How many empty stores are there in downtown Spokane? When we began calling around to find someone who could tell us how many stores or what amount of square footage was vacant, no one had an answer.
The Downtown Spokane Partnership does compile figures on the number of active retail and restaurant businesses in its 80-block area. In 1998, there were 307; by 1999 that number had slipped to 275. Since the opening of River Park Square, the number has climbed again, to 358 in 2002.
But to find the number of empty spaces, we grabbed a notepad and started walking. During our non-scientific survey, we counted the street-level vacancies between Monroe and Washington and between Spokane Falls Boulevard and First Avenue. All told, we counted 36 empty small spaces and three large ones -- opportunities for new businesses to move into, but blights on the downtown landscape until that happens.
Riverfront Park seems to be a good draw because along Spokane Falls Boulevard, storefronts are mostly full, until you get to the old Fort Spokane Brewery.
On Main, where River Park Square's impact has been most strongly felt, the streets are mostly full. There are no small storefronts to be had, but there are two sizable openings at the Crescent Court and, of course, the huge Burlington Coat Factory building remains empty except for the temporary Art @ Work Gallery.
Although it leads up to the entrance to the mall, Post Street is relatively empty. There's Red Robin on the corner, but soon the Children's Museum next door will be vacant, and on the west side of the street there's already one empty space (next to Art @ Work). On the corner of Post and Riverside, the former Hamer's location is vacant as well. On the opposite corner, fortunately, a new store is going in, filling a space that has been long empty.
On Riverside, starting at the east end of downtown, there are seven empty storefronts between Howard and Stevens, many on the Rookery Block, which faces an uncertain future. This vacancy rate continues around the corner on Howard with six more empty stores. Across from Bank of America, Lamont's remains empty. Further down, there's a new sports bar going in next to Staccato's.
The east end of Sprague features no less than four empty storefronts -- two across from the Ridpath Hotel, and two more when you get closer to the Davenport.
Next to the STA Plaza, still on Sprague, there are two remaining storefronts; a new business will occupy the corner where a travel agency used to be.