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Going Dark 

Spokane’s police chief eyes downtown; plus, Riverfront Park’s IMAX closes — for now

click to enlarge Police Chief Frank Straub - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Police Chief Frank Straub

You Can Always Go, Downtown

As part of efforts to increase the law enforcement presence downtown, Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub has said he would be interested in moving the department’s police headquarters into the city’s center.

Straub, who took over the department this fall, says the downtown core makes up the economic and cultural heart of the Inland Northwest. After a recent news briefing, Straub said he would eventually like to move the headquarters into the downtown area.

“This is a very broad and open-ended discussion,” he later clarified. “It is a thought — not a plan. A lot of moving parts before the conversation and/or plan goes forward.”

Straub did not discuss details of a potential move, but explained the department had already looked at potential sites to house a downtown headquarters with space for “significant operations.”

Marla Nunberg, interim president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, says local businesses would welcome the increased police presence. She acknowledges some concern about traffic or other logistical issues, but says a location outside the retail core could provide close proximity without extra congestion.

News archives show the Spokane Police Department combined operations within its current home in the Public Safety Building in 1970. Law enforcement officials later opposed a city proposal in 1986 to move the police administration into City Hall, saying it would disrupt communication and department collaboration.

— JACOB JONES

Lights Out

New Year’s Day was your last chance to catch a movie on the IMAX mega-screen at Riverfront Park until springtime. As the city tries to figure out what to do with the increasingly unpopular theater, the half-year closure (they’ll reopen in March, but only until Labor Day) is the first step toward what is likely to be either a complete shutdown of the theater or an upgrade to its technology, says Park Board President Randy Cameron.

Attendance at the theater has plunged since the nearby AMC theater in River Park Square got an IMAX screen in 2009 and now has exclusive rights to show first-run films. The Park Board estimates the half-year closure will save the city $90,000. Riverfront Park Assistant Manager Debby Dodson declined to comment on whether she agreed with that figure.

The future of the theater will be decided through “community discussion” by the end of 2013, Cameron says. When asked if a theater in the park is realistic vision for the future, he says, “The numbers — the attendance — say no, but your heart says yes.”

Dodson says it’s “disappointing to watch it go in this particular direction.”

“It’s one of those standing icons,” she says. “I think most school kids can remember coming to see a film here.”

— HEIDI GROOVER

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