Posted by Charles Rehberg on Dec 17, 2018
Happy Holidays!!
North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
December 17, 2018
Rotary calendar:
            Dec. 24 and Dec. 31: No meetings during the holidays. See you Jan. 7.
            Jan. 7: Lunch meeting at Nectar in Kendall Yards.  President Romney reports on half-year Rotary results.
            Jan. 14: Rotary Connects: Gathering starts at 4:30 p.m. at Saranac Public House, 21 W. Main.
            Jan. 21: Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday.  No meeting.
            Jan. 28: Lunch meeting at Nectar in Kendall Yards. Speaker TBA.
            Note: Rotary Serves:  Because of federal holidays in January and February, luncheons and speakers are scheduled Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.  However, a project can be scheduled in each month, if opportunities arise.  Suggestions are welcomed.
Thanks all for the 40 for $40
            Thanks much to all of the members who so generously joined the “40 for $40” fund-raiser for needy kids and families at Holmes Elementary.
“Chief Elf” Sandy Fink did her usual superb job coordinating everything, as the small mountain of gifts piled up in the Holmes store room. This was a family-style Rotary Serves first-class effort.  Thanks to all.
Richard works to improve central city
           Downtown Spokane, in true Dickensian style, offers the best of times and some not-so-good times.
            The city center has a burgeoning University District, a reviving Riverfront Park, renewed energy with hundreds of new apartments and the promise of a new sports complex and a central city bus line.
            But in Spokane, like many cities, homelessness clogs spaces with blue tents and there seems no end to addiction problems. And too many residents say they can’t find cheap and easy parking.
            For many, Downtown Spokane is a shiny boutique small city, warm and welcomed in many ways envious to the crowded Puget Sound or high-cost San Francisco Bay Area.
            And, despite a River Park Square, others long for the old holiday magnetic charm of a Macy’s or The Crescent.  
            One person in the eye of the urban storm is Mark Richard.  He’s president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership and its cousin, the Downtown Spokane Business Improvement District.  They are private, not-for-profit agencies which fill their holiday stockings with dreams and possibilities.
            Richard, a Spokane native, worked in real estate and served two terms as a county commissioner, before joining the new Downtown Partnership in 1995.  That was a time, he told the club Dec. 17, that “retail was struggling and they turn off the lights at 5 p.m.”
            He said the Downtown District generally is bounded by Division to Monroe from the railroad line to the north bank of the Spokane River.  But much of the new downtown energy has been fueled by the adjacent urban community of Kendall Yards and the Riverpoint District with two new medical schools and campus ties from WSU, Eastern and Gonzaga.  New arterials and a new skywalk are extending development to East Sprague.
            The expanded rubber-tired rail line will connect Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community Center, allowing a transportation corridor in which some of the 60,000 people who come downtown daily can park on the periphery, then play and work in the central city.   
            “We’ve got 1,200 businesses, part of the vibrancy, which create compelling reasons to come downtown, and not just sit in their jammies while they shop online,” Richard said.
            His Christmas list includes a renewed Ridpath and a revived Otis Hotel. He also would like Santa to bring a “zip line” ride from the downtown library area to Glover Field in Peaceful Valley, an attraction hoping to bring more young folks.
            Richard said while initially he was “terrified” when Macy’s closed downtown, he realized that most of the upper levels of the building “have been vacant for years.”  Thus the former Bon will fill some high-end apartments with a downtown view will be part of the downtown boom.  It’s a pattern followed by the downtown J.C. Penney Building and The Chronicle.
            Other nearby venues in redevelopment are the former Wonder Bread building and the old Y.W.C.A., and new owners have emerged for the two Red Lion hotels.  He also hopes the school district will try another vote on relocating a high school stadium on the north bank.  And he hopes for development “like a mini-Pike Place,” with food shops, art and crafts.
            Several initiatives have been developed for safety and comfort downtown, Richard said.  Staff members work Mondays through Saturdays on “Clean Teams” who pick up garbage and as Security Ambassadors who help police to calm disturbances and other issues.
            Issues like homelessness and addiction “are finding their way into neighborhoods and shopping centers, not just downtown,” Richard said.
            One remedy, he said, is “sit and lie laws” with criminal citations, but also ways to find lodging and work.  “It may take an order to snap some of them out of it, but if they comply, the ticket will be torn up,” Richard said.
            “They have to make a tough choice.  We administer tough love, but we are losing a generation to drugs,” he said.
            In response to a question, Richard said he opposes expanding the three-member county commission to five, because “the state shouldn’t tell what our voters want to decide.”  He also said “my wife would kill me” when asked if he would consider running for mayor.
The bulletin producers:
           Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
           Photos: Lenore Romney