Best of the Inland Northw#51805

by Inlander Staff & r & & r & Best New Nickname for the Spokane Convention Center & r & What's in a name? The difference between a perfectly fitting moniker and one that just gets the job done can be huge. Compare the Ford Model T and the Ford Excursion. One conjures up romanticized images of trips through the rain forest, while the other suggests an uneventful trip from point A to point B. Then there's the difference between the generic brand "Beer" and a concoction called Moose Drool. They're both made from fermented hops and barley, but which one's more fun to order? Or consider the old Spokane Coliseum: Wasn't its nickname -- the Boone Street Barn -- a lot more endearing than "Coliseum"? People loved that nickname.

We have another chance to properly christen a local building, with the distinctive new Spokane Convention Center getting ready to open later this year at the corner of Division and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

It's got the look of an upside-down boat, so a nautical name could work (no Titanic references, please), like "the Good Ship Spokane." Or maybe its location could come into play, as in "the Division Street Dinghy." Its function as a tourist magnet should also be considered -- perhaps "the Traveler Trawler." As you can see by these attempts, we need help.

So grab your thesaurus and jot down some ideas, serious or otherwise. E-mail your ideas, and we'll publish them in an upcoming issue. Let's see if we can get a name that'll stick. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Best Use of Downtown Real Estate (Beside Another Condo Project) & r & After years of talking about it, downtown Spokane is finally getting housing in the form of what seems like an endless list of new condo projects. That's good, but if we want to leverage the trend to make downtown a little hipper, we might need to take it even further. (To begin with, by getting some more affordable condos and apartments into the mix.)

How do we attract the kind of people who will hipify downtown? Artists are hip, right? Wouldn't it be cool if we could welcome an ongoing succession of artists to our town -- give them a place to live, and the time to work on their latest creation? What a great idea ... one that Edward and Marian MacDowell had back in 1906, when they established the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H. That little idea -- to give artists the time and space to work, with other artists to feed off creatively -- has gone worldwide, with more than 12,000 artists spending time at an artists colony somewhere in 2005.

"There's a real correlation between art and a thriving economy," says Brendan Tapley, spokesman for the MacDowell Colony. "Peterborough used to be a real industrial town; the colony has really made it a Mecca for creative people and quite an eclectic place to live."

So let's turn the old Ankeny's space atop the Ridpath Hotel --with its killer views -- into a shared artists' studio, with housing for them on the floors below. Of course we'll need some kind of benefactor to get this idea off the ground (the MacDowells' patrons were some guys named Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan). But we've already got a name: the Balazs Artists Colony. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Best Way To Stay Near Nature, Near Perfect & r & As housing prices continue to rise around the Inland Northwest, the biggest prize in real estate is waterfront property. But in the frenzy to make a buck on this limited local resource, let's not forget that our common areas are what really make this place so livable. If every bit of beachfront gets bought up, you'll have something like the East Coast, where most of the Atlantic seaboard is privately owned. Especially under siege is the Spokane River. So let's find more stretches of the Spokane to keep open for all to share -- as they plan to do at Riverstone in Coeur d'Alene and at Kendall Yards in Spokane. And of course the Great Gorge Park would be a huge boost in public access to the river. (TSM)

Best Spokane Adaptation of Back to the Future & r & Some of us here at The Inlander are from what's referred to most kindly as "a previous era" -- an era that included luridly colored Popular Mechanics illustrations of relaxed families riding computer-controlled flying cars in the future of ... oh, about a half-dozen years ago.

