Tyler Kimbrell

How the Past Shapes Spokane: Centers and Corridors Growth Strategy

Tyler Kimbrell, Planner II, 509.625.6500

Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 10:54 a.m.

How the Past Shapes Spokane: Centers and Corridors Growth Strategy

The unveiling of a draft of the City’s Comprehensive Plan in 2001.

In preparation for the 2026 Periodic Update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which happens only once every ten years and is the guiding document for Spokane’s long-range growth, the Planning Services Department is conducting a study of the Centers and Corridors growth strategy as illustrated in the CityCable 5 video below. See the project page for background and a map of all the Centers and Corridors.

Centers and Corridors: A Brief History

Centers and Corridors is both a zoning approach and land-use policy implemented following the City’s focused growth strategy, outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. Centers and Corridors are meant to accommodate a significant amount of growth, leaving the rest of the city primarily low-density residential.

At the time of development and initial implementation between 1995 and 2005, this growth strategy was common among jurisdictions across Washington state. Seattle has its Urban Villages Element, and Tacoma has its Mixed-Use Center approach. These growth areas were lauded as places for vibrant mixed-use buildings that are walkable and transit-friendly, and that host employment, education, and affordable housing.

Spokane’s focused growth strategy was developed based on a public outreach process known as “Horizons.” The Horizons process informed the development of the City’s first Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2001, and followed the Ahwahnee Principles, referring to the native name for the Yosemite Valley, where a group of planners, urban designers and architects developed these principles of urban development in 1991.

These principles, which led to the New Urbanism movement, emphasize sustainable urban planning practices incorporating a mix of uses, compactness, walkability and transit-oriented development. The Centers and Corridors designation is based on Community Principle 7: “the community should have a center focus that combines commercial, civic, cultural and recreation uses.”

The Horizons process and resulting Comprehensive Plan engaged hundreds of volunteers, incorporated thousands of comments and resulted in community consensus on the current focused growth strategy. This strategy aimed to increase density in select areas, identified as Centers and Corridors, while limiting density outside of those areas. A survey of thousands of community members across Spokane was titled “50,000 people are coming to dinner... and they’re staying the night!” Two long-form questions were asked:

  1. What do you really love about Spokane? What should we be sure to keep, even as we grow?
  2. Think about 50,000 more people living in our city. What changes are you concerned about or looking forward to with this growth? How do you feel this growth will affect the things that you like and want to keep?

Following the survey and discussions with volunteers, three growth alternatives were considered:

  1. Current pattern (no change alternative),
  2. Focused Growth Central City (focusing on the downtown), and
  3. Focused Growth, Mixed-Use Centers and Corridors.

The preferred alternative was Centers and Corridors, referred to as the “focused growth, mixed-use Center and Corridor strategy.”

An original set of 21 Centers and Corridors were designated. The strategy included a plan to conduct additional subarea plans for each designated area. This was meant to be a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach wherein each Center or Corridor receives a public planning process to fully consider land use, zoning and transportation options before carrying out related changes in zoning and the land-use plan.

Neighborhood planning processes began with pilot projects in West Broadway, Perry, and Holy Family. Some plans were completed. The goal of creating individual subarea plans for all 21 Centers and Corridors was abandoned due to budget cuts during the late 2000s.

Looking Ahead, Engagement Opportunities

During the planning process for the Periodic Update, we would like to hear your feedback about the Centers and Corridors where you live, work and play. Please take a short Community Survey that is open through Sunday, Nov. 12.

You are also invited to in-person and virtual open houses in October and November to learn more and participate in the discussion.

Open Houses

Thursday, Oct. 26
4:30 – 7 p.m.
Central Library, Events Room A

Tuesday, Nov. 7
6 – 7 p.m. Online via MS Teams

Join the meeting
Meeting ID: 214 134 453 028
Passcode: Zok8Ck
Download Teams | Join on the web

Centers, Corridors and Coffee

City staff will be setting up booths at local coffee shops throughout town to chat with people in their own neighborhoods. Stay tuned to City of Spokane social media to learn when and where these activity tables will be set up!

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