LIGHTING UP THE SKYLINE
The U.S. Pavilion, according to what voters were told when they passed the $64.3 million Riverfront Park bond in 2014, was supposed to be covered. It's not. But the complaints about the change in plans largely faded when the new Pavilion was, well, uncovered this fall. The upgraded structure included grassy terraces, an elevated walkway and kite-shaped shading panels to combat the heat. And that's before you turn on the lights: Covered in customized light blades, the Pavilion can become nearly every color — and even dance to music.
"We love it," Parks Department spokeswoman Fianna Dickson said a few days before Christmas. "I'm looking out at my window right now, and it looks like a Christmas tree."
And the story of Riverfront Park isn't over yet. The next two years will bring not one but two unique playgrounds, as well as a "theme stream," a public art installation, a skate park and a permanent Hooptown USA-sponsored basketball court. (DANIEL WALTERS)
CENTER OF ATTENTION
The University of Washington School of Medicine and Gonzaga University had been together for a few years already. But this year, they announced they were getting their own place.
McKinstry, a design and construction company, will finance and construct a new $60 million, 80,000-square-foot building at 840 E. Spokane Falls Blvd. The building will serve as a new center for medical education.
"We have reaffirmed our long-term commitment to broadening the array of health-related education and research endeavors, and to preparing the next generation of health care professionals here in Spokane and the Inland Northwest," says Thayne McCulloh, Gonzaga president. (WILSON CRISCIONE)
JUMPING OVER HURDLES
After years of problems involving financing, land deals, price spikes and multiple government bodies, the Public Facilities District finally did it in December: The group broke ground on the 130,000-square-foot, $53 million Sportsplex.
"We've got big Tonka toys and we're making big holes," says Eric Sawyer, the Spokane Sports Commission CEO.
Modeled after major sports facilities in places like Birmingham, Alabama, the Sportsplex — planning to open in late summer or early fall of 2021 — will feature a snazzy hydraulically banked indoor track and enough space for 17 volleyball courts, 10 basketball courts or 21 wrestling mats. And while it will feature plenty of Spokane Parks Department activities, the main intent is to draw out-of-towners and their wallets stuffed with potential economic impact.
"One thing that Spokane has never hosted is a true world championship event," Sawyer says. "I think we're going to host a world championship event. That puts us on an international stage." (DANIEL WALTERS)
TRUSTING THE ARTS
Artist Trust, a nonprofit that supports Washington artists and helps fund their upcoming projects, recognized a number of Spokane artists in its most recent batch of grants. Among the Spokane-based recipients were artist Shelby Allison, who has collaborated with Susan Webber on a Stevens Street mural, and painter Callie McCluskey, whose series Digital Identity merges visual art and technology. Also awarded were Amanda Caldwell, known for brightly colored geometric pieces, and curator and multimedia artist Olivia Evans. Writer and occasional Inlander contributor Chelsea Martin also received a grant, as did Jon Gosch, whose novel Deep Fire Rise crafts a mystery around the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Musician Ryan Abrahamson is the one Spokane musician to be recognized by Artist Trust, and his recent album American Indian is a Salish-language record using traditional Native American instruments. If that doesn't illustrate the vibrancy and diversity of the local arts scene, nothing will. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
TREATMENT BY COP
The Spokane Police Department has collaborated with Frontier Behavioral Health to pair up mental health specialists and patrol cops to help divert people suffering from behavioral health issues to help rather than jail since the summer of 2018. For instance, the specialists can refer people who officers encounter on patrol to drug and mental health treatment services, as well as beds in homeless shelters. The state grant-funded program has been lauded as both innovative and highly successful, with early data showing that the majority of people contacted by the co-deployed teams getting diverted to services rather than jail. Both the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office received additional grant funding to add four additional co-deployed teams between the two agencies earlier this year. (JOSH KELETY)
IT'S A WONDER
The new owners of the Wonder Building in Spokane saw their vision reach its potential in 2019.
