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jp_smith

Do something about surface parking lots like turning them into bizarre, robotic parking towers, for instance? Slate had a nice slide show today about new functional/aesthetic takes on parking structures. Check it out HERE.

Contrarian

I certainly agree Spokane's plethora of surface parking lots are a major blight on downtown. Now there is a new one - nearly a full square block in the heart of the city - thanks to Wendell Reugh.

It is a mistake to blame the automobile for that blight, however. The real problem is the "Great Contraction" Spokane suffered during the 60s and 70s, when the interstate highways and air travel made travel between the coast and the Inland Northwest quick and reliable. As a result, dozens of companies which had previously maintained regional offices, plants, and distribution centers in Spokane to serve those inland areas consolidated operations in Seattle or other larger markets. Office space in Spokane went vacant. The decline of rail transport in favor of trucks - also due to the advent of the interstate highways - during the same period also hurt Spokane, which had been a major rail hub. Many of the downtown warehouses and transient hotels spawned by rail commerce also went vacant.

As a result, Spokane now has a central business district about twice as large as the current local economy requires. The only viable use for much of that land is for parking lots - a very low-intensity use. Almost any other use of that land would be more profitable, but the demand has to be there first. Right now it is not. Those parking lots will not disappear until Spokane grows back into its downtown, economically speaking.

MK

I blame the automobile.

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