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A New Vision 

Greenstone readies to begin constructions on the long-hyped Kendall Yards project — but how will it affect nearby West Central?

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After years of lofty but empty promises for Kendall Yards — the 78-acre strip of bare land stretching west from the Monroe Street Bridge on the north bank of the Spokane River — construction should finally begin in about three months, Greenstone Homes developer Jim Frank says.

During the first phase, Frank says, you’ll see a sample of what the larger project will look like. Immediately west of Maple Street, a mix of about 70 residential units — retirement housing, single-family housing, higher-priced townhouses — will pop up.

For the final design, expect 893 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space west of Maple, and 195 residential units and 720,000 of commercial space east of Maple. Several high rises — about eight to 12 stories tall — will overlook the river near Monroe Street and Summit Boulevard.

Expect the missing link in the Centennial Trail to be added. And expect a whole slew of new riverfront parks — both large and small.

Frank’s goals go beyond Kendall Yards. “There’s going to be an opportunity to revitalize the whole West Central neighborhood,” Frank says. “My hope is that it will become a treasure neighborhood.” The housing stock, the location — all perfect, he says. It just needs, he believes, the right climate, investment and some changes to city regulations.

KENDALL’S NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS

Kendall Yards has a $500 million price tag — this, in West Central, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the state.

Back when former Kendall Yards developer Marshal Chesrown pitched his densely packed, high-end vision, some West Central neighbors were worried.

They worried about traffi c, about clogged intersections toward Monroe and speeding motorists down Summit. They worried the river itself would be marred — banks eroded from the extra footsteps, wildlife chased away, natural contours interrupted by soaring high-rises. They worried the influx of pricey homes would force out low-income West Central residents.

“You have to be very careful that you don’t end up with a little real estate bubble that raises people’s taxes and rents,” West Central resident John Osborne says.

In 2006, Osborne and his wife filed an appeal to Chesrown’s land permit with the city. The city agreed to pay special attention to residents’ concerns.

The Osbornes say Greenstone’s new design is an improvement. It’s less intense — and, neighbors say, more practical — than Chesrown’s vision.

“Greenstone has stepped up,” says neighborhood council president Brenda Corbett. “They’ve listened to what we want… They’re actually participating.” Greenstone attends neighborhood council, planning and business association meetings.

The neighborhood has influenced the plan, Greenstone president Jason Wheaton says. Conversations with West Central neighbors inspired Greenstone to generally confine commercial development to the east of Maple and residential development to the west.

“We’re a neighbor now,” Wheaton says. “We take that very seriously.”

Wheaton’s working with local agencies to earmark Greenstone jobs specifically for West Central high school students during the summer.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Frank replies to lingering concerns. Lower density and multiple exits should prevent traffic clogging. Traffic calming tricks — like narrow streets, traffi c circles and treed medians — should slow speeding. The broad diversity of Kendall Yards housing price points — from $150,000 to $1 million — should limit economic gentrification, Frank says. For those worried about ecology, Frank is applying for LEED gold certification for eco-friendly design. Only two neighborhood projects in the nations have one.

Still, complaints remain. Chase Davis, a West Central neighbor with a master’s in planning, isn’t a fan of the planned high-rise building at the site’s east end.

“Put your large buildings near Monroe,” Davis writes in an e-mail. “Make the rest of the development as you move downriver compatible with the viewscape and contours of the river gorge… No sore thumbs, pink elephants, and no 13-story buildings hovering over the river.”

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