The 112,000-square-foot building, rebranded as "Wonder Spokane," began to fill with new tenants this year. There are about a dozen entities occupying the building, including eateries like High Tide Lobster Bar, office space for businesses such as Rover.com, and even space for Art Spirit Gallery. Future plans include a potential new bar and restaurant, spokeswoman Kim Deater says. A 2020 farmers market is also on the table.
"Our vision is clearly a market, but also a community space," Deater says. "We've spent a lot of time reworking the brickwork. We wanted to keep as much of that building as historical as we could, but make it as modern as we could. It's the urban industrial vibe, but it's really cozy in there." (QUINN WELSCH)
MEET THE MYRTLE
In April, Gonzaga University opened its opulent new Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center, a multifaceted 52,000-square-foot, $30 million performance space that adds both a premiere place for student productions and a new venue for the greater Spokane community to partake in national touring productions ranging from concerts to theater to dance. The Myrtle launched with an epic, student-led show, A New Season, that combined theater, dance and music students in a massive production. This fall, the Myrtle's bookings started in earnest, with shows that included country legend Carlene Carter, a one-man theatrical production about Emmett Till and the classical guitarists in the California Guitar Trio. The venue was made possible by a $55 million donation by its namesake, a lifelong Gonzaga supporter who died in 2014 at 104 years old. (DAN NAILEN)
THE CRAFT BEER BOOM
Craft beer shined through the 2010s. So it's fitting that the final year of the decade saw a large expansion of craft breweries in the Inland Northwest. In Spokane proper alone, a handful of new breweries opened: Bottle Bay Brewing Co. (East 30th Avenue), For the Love of God Brewing (Northwest Boulevard), Lumberbeard Brewing (East Third Avenue), Precious Things Fermentation Project (Orchard Prairie), Project Craft Brewing launched out of Community Pint (East Sprague Avenue) and Golden Handle Project was the latest addition to the Steel Barrel incubator brewery (South Madison Street).
YaYa Brewing Company and Bardic Brewing and Cider joined an expanding group of Spokane Valley brewers. Coeur d'Alene also welcomed two new breweries: Paragon Brewing, an established restaurant, began producing its own beer, and the Montana-based Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company opened a taproom in Midtown. In Athol, Bent Tree Brewing and Lone Mountain Farms opened as well.
TT's Old Iron Brewery moved out of the Steel Barrel and opened its own taproom with a barbecue restaurant in Spokane Valley. The Hidden Mother Brewery relocated from its production-only location in Liberty Lake and opened its first taproom near the Spokane Arena. English Setter Brewing Company (Spokane Valley) became Natural 20 Brewing Co. and adopted a theme focused on tabletop gaming.
Opening in the coming days, the home of Brick West Brewing Co. is easily among the biggest revitalization projects in the city — the transformation of a run-down automotive building into a modern brewery, taproom and restaurant. (DEREK HARRISON)
THE MUSIC WON'T DIE
In November, the final notes faded during the last night of live music at the Bartlett, a downtown Spokane venue, and there was a genuine sense of mourning as the tight-knit group of local performers left the stage: The tiny all-ages venue had hosted thousands of shows in a five-year span, and it seemed that everyone who played there had an emotional attachment to the place. But owners Karli and Caleb Ingersoll already had another iron in the fire in the form of Lucky You Lounge, a Browne's Addition nightlife spot that opened last summer. In terms of capacity, it's twice the size of their old space, and it also offers a full restaurant and a separate basement bar that's frequently packed with folks dancing to DJs or attending free rock shows. The Lucky You stage has already been graced by alt-rock royalty like Mudhoney and Son Volt, punk legend Mike Watt and the hip-hop samplings of A Tribe Called Red, and we're excited to see what 2020 brings. It's like they always say: One venue closes, and another one opens. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
North America's most sustainable building broke ground in Spokane in 2019, as Avista and developer McKinstry partnered to create the Catalyst Building. With an opening slated for spring 2020, Catalyst will soon start its life as a living laboratory for testing the most efficient heating, cooling and electrical systems, while generating its own power as part of a larger eco-district. Meanwhile, the building will house Eastern Washington University's engineering program and bridge the divide between East Sprague and the University District, as the new eco-district sits at the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)
BIG FOOD MOOD
It was another boom year for growth and innovation across the Inland Northwest's restaurant sector in 2019. We welcomed many boundary-pushing eateries, as young and established food venues alike continued to boost the region's identity as a dining destination. What follows are some of 2019's culinary highlights.
