Two of Spokane's most recognizable buildings are the Paulsen Building and what many refer to as The Old National Bank Building. Both are the topic of our second installation of 'Then & Now'. Years ago the Old National Bank building was probably the most recognizable from a distance not because of its height, but rather due to the massive, green ONB illuminated letters on the top of the structure. Looking at the images below you can get a good feel for what street-life in downtown Spokane was like before traffic-engineering turned Stevens St. and Washington St. into one-way couplets. Cars parked at an angle (oh the horror), pedestrians flooded the streets, and if you look closely even the Great Northern clock tower and station are visible.
Is it us, or does the older image seem like a more interesting place?
Let's face it, Division Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard has always been a challenging intersection. At best it's a jumble of high volume couplets that is terribly unfriendly to pedestrians and not much better for cars. Improving this intersection as the key gateway into the downtown core is no small task, but one project we've recently learned of may just accomplish this.
Over the summer, those frequenting this intersection will begin seeing
a gradual transformation take place. The simple screen that marks
the boundary between the curved couplet and the new Convention Center
will be home to one of our city's most visible and prominent pieces of
art (Currently an honor that belongs to local artist Ken Spiering's
Radio Flyer Wagon sitting in Riverfront Park). Last week we caught
an early look at Ken's new installation piece, and from the mock-ups we can't wait to see it in place.
It's a challenging site. Roughly 700' long, over 10' high, heavy traffic, and exposure to some extreme elements and weathering. Putting his project into words isn't easy but we'll do our best. A mesh-screen that is now being installed will run the length of the curve towards the 'point' of the building at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Browne Street. Fastened to it, and running the length are numerous brushed-aluminum 'arrowhead-like' spans. The eye is guided by these lengths of arrows
towards four-to-five 20' x 5' oblong shapes placed on along the screen at various points. Each oblong shape will consist of hundreds of enamel-covered copper disks fading in color from lavender, to blue, to green. To top it off, the objects along the entire installation will be back-lit with to highlight them, giving the piece even more of a presence during the night time.
Construction of the installation will continue through summer and should be complete by early fall. Frankly, we're excited for the transformative impact this piece will have on the intersection. In fact, we're hopeful it will be the catalyst for future enhancements to this long neglected boulevard.
NOTE: Special thanks to Ken Spiering and the Public Facilities District for giving us an early look.
The fanfare surrounding the proposed kayak park hit a crescendo this evening in an upper-level banquet room of Masonic Temple downtown. With sweeping views of the river gorge, the official funding kick-off
began. A crowd of well over
one-hundred supporters and well-wishers listened to
speakers including Mayor Hession, Senator Lisa Brown, Tom Reese (Kendall Yards-Project Manager), and Scott Shipley (3 time Olympian - Kayak) of Recreational Engineering and Planning. Even Representative Kathy McMorris was spotted early on mixing with the crowd.
We've taken a look at the official document and it's a beaut. Though any plan is only as good as it's implementation, we feel pretty confident about the group leading this effort. From pretty humble beginnings they've managed to raise enough money, and awareness, to receive $400,000 from the state, and thousands more from private hands.
The event tonight marked the beginning of the most critical phase of the Great Gorge Plan. Currently the project is short $225,000 that is needed to begin the construction of the whitewater portion of the park in Peaceful Valley. The funding mechanism is a clever one: For a $250 donation you will fund the purchase and placement of a boulder used to create the whitewater rapids necessary for kayaking. As one speaker mentioned tonight, this project has the all hallmarks of being this generation's EXPO.
Spokane's biggest waterfeature? Not quite, but this park is going to be one helluva ride.
Spokane has changed dramatically in the past ten years let alone the past one-hundred. A new series we've begun is to present to our readers images from the distant and not-so-distant past of various parts of Spokane. We'll then contrast them with a more recent version.
First up, the Empire Block...then and now. Constructed in 1907, the building has changed little except for the street-level storefront. The smaller two-story buildings next door were replaced by a modern expansion of the Spokesman-Review offices in the early 1980s.
Writer's Note - We're certainly pummeling the proverbial horse with this post, but as
long as the buildings are standing, we'll keep offering up ideas.
A couple of years ago, a three month stay in Washington DC for work provided a great sampling of one of our country's, if not the world's, great urban environments. During that time, as now, the future of the Rookery Block was not
looking good. After logging hundreds of miles on foot criss-crossing much of the city, one thing was clear: DC developers are constantly constantly considering the issue of historic preservation. A complex mix of land economics, tight zoning controls (severe height limits within the city), and a city history that goes back hundreds of years has resulted in some interesting approaches to obtaining a property's 'highest and best use' (as seen in this post). The land is so valuable, and the pressure for historic preservation so strong, that developers go to great lengths to maintain existing structures. Or at least the semblance of them.
Recently we were looking through some of the images brought back
from DC, and it struck us that some of these approaches could apply to the Rookery...in theory. From a historic preservation standpoint we like the ideas presented in these photos. Though Spokane is experiencing a serious speculative boom in downtown residential development, to date it has been based entirely on remodels (aside from the Upper Falls). The hard truth may be that the economics of land downtown isn't where it needs to be to spur revitalization of our robust collection of vacant lots.
We caught wind of an interesting event happening on Earth Day here in the Spokane area (OK, well the City of Spokane Valley). If you're interested at all in learning about straw-bale construction and have some time to help, then this is the event for you.
Habitat for Humanity has organized a straw-bale house wall raising, and the best thing is it's hands-on. Bring your gloves, your fav long sleeved shirt (trust us if you've never handled straw, you'll need it), and a lunch. Spend the morning working with others who are interested in sustainable construction.
22nd, 8:45am sign in, 9:00am-9:45am orientation
N. Waldo, Spokane Valley (two blocks north of East Trent, near Felts
What to bring: Work gloves, tape measure, utility
knife, water, lunch. Wear long sleeves.