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The Real Deal 

by Ann M. Colford

Almost as soon as KHQ-TV announced plans to move downtown, people began speculating about the company's property along Regal Street. Then, Jim Frank of Greenstone Development teamed up with Educational Services District 101 to purchase the broadcast center and the surrounding acreage. The school district set up its instructional programming facility in the building, and last fall, Greenstone Development broke ground on a new mixed-use project called Adirondack Village. Frank says the property gave his company the chance to bring its style of development to one of the area's most desirable residential locations.

"Forty acres of undeveloped land on the South Hill is hard to come by," he says. "We saw it as an opportunity to do something large enough to create an environment that would fit in with what was already there."

Plans call for 228 apartment units and 65 single-family homes between 44th Avenue and Thurston Avenue. The parcel extends from Regal westward to Cook Street. Initial plans included office buildings along Regal, but Greenstone modified the original vision after neighbors expressed wariness at the potential for higher densities.

"We've proposed to the neighborhood a small retail area fronting to the street and designed for pedestrian access," he says. Currently, Greenstone is helping to support a farmers' market on Sundays from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm in the former KHQ parking lot, something Frank says will remain part of the retail area: "We want that kind of neighborhood shopping to happen, and we want to support the historic agricultural roots of the Moran Prairie."

Greenstone's first project 20 years ago was the rehabilitation of the Garden Springs military housing near the Finch Arboretum, just west of Spokane. Instead of leveling the existing small houses, the company updated them and put them on the market. In recent years, the company has worked extensively in Liberty Lake; in fact, the corporate offices are located there. Greenstone promotes sustainable, livable neighborhoods, created with pedestrian activity and neighborly interaction in mind. Achieving these goals for Adirondack Village began with an assessment of the needs of the neighborhood, Frank says.

"As we looked at the utility and infrastructure development needed for the site, we looked at transportation issues," he says. Noting the lack of pedestrian facilities on the South Hill, the company worked with the neighborhood to find a solution. "We had worked with Liberty Lake on bike and pedestrian plans, so we helped the Moran Prairie Neighborhood Association to set up a trails committee, then we hired a landscape architect to consult with the neighborhood."

Recognizing the need for a trail to the elementary school, Greenstone added a bike trail to the south side of Thurston running from Regal to Cook. Working with the city and the neighborhood, Frank says a broader trails plan is in the works for the neighborhood. Greenstone also instituted traffic-calming features, including a traffic circle at Cook Street and 42nd Avenue, reducing the width of 44th Avenue by eight feet, and adding planting strips and street trees.

"When we talk about trying to do sustainable kinds of things, those are ways to work at solving neighborhood problems when we come in," Frank says. "Then we look at the architecture to be complementary to the surrounding area. We kept the apartment buildings to two stories rather than three, so we'll end up with a density of about 14 units per acre rather than the usual 20. We used Arts & amp; Crafts kinds of architectural features, to blend with the established neighborhoods."

The design of the site plan contributes to livability as well. "Most new apartment complexes don't face the street, and they have a fence all around the outside," Frank says. "We designed these apartments to face the street, so we don't become like a little enclosed pod. We tried to encourage connectivity with the neighborhood."

The first single-family homes will have the front garage access that is typical of most contemporary suburban designs, but Frank says homes in the later phases will feature garages placed toward the rear of the lot, with the houses closer to the street. The city's Comprehensive Plan encourages such a design to de-emphasize the automobile and support pedestrian activity, and Frank says he believes the desirability of the neighborhood will outweigh any inconvenience due to detached garages.

"In the end, how you deal with these design issues determines whether people will buy the houses or not," he says. "We think we're creating a product that will be nice for the people living here. From a business standpoint, we think it's a risk worth taking."

Publication date: 06/26/03

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