Major new mixed-use housing development proposed in the University District

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The developers behind the 940 North student housing building are back at it with the “University District Apartments” building, proposed for 230 N Division on the East End of downtown Spokane. The six-story building features significant architectural interest first-floor retail. (PHOTO: spokanepermits.com)

Last year, we heard that a developer was interested in constructing a 26-story condo tower at 230 N Division St, a former auto shop on a prominent site at the edge of the University District and the East End of downtown Spokane. The proposal seemed to be as serious as any in technical terms (planning documents featured relatively detailed architectural renderings), but unrealistic given the relative distance from the city’s central core and the not-altogether-great history of then-involved developer Lanzce Douglas.

Now, a new developer has submitted a Pre-Development Conference for a major development at that site. University Housing Partners of San Clemente, California already developed the already-popular 940 North project on Ruby. Now, the firm has proposed a six-story mixed-use project featuring five floors of housing aimed primarily at WSU Spokane and EWU Spokane students. The $20 million project would include 12,000 square feet of retail along both Spokane Falls Boulevard and Division Street, a critical factor in engaging the street level. 100 parking spots would be tucked behind the street as we suggested in our post on the original proposal for this site. And renderings (more after the break) feature significant architectural interest and color.

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A closer look at three important ways to improve the Jensen-Byrd District plan

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This is the site plan for the Jensen-Byrd District, as proposed by JB Development, a partnership between Wally Trace and McKinstry. A few changes would dramatically improve the development plan for the site, making it more inviting for the next fifty-plus years. (PHOTO: jensenbyrd.com)

When the Jensen-Byrd District plan was revealed in full for the first time last week, we rightfully noted the spectacular form and scale that the plan took. At 250,000 square feet, it’s the largest downtown Spokane development in nearly a generation. And by including space well-suited for high-tech and biotech companies, it could mark a turning point in Spokane’s overall economy.

But it’s important to note also that the site plan has some significant pain-points, challenges which we expect to be resolved before the developer is granted a building permit. It’s easy to forget that once a building is built, it’s likely to remain there for at the very minimum, fifty years (well, most of the time). That’s why we need to ensure that this development is held to a high standard: the University District is intended to drive Spokane’s economy in the 21st century and beyond. To create a place fit for the next fifty-plus years, we need to do better than the current plan. Here are some concrete steps to making that happen.

1. Create a better, more inviting, and more distinct north landing for the University District Pedestrian Bridge. In the current plan, a pedestrian crossing the bridge northbound will land facing the parking garage, where it’s unclear whether there will be a clear path forward to the Jensen-Byrd Building itself. At this landing, there should be some wayfinding information, as well as other active space, such as retail on the first floor of the parking garage. Imagine an inviting cafe or coffeehouse with outdoor seating and programmable space. There should also be an easy path through the parking garage to the Jensen-Byrd. (It appears that there may be an alleyway of some kind for this purpose; how could this alley be made more inviting for pedestrians? Overhead lights? Restaurant space a la Mizuna?)

2. Develop a phased master plan for the overall site, including development for the surface parking lots included in the current site plan. There’s zero justification for the surface parking lots to remain on the site plan, given the 450-space parking garage included in the first phase. This land would be better put to use in the interim as open space or public parkland; in the future, it should be developed to support the continued growth of the University District. As of now, however, we don’t know when or whether that will happen. This planning and building approval process should include specific planning for these sites.

3. Repave the section of Main Street in front of the Jensen-Byrd Building with brick, and close it to vehicles, to create a more inviting pedestrian landscape and a plaza of sorts for events and special occasions. Even if the street is not closed to vehicles, it would be more vibrant, more interesting, and more programmable if paved with brick. Imagine Friday food truck gardens or Saturday farmers’ markets on this site. Paved with brick, this could become a huge selling point to any potential tenant of the Jensen-Byrd District development.

Overall, these three changes could go a long way toward improving the Jensen-Byrd District plan. It’s unclear what degree of flexibility to public comment the developers will have, but it’s worth a shot. Fortunately, it’s likely that design review will be required for this project. We will share information on public comment when it becomes available.

