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Comments

Alberto

I've seen this rendering in the Inlander a while back, the article was about (not surprisingly) how the neighborhood is disgusted with the idea of a large condominium moving in. which is strange because I've seen some large residential building scattered around the area. I however, think it will be nice.

Rob Brewster

Sadly after two years of working on this project the neighborhood shot it down. Not sure why cars parked on lawns and medical office buildings are seen as better than residential - but that's what they want.

One hilarious comment in the Inlander was, "Manito Park is our Central Park" - as I reminded them... Central Park is wisely surrounded by dense residential living and towers.

Then to ensure no other "terrible," "traffic making," "kid killing" project like this one will be built (until they all die), they down zoned Grand to R-1 - (single family resident). Yes, one neighbor did claim that building this project would result in kids getting run over....

There seems to be zero understanding on economics (or sense) in Spokane - you can't build a 10 unit building of any quality in trade for the 20 unit we proposed (yes, that's what the city/neighborhood eventually "gave" us). There are better places to do business....

Have you seen the awesome condos in Portland and Seattle?

Andrew Waddilove

Very true, Rob.
This city has always had it's pockets of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) People.
I'm surprised that past progress was allowed to build anything around Manito Park at all.
I like this project.
It's contemporary to a point, yet elegant enough to blend in with it's surroundings.
I think once it's built and completed, residents nearby will then see how it actually helps add to their neighborhood and not detract to it.

Brian A. Sayrs

Rob, I sympathize with you. We do need to have leaders who are better at creating an environment where projects like yours are embraced because the public understands the benefits of it.

Of course, I'd be remiss to fail to mention that there's about 30 acres in Liberty Lake where we'd be thrilled to have you, and other developers such as you, build a mixed use neighborhood immediately adjacent to the future light rail line. And, you know me, I'd love the opportunity to convene a developers alliance to design and implement the combined vision!

Ben Delaney

I agree wholeheartedly with Rob. The way the neighborhood attacked this is a shame. It's really very disheartening for those of us who came BACK to Spokane, hoping for real progress only to be reminded that the "old guard" is still alive and well.

Yeah yeah yeah....I know what you're going to say...progress IS being made...blah blah blah. It's just so slow and painful at times that I fear it takes the wind out of the sails of those who seek to embrace and further it.

I shouldn't be just complaining on here, but I guess that's all this is. I'm just so tired of seeing good ideas go wasted.

Bummer.

Nicholas Nature

The south hill seems to be building a great reputation of hating all development. Unless its a Vandervert cookie cutter strip. Sad to see such a great looking structure, in a perfect location never be realized.

Leio

The lesson here is that you really need to follow the example of places like Manito Court. Spokane development at its best!

http://metrospokane.typepad.com/index/2007/09/conversion-blis.html

Rob Brewster

I had a meeting today in Seattle - thought this was interesting. So Spokane is very proud - rightly so - that in the last 10 years, we've had $1 Billion in projects downtown.... not to take away from that at all - but last year.. downtown Seattle had $3.7 Billion... WOW. That's a number.

Many of us were drawn back to Spokane - with a lot of empty promises - we need leadership and ideas to help move forward and grow - where are the good leaders?

Thanks for the comments above - the process with the neighborhood and the city was disheartening. I like working in Spokane but when you get derailed on a good quality (good example) project - and then you see the trash that's allowed all over the place, it's hard to justify doing anything.

We're back to work on the Havermale project downtown and doing some other cool stuff in Portland and Seattle (see www.arcticclubhotel.com).

Transplant

Spokane metro area = 500,000
Seattle metro area = 3,500,000
Investment necessarily grows exponentially with population. There's not really justification for comparing the two as equals.

Developer/neighborhood battles aren’t unique to Spokane, nor is municipal leadership that’s perceived to fall on one side or the other. “Awesome condos” in Seattle have met the same resistance they do in Spokane. There’s an article in today’s Seattle Times suggesting that Seattle is one of the most difficult cities for development: “Compared with 250 major U.S. cities (University of Washington economics professor Theo Eicher) says Seattle is first in terms of the impacts of state political involvement in land issues; is in the top 3% for approval delays for new construction; is in the top 10% in local political pressure influencing land use.”

DanaD

As one of those neighborhood activists who were opposed to the size of this project, let me try to articulate our objections (without being branded as a reactionary).

By the way, we were also opposed to the new medical buildings now being finished, not so much for their design (which is actually okay for the neighborhood) but because of the commercial nature of the project across from a residential park.

Traffic - I know people were called hysterical for saying the increased traffic would "kill kids" but that seems to be one of the few ways to get the attention of the government when it comes to opposing development. With the medical buildings, the traffic engineers predicted that there would be virtually no impact on the traffic on 20th, even though it is a through-street to Rockwood. To think medical offices and a condo project this size would not increase traffic on side streets is illogical. As someone who crosses Grand at the crosswalk at 20th EVERY DAY, I know personally how dangerous this intersection already is.

Another issue was the design, which was approx. forty feet high, well over the zoning standards. Again, as someone who walks past this corner every day, I thought the design presented an imposing, elitist facade to the street. I think those of us who live in modest houses on the street would feel unwelcome to walk past this chi-chi tower.