Right up to the year's end, 2019 saw the debut of several noteworthy restaurants, including chef Tony Brown's long-planned fine dining concept Eyvind, which launched in the final weeks of December. Brown's connected basement bar Hunt also premiered.
Filling a prominent space in downtown Spokane, in the former home of Santé, Gander and Ryegrass from chef Peter Froese opened in November and has so far left a positive impression on diners.
Chef Chad White celebrated two launches in 2019: High Tider Lobster Bar, now with two locations in the downtown core, and a collaboration with TT's Old Iron Brewery and Barbecue in Spokane Valley.
Way back in January, one of the area's top international eateries arrived with D'Bali Asian Bistro in Airway Heights. Also in the year's first half, the region welcomed the entirely plant-based Rüt Bar & Kitchen to the lower South Hill.
Downtown Spokane continues to be a hotbed for drinks and dining; some of the past year's notable arrivals there were Mango Tree Indian Kitchen + Taphouse (former Hills' Restaurant location), Wanderlust Delicato (West Main Avenue), Whim Wine Bar (River Park Square) and Osprey Restaurant & Bar (inside the rebranded Ruby River Hotel).
In North Idaho, chef Viljo Basso launched his third kitchen, Monarch Ramen and Noodle House, bringing steamy, hearty noodle bowls to the masses. The Lake City also welcomed the British-themed pub Crown & Thistle, specializing in house-made sausages and imported beer.
Opportunities for growth here have not gone unnoticed by several west side restaurant groups. Seattle-area Shawn O'Donnell's American Grill & Irish Pub (former Milford's spot), Flatstick Pub (The M Building) and Locust Cider and Brewing (West Main Avenue) all launched locations in Spokane this year.
Beyond openings and expansions, the region saw its fair share of accolades and events.
In the first half of the year, Kris Kilduff announced the launch of the off-menu ticketed dining series Secret Burger, a Las Vegas-based project that expanded north. Two dozen events have taken place, with many more to come in the new year.
Food events continue to attract attendees, including the third year of Crave! Northwest in Spokane Valley and Inlander Restaurant Week (which returns in February 2020 bigger than ever). Meanwhile, Pig Out in the Park celebrated its 40th anniversary in renovated Riverfront Park.
In other notable moments, Spokane chef Ricky Webster, currently with Sysco Spokane, appeared on his third TV baking competition, Hallmark Drama's Christmas Cookie Matchup. He won the five-episode contest, taking home a $25,000 prize.
Tony Brown also saw a return to TV, when he appeared on the Food Network series Guy's Grocery Games for a special Mother's Day episode. Brown and his mother, Marti, ended up winning the $20,000 grand prize.
Finally, an old downtown haunt returned when chef Adam Hegsted revived Ella's Supper Club as a once-monthly dinner and jazz club. (CHEY SCOTT)
CASINO RESORTS KEEP GROWING
The Inland Northwest's tribal casinos and resorts rarely take a pause from looking for new ways to grow, and 2019 continued that trend. This year the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho, put the finishing touches on a $15 million renovation of more than 65,000-square-feet of gaming and entertainment space. Besides new and improved gambling options, the event space is really the most eye-catching update. The project more than doubled the size of the stage, added new hi-resolution video screens and a new bar area for concert-goers to enjoy.
In Airway Heights, Northern Quest Resort & Casino pushed its footprint into new areas, like the opening of the Northern Quest RV Resort, which includes 67 RV spots as well as cottages for folks who'd like to stay outside the resort's hotel but still take part in its concert, gaming and family entertainment options like Kids Quest and Cyber Quest. In 2019 Northern Quest also featured its biggest-ever slate of summer concerts, taking advantage of the outdoor stage expansion completed a year prior, including shows by Judas Priest, Snoop Dogg, Steve Miller Band and Toby Keith. (DAN NAILEN)