OK, so the city's looks to have a balanced budget this year for the first time in quite some time. Accolades to Mayor West and Council for trudging through the process of righting [no pun intended] the good ol' ship Spokane. However, one thing that has obviously been nibbling away at MetroSpokane is the denuding that ocurred in the Neighborhood Planning effort. Could it just be that in these tight economic times that what the city needs to stimulate growth are some LONG RANGE PLANS for our older traditional neighborhoods and neighborhood business districts? It is quite possible that solid planning in these neighborhoods could provide some excitement, incentive, and direction to developers [local and other] to do some, well, developing.
Take for example the University District Master Planning Process. Did anyone witness the outpouring of citizen involvment and the general excitement about the area as a result? The comparisons to EXPO '74 were immediate. Overall it was an impressive process, and it should have been a wake up call to Mayor West and the council. People here are generally interested in long range planning and what better place to focus long range planning than with some of the city's struggling older neighborhoods.
The issue is that these neighborhoods cannot compete head-on with the likes of The Ridge at Hangman, Eagle Ridge, etc for becoming places of choice for Spokane's families. They have significant disadvantages and opportunities [e.g. aging infrastructure/housing stock and close proximity to downtown and employment centers] and they require a different approach that goes well beyond designating them a Neighborhood Center or overlaying them with a Multifamily Housing Tax Abatement Ordinance. If you do not think there is some low hanging, economic development fruit to be harvested here consider for a moment the property-tax base of the upper South Hill versus West Central or East Central, or Hillyard. Generally speaking if the commercial corridors and residential values continue to decline in these areas, they will continue on as fiscal drags on the city.
Well Mr. Mayor we at MetroSpokane feel the same way about Neighborhood Planning. The city to some degree sets the rules of the development game. Spokane has adopted a comprehensive plan [opens a pdf]. Lets dust it off, use it as our guide, and focus some attention on bringing back these declining neighborhoods. It makes all the sense in the world...even economic.