In the meantime, your best bet to offer feedback for the project is to use the comment form on the development’s website. Be sure to select “other” for the contact category so it’s directed to the right people. Perhaps we can make a difference in improving this project.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Would these improvements help improve the Jensen-Byrd District plan to make it more future-proof and vibrant? Would you approve of a better connection from the Pedestrian Bridge, given the large amount of public funding going to that project? What about brick paving for Main Ave? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

 

Idea #28: Bikeshare system

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Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare has been successful in enabling last-mile connections and easy tourist connections. It has also exceeded expectations in placemaking, remaking many of its station areas into plazas and new public space. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

Across the country, bikeshare systems are adding to the array of multimodal and diverse public transportation choices while allowing an opportunity for private companies and vendors to capture a new market. In addition, these bicycle rental and subscription services can help to build new urban spaces, diverse and innovative squares, and centers for public life. Even a simple intersection can become a “place,” if enhanced with a bike station, benches, and perhaps curb bulb-outs or other streetscape enhancements.

It’s time for Spokane to join these cities.

Imagine the potential of a bikeshare system with stations in Browne’s Addition, the University District, near Gonzaga University, on Hamilton, in the Garland District, in the South Perry, and in multiple locations downtown. Imagine the potential of being able to grab a bike downtown and ride to grab a pizza at the Elk in Browne’s Addition, then take a Spokane Transit bus home. Imagine the potential of riding from the Garland District to Kendall Yards, and never having to worry about finding a bike rack or carrying a lock. Instead, you can just drop the bike at a station.

And bikeshare would take advantage of our growing bicycle infrastructure in Spokane, including added bike lanes on Main Avenue and other area roads and streets. It could help to grow Spokane’s bicycle culture from niche to mainstream. And that’s something that could benefit us all, through a more active streetscape and a greater availability of alternative commuting options.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Would a bikeshare system work in Spokane? Where would you like to see a station? Do you see bikeshare as a viable option for commuting, or more of an alternative for tourists and convention guests? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!

BREAKING: Massive 250,000 square foot Jensen-Byrd District promises adaptive reuse, space for tech/biotech companies

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If everything goes as planned, by 2018, the Jensen-Byrd Building in Spokane’s University District will grow into a mixed-use area of its own, featuring tech/biotech offices, retail, retaurants, and an athletic center over 250,000 square feet. (PHOTO: jensenbyrd.com)

 

Earlier this year, WSU Spokane awarded a contract for remodel and reuse of the Jensen-Byrd Building to a partnership of Seattle developer Wally Trace and the local office of design-build energy efficiency firm McKinstry. We knew that the partners had significant plans for the site, but now we’re getting our first look at the project.

And it’s absolutely spectacular.

Not content to simply remodel the historic Jensen-Byrd warehouse, JB Development will develop a massive, 250,000 square foot adaptive reuse of the main building and the Pacific Produce Building and construct a new 442-space parking garage, a 50,000 square foot retail and fitness center, and an 84,000 square foot mixed-use tech/biotech office building. The result will be what they are calling the Jensen-Byrd District. Aimed at tech and biotech companies, the buildings will feature the large floor plates, modern data connections, and retail amenities that large companies expect, but which don’t exist at this point in our city.

In other words, if marketed correctly, these two buildings could help Spokane land a major tech or biotech tenant. It’s a dream that’s been building for a while, with significant investment in the University District (including the Pedestrian Bridge, expected to be complete in 2018) in pursuit of attracting private companies. With the right targeted action and marketing, now we have a specific site that could accommodate those demanding tenants.

Jump after the break for more discussion and renderings.

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Logan District blossoms as stage set for Matilda Building, a 57-unit mixed use project

The Matilda Building will rise on the Hamilton Corridor in the Logan District, with 57 apartment units and first-floor retail. Urban design abound. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)

The Matilda Building will rise on the Hamilton Corridor in the Logan District, with 57 apartment units and first-floor retail. Urban design abound. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)

In May, we reported on a major new mixed-use project set for construction on North Hamilton in the burgeoning Logan District. At that point, the “Hamilton Project” had just applied for a SEPA Review, the penultimate step in the process toward a building permit. Now, we understand, the project is just about ready to get underway.

