Bolstering economic development in Spokane, WA’s East Sprague District

A portion of East Sprague Avenue in Spokane, WA. Photo via the City of Spokane.

On September 15 and 16, Smart Growth America traveled to the City of Spokane, WA for a two-day technical assistance workshop on Planning for Fiscal and Economic Health. The workshop helped inform and focus efforts for sustainable economic growth in the East Sprague Corridor, in coordination with the Sprague Targeted Investment Pilot (Sprague TIP) project.

On the first day of the workshop, Spokane-area residents joined an open public forum on the fundamentals of planning for economic and fiscal health. Roger Millar, former Smart Growth America Vice President for Technical Assistance, and Christopher Zimmerman, Smart Growth America’s Vice President for Economic Development, described the changing economic and demographic dynamics that are driving change throughout the United States, and gave an introductory level discussion of planning for economic health in Spokane.

The second day (September 16) was a full-day engagement workshop that brought together an invited group of more than 40 stakeholders. The diverse group included representatives from the City and County, as well as the non-profit and private sector. Participants received an in-depth presentation on the key factors for planning for economic success in the 21st century economy and promoting fiscal health for municipal government. The group viewed additional presentations on the local context from the East Spokane Business Association, which was followed by a discussion of specific issues facing the East Sprague TIP area. After a question and answer period, there was a second Smart Growth America presentation focused on key elements of successful downtown or corridor revitalization. Participants then discussed how the various concepts presented can help them achieve Spokane’s goals for East Sprague. A facilitated brainstorming session helped the group identify challenges and opportunities associated with the East Sprague area. And three breakout groups identified challenges and potential solutions around the issues of housing, place management, and the built environment.

Notable takeaways from the breakout sessions guided the creation of next steps memorandum for the City. Workshop attendees agreed that access to land capital is a barrier to housing, neighborhood blight is compounded by a lack of positive brand image, and neglected properties are a result of passive land uses. Stakeholders imagined potential solutions to those issues including land banking for housing, the benefits of wayfinding to connect Spokane to freeway travelers and confront neighborhood blight, and mixed-use development as a tactic to generate street activity.

Through the two-day program, city leaders were able to engage community stakeholders around the ways in which development patterns, design, and strategic infrastructure investments can benefit Spokane’s public finances and support a competitive local economy. Moving forward, the City plans to use targeted investments to spur economic development and over the next 12 months, the City will consider next steps as they make progress in planning for the economic and fiscal health of East Sprague.

The technical workshop program is made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, which seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Two other nonprofit organizations—Global Green USA and Project for Public Spaces—also received competitively awarded grants this year to support communities in their efforts to bolster smart growth initiatives.

To learn more about the workshop, please read the workshop materials posted below. Future progress reports from Spokane will also be posted here.

Workshop materials:

Smart Growth America’s technical assistance has helped over 50 communities from Hawaii to Maine achieve their goals. To see results and recommendations from our past workshops, click here >>

Technical assistance