Jeff Humphrey

Preserving Spokane’s Architectural Roots

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Monday, January 8, 2018 at 11:32 a.m.

Construction is booming in Spokane right now. We haven’t seen this many new projects taking shape in the past 20 years.

However, people like Megan Duvall worry all this growth is ripping up too many of our architectural roots.  

“Our intent and our goal is to preserve as much of Spokane’s history as we can,” Duvall said. 

Duvall is the city’s historic preservation officer. It’s her job to make sure we are not inadvertently tearing down too much of our heritage.   

“That’s part of what we use to tell the story of where Spokane has been and also part of how we tell where we are going to go in the future. But we have to preserve the actual fabric. We just can’t keep a few things here and there and let growth over take us,” Duvall warned.

While preserving the historic Campbell House was a no brainer; there’s a city code dictates almost every building, more than 50 years old, can be eligible for protection.

“When we are looking for eligibility, we do have to look, does it have integrity or doesn’t it have integrity?” Duvall explained

For example, Spokane’s Historic Landmarks Commission was asked to decide if the Mayfair café, once a pair of three story buildings, should be saved or razed.

“The iteration of the Mayfair that we actually reviewed for its eligibility was a one story building. All of its cladding had been changed, the windows were no longer there. There was really no historic fabric left of that building and therefore it was allowed to be demolished at that point,” Duvall recalled.

The Commission approved demolition of the Mayfair and it’s been turned into a parking lot. 

But City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear believes that there is a wealth of other historic buildings in Spokane that citizens should be able to protect.

“These things are very important to our neighborhoods. They are very important to the character of our neighborhoods,” Kinnear argues.                                                                         
That’s why the Spokane’s City Council is considering making it easier to recognize and preserve historically significant buildings.

“We’re asking that people take a little more time, time that we can talk to them and give them alternatives and offer incentives so that the first answer they give is not ‘let’s just take it down,’” Kinnear said.

Those incentives for developers include tax credits, better pricing on city-supplied utilities and grants for new facades and sidewalks.

“And that’s why the incentives; so that it’s not all on you to be able to bring up your property up to codes that we have today to make it an asset to the neighborhood,” explained Kinnear.

That’s what already happening to the former Wonder Bread building. Instead of turning the property into a pile of bricks, developers are renovating the old bakery into a series of shops, art studios and outdoor hangouts.

“It is also an economic piece. When you think about people who come to our city, they go to Browne’s Addition. They love coming downtown looking at our older buildings. We have movie makers who come here, just because we have older buildings they can use.

It’s a huge opportunity to create the economic vitality that we talk about,” predicted Kinnear.

Kinnear also favors the creation of historic districts so certain neighborhoods, like Browne’s Addition, can be protected from demolition or new, inappropriate construction, if the citizens organize and choose to act.

“And that’s important to them because of what we talked about before; the character of their neighborhood; why people choose to live in Browne’s Addition,” Kinnear added.

Kinnear says protecting Spokane’s architectural heritage is good for tourism and brings neighborhoods closer together.

That’s why Kinnear is asking her fellow council members to strengthen the city’s historic preservation and demolition ordinance.

A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for Wednesday, January 10th at 4:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

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