In this vein, it's been easy to scoff at light rail proposals as pitched by people who secretly make choo-choo noises in their basements. Especially in a city with a dysfunctional attitude towards mass transit. But the more we think about trolleys whizzing from here to Liberty Lake back in the day, we think it's an idea whose time has gone -- but should come again. Woo-woooooooo! (KT)

Best Lord of the Rings Character to Bring to Sandpoint Next & r & Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is already there. Reportedly, he terraformed an entire valley to look like the Shire (and he has a house with a circular door). There are rumors of Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) taking up residence as well. Legolas has skied Schweitzer. So they've got a fearless hero/king, a doting, ever-faithful servant and the occasional elf. But we hear rumblings of even more Tolkien characters on the horizon. Some Sandpointians think Sauron's on his way in the guise of developers and/or proponents of the Sand Creek Byway. Others suggest bringing in Gollum to fill the void left by the Aryan nation. For our money, though, there'd be no better LOTR character to bring in than Arwen, who, we suspect, would mesh perfectly with the influx of Californians. (LB)

Best Forgotten Performance Space to Reclaim & r & Expo '74 left behind all kinds of odd little spaces inside what later became Riverfront Park -- those giant butterflies, the totem poles, some hidden river viewing spots. Nestled up at the east end of the park, just past the U.S. Pavilion and overlooking the Spokane River, is one of the best, though: the Boeing Amphitheater. It was an outdoor stage, with seating for probably 300. We still remember seeing shows there during that festive summer. Maybe it's time for the Park Board to funnel a few bucks over to get it back in shape. A local theater troupe could start a Shakespeare in the Park series, or a summertime singer-songwriter showcase would be nice. The only trouble is, whatever is up on stage, it has to compete with that Spokane River view. (TSM)

Best Solution For The Spokane Diocese's Money Woes & r & Our local Catholic diocese is understandably concerned about the potential drain from pending lawsuits -- but local developers, with their prolific construction of downtown housing, have generated market demand with plenty of upside. And we know just how the diocese can take advantage. Introducing: Our Lady of New Urbanist Revival, which will feature only the cr & egrave;me de la cr & egrave;me of downtown living -- close shopping and movies, neighborhood bars and coffee shops, plus a state-of-the-art community gym and sauna. These high-end condos will incorporate existing architecture into their designs, including many beautiful stained glass windows. If they time it right, the church might even show a prophet. (JDS)

Best Ways To Make The U-district More Like An Actual U-district & r & Drive the "new" stretch of Spokane Falls Boulevard (from Division to Hamilton) and check off all the things you don't see in what Spokane's so eager to call its "University District." Let's see: Bars of any kind. The closest we've got are the Bulldog and Jack and Dan's -- quite a hoof from the Riverpoint campus. Uh, greasy dudes waiting to sell you a dime bag (a must). Activists, of any flavor -- ratty-looking pro-hemp hippies, war protesters, shrieking neocons, whatever. As long as they're angry. At least one decent record store. Maybe a cheap Thai place. Oh, and people who, you know, have some reason to hang around there in the first place. Just calling something a "university district" doesn't make it one. Six vintage clothing stores would. (JDS)

Best New Sport For Spokane to Go Crazy For & r & Spokane's nuts about basketball -- the Zags, Hoopfest, State B -- but we're about to become known for another sport: figure skating. On Jan. 21, 2007, the nation will tune into the weeklong U.S. Figure Skating Championships, live from the Arena. Now, we could throw up a few banners and call it good, but why not show the world that Spo-can-do something better? Flooding downtown streets for an entire icy week and handing out skates sounds like fun, but the lawyers says the liability would be brutal. (Killjoys.) How about we seat the Kennel Club in the front few rows, "Go, Sasha, Go" painted on their bare chests, and let them mercilessly heckle her rivals? Too much? Maybe buying tickets and cheering politely is the way to go after all. (TSM)

Best Building We Thought We Hated & r & With globular turrets that have been likened to trashcans, R2-D2s, urinals and roll-on deodorant heads, the Public Health Building is certainly distinctive. But without it, where would we turn for such lively poetic comparisons? We may never know what on earth architect Warren Cummings Heylmen was thinking when he designed the building in 1976. But walking west along Spokane Falls Boulevard at sunset the other day, we glimpsed an inkling of his vision. Against the pink clouds, the four domes looked soft and bubble-like, as if the whole thing could float into the sky. And the rounded shapes imitated the repeating arches of the Monroe Street Bridge. Almost beautiful -- you know, in a 1970s kind of way. (JM)