilion be recovered and lit? Do you think that it sends a unique statement to the community? Share your thoughts in comments, tweets, posts, and responses.