One other issue is the whole developer attitude to neighborhoods - the arrogant "We know what's best for you" attitude that dismisses objections as backwards, NIMBY, barriers to economic and social progress...

As Tranplant pointed out - Spokane is NOT Seattle. Although I am quite happy with the Downtown residential development occuring, to expect our inner ring suburban neighborhoods to support urban density doesn't reflect the neighborhood park feel of that area.

And these arguments are coming from a Texas-transplant who is politically liberal, supports historic preservation, and commutes alternatively to work Downtown (so NOT the "old guard")! I personally would rather see a well-maintained empty lot left in its natural state, but you can't make money off of that!

Contrarian

Well, DanaD, your final remark is illuminating -- you'd "rather see a well-maintained empty lot left in it's natural state."

Do you realize you are living in a city, not in the wilderness? Humans, like spiders, beavers, most birds, bees, etc., modify the natural environment to provide themselves safe and comfortable shelter and facilitate social interaction. Humans are natural organisms, just as are bees and beavers; their constructions are as natural as beaver dams and beehives.

And you are mistaken in thinking developers believe they "know what's best for you." They are not building for you at all; they believe there is a market for the projects they propose --- which means that someone would find those condos attractive, and buy them. Because that project will not be built, those folks are denied the housing they would prefer. They must forgo their preferences in order not to offend the egalitarian sensibilities of neighbors?

It is absurd that such arguments receive any consideration whatsoever. It is as absurd as the argument that a building should not be built because it will cast shadows.

Unless neighbors can make a convincing showing that a project will create a public nuisance, they should have no say in what others do with their property.

Since you profess to be a liberal, you no doubt oppose "sprawl." You do realize, don't you, that the way to forestall "sprawl" is by increasing densities in the inner city, e.g., by building high- or medium rise apartments and condos?

BTW, 20th and Grand is hardly "suburban." Less than 2 miles from the city center, it is categorically urban. It is precisely where higher densities make sense, and would be expected to occur.

DanaD

I said "inner ring suburban" for a reason. Manito Park is not Central Park (which was indeed a poor analogy), not surrounded by businesses or large apartment complexes (at least not yet), with even a few "natural" areas left. Those of us who already live in the neighborhoods where development takes place DO have the right to have a say in what happens to OUR environments. We are the ones who face the consequences of poor design and planning.

Maybe this project had other reasons for not being built, SUCH AS:
Sure, it was across from a very nice park, but on the other side of a very busy, four-lane arterial from a very nice park.
There is the downturn in the economy and real estate sales.
There is the glut of high priced condos available in Spokane.
There is the fact that this high-priced, supposedly urban-density project is isolated from the shopping and entertainment venues this market segment is supposed to want.
There was the developer's commitments to other projects that also have not been started (Vox Tower anyone?)

It's not like Spokane has a centralized, urban greenspace with many vacant parking lots surrounding it that could be turned into high-density Downtown living spaces...Oh wait...

Jim

Hey Rob - I assume Vox has imploded finally. What is really happening with the Havermale Project in this time of tight financing?

Contrarian

"Have a right to have a say in what happens in OUR environment ..."

Given the broad scope of the term "environment," do you realize what that implies, Dana?

Do you get a say in what color your neighbor paints her house? What she plants in her garden? How often she washes her car? How about what color she styles her hair, or paints her toenails?

In cities, the "environment" consists primarily of other people and their property --- their houses, their cars, their persons. Sorry, but they're entitled to make choices about those things for themselves, without consulting you. You get a "say" only when one of their choices causes or threatens to injure you. For the rest, you suck it up --- that's called "tolerance."

Many people these days seem never to have learned the Supreme Rule of urban life, namely, "live and let live" (also known as MYOB --- mind your own business).

Perhaps there is a problem with the public schools . . .

DanaD

Here’s more background on this supposed “miscarriage of justice”. The hearing examiner restricted the developer to 10 units because that was what the zoning code allowed. When Conover Bond bought two homes and a vacant lot on parcels 35292.1704, 1705, and 1706 for about $373,000 (Assessor’s Office – look it up), SURELY they knew what the current zoning for those parcels was. They gambled that the neighborhood would meekly (happily?) accept all of the changes and exceptions to the legal code that would allow them to build a 4-story, 27 unit complex. Instead, when hundreds of people objected, I guess the hearing examiner felt obliged to ENFORCE THE ACTUAL CODE. The project no longer “penciled out”. That’s the nature of the development game, so maybe you people should just get over it and quit blaming citizens who stood up for their right to have the law enforced.

sustainable

Dana D,

Good explanation on the zoning. Bottom line was that the decision by the Hearing Examiner was in line with current planning which was supported by the neigborhood as well. The onus of responsibility lies on the developer to prove that they can responsibly build beyond what our zoning allows for and in so doing would receive a variance - and in this case Conover Bond obviously did not do so.

I personally would like to see higher density around Manito, but also believe that developers have to work within the constraints of their neighbors, obviously even more so when you're looking for a variance. Nice work to the neighborhood on this one and to Dana D in her comments while taking a lot of shots from others.

If the property was indeed purchased for $373,000 how can they not manage to make 10 units pencil anyhow?

BAMF

How many of you arguing for this project actually own one? Are buying one anytime soon? (lots of choices right now) Were you directly/indirectly going to economically benefit from it? sales construction etc

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