The four-story mixed-use structure at 1008 N Hamilton will offer 57 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments aimed at young urban professionals, graduate students, and others interested in a University District living experience. A rooftop patio and barbecue will add to the available amenities. On the ground floor, over 17,000 square feet of retail space will be made available. One commercial unit has reportedly already been leased. Unfortunately, an excessively generous street setback may result in a more limited “urban”-style experience where people choose to access the storefronts via the parking lot, which will be located behind the building. Hopefully this grassy setback can be reduced to encourage people to commute to and from the Matilda Building by foot, bike, or transit.

Otherwise, we’re quite excited to see this project get underway, and we can’t help but notice the tremendous investment seen in the Logan District in recent years. If these projects succeed in urban form and character, there’s a potential for major disruption. There was Six on Hamilton. The Clementine Building. Gonzaga’s Boone Avenue Retail Center, or BARC. The John J. Hemmingson Center. And of course, the Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code.

Are we witnessing the rebirth of Logan?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited for the construction of the Matilda Building, a major new mixed-use project on the Hamilton Corridor? Do you believe that this building, combined with other recent successes, will help herald a rebirth of the Logan District? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you!

Idea #19: A real startup fund

Spokane Startup Weekend, which takes place in the early spring at McKinstry's Innovation Center, offers a great opportunity for innovators to connect, collaborate, and network. Unfortunately, we still suffer from a lack of venture funding and mentoring. (PHOTO: Startup Weekend Spokane)

Spokane Startup Weekend, which takes place in the early spring at McKinstry’s Innovation Center, offers a great opportunity for innovators to connect, collaborate, and network. Unfortunately, we still suffer from a lack of venture funding and mentoring. (PHOTO: Startup Weekend Spokane)

In Silicon Valley, ten percent of startups hit it big. In Spokane, if we could hit half of that number, we would be doing quite well. Area startups have a good number of resources, with LaunchPad NW, McKinstry’s Spokane Innovation Center, and Startup Weekend Spokane, but still, we’re not exactly the hotbed for startups that we could be with additional capital and focus. A true startup fund, with a focus on mentorship, could be a real boon to our region’s innovation economy.

Whether it’s a single angel investor or a group of local well-off citizens, we need some people to start venture funding startups. We need additional low-cost incubator space for startups to grow. We need the infrastructure to support the next generation of tech startups, from fiber-optic internet service to a late-night coffeeshop within walking distance. With a focused effort, Spokane could become a haven for startups. It just needs to coordinate disparate groups in different areas working around different goals. It needs to coalesce around a specific, clear, and certain plan aimed at growing innovation locally and globally.

What do you think? Could startups be a path forward for Spokane? Would a startup fund, and greater capital for startups, as well as a focused effort to attract them, help to grow Spokane’s innovation economy? Shout out in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter. We love to hear from you.

Gonzaga District set to receive 60 additional student-housing units

This lot, at 940 N Ruby, is set to be transformed into a major 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga University students. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

This lot, at 940 N Ruby, is set to be transformed into a major 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga University students. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

A California-based developer is getting ready to start construction on a 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga students but otherwise unaffiliated with the university. At 940 N Ruby, he will construct a five-story building with surface parking underneath residential units, a la Kennedy Apartments. A Pre-Development Conference and SEPA Review have been completed with an apparent determination of non-significance. The city’s permitting database has not yet been updated with appropriate approval documents, but with SEPA listed as “Closed,” it appears that this project is ready to get going.

While the project won’t be quite as pedestrian-friendly as the Kennedy Apartments (there will be a surface parking lot between the building and Ruby Street), five-story construction should add some much-needed density along this particular stretch of the Division/Ruby corridor. Project plans are available on the city’s Online Permit System. Combined with the Ruby Suites (former Burgan’s Block), Kennedy, and other Gonzaga-Downtown housing, this area has in seven short years increased its housing supply by orders of magnitude. Especially when you consider that 60 units here will probably house around 200 students.

No word on whether this is the 60-unit housing development KXLY reported as planned for “between the University District and downtown.” Anyone have any idea?

What do you think? Are you excited about the addition of new residential units on the Division/Ruby corridor? Are you excited about infill possibilities between Division and Ruby? What’s next for this area? Share your thoughts in our comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.