Andrew Worlock on N. Monroe Revitalization

Andrew Worlock on N. Monroe Revitalization

Andrew Worlock, an Associate Planner in the City of Spokane’s Planning and Development Services Department who also heads the West Quadrant Tax Increment Finance District and the WQTIF Neighborhood Project Advisory Committee, was invited to speak at this month’s neighborhood council meeting and give an update on the revitalization of North Monroe — which, after several years of ambitious talk, has well and truly fizzled.

Andrew will be ultimately unable to make the meeting and no representative is able (or, one assumes, willing) to take his place, so he sent an e-mail summarizing the reasons behind the downgraded status of the initiative. Below are the relevant extracts:

[T]he City and WQTIF committee decided to terminate the process to hire a consultant for the North Monroe Corridor revitalization project as we had originally intended back in 2011. The reasons are numerous and include: (1) lack of support from funding partners, (2) lack of strong involvement and organizational capacity of the North Monroe business association and neighborhood council needed to successfully support this effort, (3) that it was premature in light other ongoing and concurrent projects such as the Comp Plan Transportation Chapter Update and STA’s High Performance Corridor planning; and (4) the realization that such an effort, while appealing in many ways, would likely prove difficult to implement on such a long and varied corridor given current and likely future funding constraints. The committee could not justify expenditure of District revenue on the corridor planning study in this light.

At the same time, it is generally recognized that business supporting infrastructure investment is still needed along this corridor and the WQTIF committee is still committed to directing funding towards the North Monroe Corridor. We have budgeted up to $60K for 2013 for this purpose and are interested in hearing what the community’s priorities are in regard to streetscape improvements along Monroe. Pedestrian safety/intersection improvements at the north end of the corridor near Alice or Dalton come to mind as an example of the type of project the committee would be interested in supporting. Landscape and streetscape improvements at the 5 corner intersection may be another. Projects with strong community and private business sector support leading to a high return on investment and opportunity for leveraging the TIF funds are likely to receive the highest priority.

Basically, this means that the idea of a comprehensive multimillion-dollar revitalization of the N. Monroe corridor has been abandoned in favor of smaller potential improvements, for which a grand total of $60k is available in 2013 over a 2-mile stretch of road. To put that amount in perspective: by rough estimates, that won’t even pay for a quarter of a traffic light.

If you were looking to gripe, you’d find plenty of material in those two paragraphs. About how downtown Spokane (the “funding partners”) assumes that it exists in isolation and doesn’t realize that thriving corridors will lead to a thriving city center. About how a city administration that’s ostensibly about small businesses doesn’t see the benefit in improving crumbling corridor infrastructure. About how so few people in our neighborhood — residents and business owners alike (see point (2)) — seem to realize why any of this matters.

But there you have it. And that last blockquoted sentence is key. If we really want it, there’s still $60k available for improvements. It’s not much, but a single pedestrian crossing or a couple of street trees is better than nothing.

So if you want to bring more customers to your neighborhood small business, if you’ve had enough of taking your life in your hands when crossing this arterial, if you’re tired of baking in the summer sun while walking on N. Monroe because there’s absolutely no shade cover except for some cherry trees by Fred’s Appliances, come to the next neighborhood council meeting and help us find ways to utilize that money and improve Emerson-Garfield.

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