Posted by Charles Rehberg on Jan 28, 2019
North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
January 28, 2019   
Rotary calendar:
            Feb. 4: Lunch meeting at Nectar in Kendall Yards. Speaker TBA.
            Feb. 11: Rotary Connects: Gathering starts at 4:30 p.m. at Maryhill Wining Tasting Room, in Kendall Yards (just east of Nectar’s).
            Feb. 18: Presidents’ Day Holiday. No meeting.
            Feb. 25: Lunch meeting at Nectar in Kendall Yards. Speaker TBA.
‘Frank’-ly this neighborhood changed Spokane
            When new history books about Spokane Kendall Yards are written they will have two important chapters.
            The early days will include the merging rail yards along the north bank of the Spokane River which brought commerce and development by the Great Northern and Union Pacific railroads.
            The new chapter, less than 10 years old, is the remarkable transformation of turning Kendall Yards into a special urban village.
            The driving force of new change has been the Frank family. Jim Frank and his son, Joe, developed the vision for the walkable, mixed-use residential and commercial neighborhood.
            At the Jan. 28 club meeting, Joe Frank discussed the history, growth and next few years of build-out at Kendall.  The meeting was at Nectar’s, just east of the Kendall Yards’ office.
            Father and son connections are common at Greenstone and the founding family.  Both are Spokane natives – Jim in North Spokane, Joe in Liberty Lake, where Greenstone offices are headquartered.  Both Jim and Joe attended Gonzaga Prep.  And both Jim and Joe have a keen sense about what would work downtown, even when many of their roots were established in suburban areas of large lots and sprawling homes.
            And Joe has moved up to president and CEO of Greenstone, while Jim works on special projects.
            At the club meeting, Joe Frank recalled the tenuous Kendall Yards history.  Metropolitan Mortgage owned the 78-acre site.  The railroads were moved for Expo ’74 and Riverfront Park’s own downtown transformation.  The land west of Monroe was considered a “brown field” area, weeds and dirt awash with diesel fuel dumps and other challenges.  Metropolitan sold the land to developer Marshall Chesrown who envisioned very high-end, high-rise units.  Despite spending $10 million on the project, Chesrown’s plan failed, and Washington Trust asked if Greenstone was interested.
            “At the courthouse steps (to open the bids), no one showed up,” Joe said.  But in 2011 the Franks took the gamble and the first resident units in Kendall Yards were built.  “We were on the ground within eight months,” Joe said.  “In business, often, the third time is the winner,” he said.
            The early homes on Bridge Street were priced as low as $120,000, with tax incentives, he said.  The same units now sell for $250,000, he said, adding new units do not have tax incentives.
Frank shared copies of the Kendall Yards’ master plan map with members.  Current plans end at Summit Parkway a block west of Nettleton.
            Projects this year and next include a three-unit “mini hotel” just west of Nettleton, plus higher density residential units and townhouses a bit farther east.  A coffee shop and pastry shop have been located near Nettleton and the Centennial Trail for shorter walks to the west end of the project.
            Frank said in the area just north of Summit and west of Monroe, two buildings with residential and “soft” commercial space will add 5,000 square feet and 4,000 square feet north of Summit.  A “training yards” space for parties, a gym and other uses has been added in the building which houses Maryhill Winery (where our club will meet Feb. 11 at 4:30 p.m.).
            Asked about the open space east of Summit and west of Monroe, Frank said that space “is our most valued piece.  We will build that last.”  He would like a building of 10 to 12 stories as a signature entrance to Kendall Yards.
            At a years-ago visit to our club, Jim Frank talked about integrating with the West Central neighborhood, avoiding a gate-walled development.
            This time, Joe Frank continued the concept, hoping the mixed-unit of apartments, houses and townhouses is “the right balance” for the development and for the West Central area.
            One element not in the mix, at least for now, are condominiums.  Joe and member Eric Johnson, who serves on a statewide housing board, both talked about too-tight restrictions which hamper condo building all over Washington.
            Joe said in one case Greenstone took a condo application to regulators, but the restrictions were so high they just changed the plans to an apartment unit and approval was quickly done.  He said some legislators, including Rep. Mike Padden, R-4th District, in Spokane Valley, are asking for changes.
            With the success of Kendall Yards, Joe said some of the elements downtown might be replicated in village developments in Liberty Lake.
            History recalls that pioneer Charles Kendall built the first bridge linking the south and north banks of the Spokane River.  The Franks’ transforming changes linking Kendall Yards’ to downtown and West Central have entered a new era of development which may be just as important to Spokane.         
The bulletin producers:
            Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
            Photos: Sandy Fink and Eric Johnson