Pin It
Favorite

Hail to the King 

Publisher's Note

click to enlarge mcgregor.jpg

On Sunday we celebrate 40 years since Expo '74's grand opening. But it all really started 50 years ago, in 1964, when an up-and-coming California urban planner by the name of King Cole moved to Spokane.

Alarms about the future of the Lilac City had been sounding: In 1958, Sears left downtown; in 1961 the Ebasco Report advised the city that it needed a big shot of urban renewal, pronto, before it was too late; voters said no thanks.

That's where Cole came in, with Spokane at a dead end, desperation starting to set in.

I visited Cole one afternoon in 1999, just before the 25th anniversary of Expo. "The reason for the World's Fair was not to have a party, not to become important, not to create a park," he told me that sunny April day. "It was to save the downtown."

And that's exactly what they did.

People say there are no silver bullet solutions, that the world just doesn't work that way, but Expo '74 was an improbable, audacious moon shot — and the single most transformative event in our history. "I lost track at about 15 miracles," Cole recalled that day, "and I don't mean coincidence or serendipity. I mean real, it-can't-be-done and — bang! — it got done."

Cole and his team made their own luck, but he also had an ace in the hole — a secret ingredient that tied everything together. The Ebasco Report reminded locals of their forgotten Spokane River. So when Cole got to town, he was smart enough to stake out that piece of common ground and build a vision around it. After 10 years of scratching and clawing, they had reclaimed the Spokane Falls, surrounded them with a World's Fair and wrapped it all up in a story of environmental redemption that inspires us to this day.

I won't forget the last thing Cole told me: "You can't do something that big," he said of the improvements around the Spokane River, "and expect it to last longer than 25 or 30 years."

That was 25 years after Expo; here we are, 40 years out, still talking about updating those old fairgrounds. Time is running out.

Not only did Cole and so many others leave us an amazing public space, but if you look carefully, you'll see they left behind the instructions, too — a how-to guide for again making Spokane a can-do kind of place. ♦

All month, I'll be devoting my column to ideas about how we can build on the work King Cole and Spokane's leaders started a half-century ago. Next week: Building a Better Park.

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

  • Not Backing Down
  • Not Backing Down

    The Trump administration's regressive policies won't outweigh the progressive values embodied by our city and state
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • The Road to 2027
  • The Road to 2027

    A closer look at Spokane's entrepreneurial needs
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • Thanks, Obama
  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Comment

  • The Landed and the White
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Do Something!
  • Do Something!

    Writers Resist, MLK Day activities and more ways to engage with your community
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • On the Street
  • On the Street

    Will you tip differently because of the minimum wage increase?
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally & Unity March

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally & Unity March @ Spokane Convention Center

Mon., Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

  • Fake-News Nightmare
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • BOOKS
  • BOOKS

    From Twin Peaks to the darkest reaches of our galaxy, there's a new book for everyone on your list
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Trump wins: America's great state of disconnect
  • Trump wins: America's great state of disconnect

    • Nov 9, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

scandal


scandals


Comment


Briefs


green zone


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Tipping the Scales
  • Tipping the Scales

    Why the Gem State may be getting better and better
    • Jan 28, 2016

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation