Sprague corridor reinvigoration gets a boost

Smart growth award secured, finalist for another

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Monday, December 22, 2014 at 8:31 a.m.

The City of Spokane has received a grant that will bring a national smart growth technical assistance workshop to Spokane and made the short list for a state pedestrian and bicycle safety grant, both important next steps in reinvigorating the East Sprague corridor.

Smart Growth America chose Spokane as one of just 14 communities nationally to receive its technical assistance workshop grant. The City has also made the shortlist of projects identified for Washington State Department of Transportation Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Safe Routes to School grant funding to improve bike and pedestrian travel in this neighborhood.

“Both are significant next steps in what is great progress for East Sprague businesses, residents and commuters,” said Mayor David Condon. “This is an example of what is possible when business and community leaders work with elected officials on a redevelopment vision, and City staff goes to work on turning those ideas into actionable plans.”

The Smart Growth America technical assistance workshop grant is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. The workshop, which will happen next spring, will focus on transit-oriented development, integrated street projects, smart growth policies, economic development and fiscal health, parking management and regional planning.

“This is huge for the future of the East Sprague corridor and great news for Spokane,” Council President Ben Stuckart said. “The workshop will help us build policies around our plans that can be replicated elsewhere in the city.”

The $1.5 million WSDOT grant would fund pedestrian refuge islands and street lights for pedestrian safety along Sprague Avenue. Spokane is a finalist for the grant. Awards will be made next year.

Improvements made to date along East Sprague are just the beginning of a larger vision for moving this underutilized business district and surrounding neighborhood forward. In total, $32 million in projects are planned over the next few years as a catalyst that encourages future economic investment. A year ago, the City Council selected the East University District as a pilot targeted investment area to demonstrate how increased public investment can lead to increased private investment and growth.

“We have been successful with this approach elsewhere in the City and the Sprague corridor makes great sense as the next neighborhood investment,” said Councilmember Candace Mumm said.

Similar investments on Market Street, in the Garland Neighborhood, in the Perry District, and in the University District leveraged existing assets to enhance business, districts, private investment, and surrounding residential neighborhoods in those areas.

“We are making smart, focused investments in our neighborhoods that create better, more pedestrian-friendly connections between residential and commercial activities,” Councilmember Jon Snyder said.

The East Sprague Business District, with its mix of retail, drive-by traffic and proximity to other resources, is one of the next logical places for investment. It has existing commercial, office and industrial activity. The neighborhood is a major thoroughfare for commuter and destination traffic. It is also immediately adjacent to the University District and all of the recent and planned investment just blocks away.

Work this summer along East Sprague improved parking, made the street a little more pedestrian friendly and slowed vehicles moving through the area – all with the idea of enhancing existing business opportunities and encouraging future investment.

More work is planned; $760,000 has been set aside for repaving First Avenue and adding streetscape enhancements. The 20-year street levy approved by voters last month also includes funding to rebuild East Sprague in the coming years.

The City recently restriped East Sprague, converting it from four lanes to three, including a center turn lane. The change has reduced speed in front of local businesses and made it easier for businesses to receive deliveries.