Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
September 14, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Program coordinator: Brad Stark
          Party time: No luncheon meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.  Instead, the club will have a social gathering – spouses, friends and prospective members very welcome – starting at 5 p.m. at The Backyard, 1811 W. Broadway.  The bistro was the site of our successful spring fund-raising event.  RSVP as soon as possible to Bruce Ellwein.
          Member bio-bits: Chris Lynch led the club in some great biographical exercises Sept. 14.  Members at the luncheon identified how many siblings they had, ranging from Chuck Rehberg being an only child to Lynch’s having 10 siblings.
 Members then lined up by proximal place of birth, ranging from several born in Spokane to Sister Bernie, from Uganda, Africa.  Each member then shared one thing other members might not know about them.  For example, picture Bruce Ellwein thought about working as a classical violinist.  But no one could top Sister Bernie, who said she has received the sacrament of Holy Communion from two popes (John Paul and Benedict).
          Other clubs: Deer Park Rotary has a golf scramble Sept. 19.  Spokane Valley Rotary invites participants for its upcoming “Men of Fashion Show.” 
Park renovation plans updated
          Spokane Parks Director Leroy Eadie outlined the game plan for Riverfront Park redevelopment at the Sept. 14 luncheon.
          As a prelude, Eadie noted that the space the park occupies was a gathering place for centuries for the region’s Native Americans and the current geological landscape dates to the Missoula Flood and the receding waters which shaped the entire area.
          Recalling the halcyon days of Spokane’s 1974 World’s Fair, Eadie said, “There has been no significant investment in Riverfront Park for 40 years.”
          The conversation about park redevelopment began in 2012, culminating in last year’s successful bond issue which will raise $64 million, a total achieved without raising tax rates by just extending the expiration of a 1999 park bond measure.
          Actually, more than $100 million worth of projects for the park were outlined in preliminary discussions, Eadie said.  “A lot has to do with infrastructure – replacing bridges, water lines and sewer lines,” he said, adding, “that can be a little expensive.”
          Among the first projects is replacement of the south part of the Howard Street Bridge, where heavy vehicles have been banned for years with fence-controlled sections.
          “Citizens told us that we don’t need Disneyland, or a big new attraction, in the park; we just need to refresh the existing space,” Eadie said.
           One example he cited is a new building for the historic LOOFF Carrousel.  The existing structure – a beer garden during Expo – doesn’t meet current setback requirements from the Spokane River.  And the building is not climate controlled, he said, so moisture and temperature changes have slowly degraded the wooden horses, even though they are removed in winter and repainted annually.
          Eadie outlined five design elements: the public space and grounds, the recreation (ice) rink and sky ride, the pavilion shelters, the carrousel and a regional playground.
          “We equate the process to building a house,” he said. “The design phase will be in 2015-17, the bid phase in spring of 2017 and the building phase follows the bid phase.  So the whole project is scheduled to finish in 2019-2020.”
          South Howard Bridge work starts next summer and the rec rink relocation follows that.  The new rink, Eadie said, “is more skate-on-pond than hockey rink,” which would require dasher boards.  Discussion continues about uses when ice is not down, such as roller skating, or meeting and concert spaces.
          A key factor in the redevelopment, Eadie said, “is that we will keep the park open and accommodate our traditional events (including Bloomsday, Hoopfest and Pig Out), at least somewhere in the park.”
          Selected to work on the first design element – public spaces and park grounds – is the Seattle-based Berger Partnership, working with Spokane firms Land Expressions and CH2M-Hill.  Berger is working on Pike Place renovations in Seattle and the Redmond Central Connector project, among others, Eadie said.
          Berger was one of three firms which presented concept ideas at a public meeting which drew an overflow crowd to the City Council Chambers.
          One challenge is to create spaces that will accommodate up to 60 events a year, yet provide incentives for frequent casual, non-event-related visits to the park, Eadie said.  One upcoming event is the heralded Chinese Lantern Festival, which starts Sept. 26.
          Eadie said a recent study shows that adequate metered and paid parking exists within close proximity to accommodate park-goers, but better communications are needed to help people find the spots that fit their needs.  Planners also are studying ways to assist mobility in the park for patrons who need “people-mover” help.
          Another goal of redevelopment is to make Riverfront self-sustaining.  “It can’t be a drain on the park system,” Eadie said.  He said revenue losses have been cut in recent years, but the annual operating budget is still $500,000 short.  So Riverfront can’t support “losers” like the IMAX Theater, he said.
          He also wants a conservancy established in which to re-invest park profits.  “We don’t want to have to ask for another $60 million in 40 years,” Eadie said.
          “We are working in a fishbowl,” Eadie said, adding, “not only does the community want to participate, but the mayor can look out of his office window every day and see what’s happening in the park.”