Logan residents like vitality of higher ed

Sunday, September 24, 2017

(As reported in The Spokesman Review by Becky Kramer)

When Karen and Doug Byrd bought a Victorian-era home near Gonzaga University in the late 1980s, they didn’t realize how big a role the university would play in their lives.

Nearly 30 years later, they’re season ticket holders to the Zags’ men’s basketball games, and Karen and the couple’s 24-year-old son, Giacobbe, attended the Final Four playoffs this year.

Over the years, Zags team members have played street basketball at their neighborhood block parties. The Byrds also have enjoyed drama productions, concerts and lectures at Gonzaga, which is part of Spokane’s Logan neighborhood.

“It’s our big backyard,” Giacobbe said of Gonzaga’s 152-acre campus along the Spokane River.

“While it didn’t bring me here, I like being in a college neighborhood,” Karen said. “Seeing the youth is one of the things that keeps me here.”

The Logan/University District neighborhood is among Spokane’s most educationally rich areas, with about 10,000 college students. Gonzaga has been a presence since the late 1800s. To the south is the emerging University District, with Washington State University Health Sciences-Spokane and cooperative programs with Eastern Washington University, Community Colleges of Spokane and Whitworth University.

Moody Bible Institute also has a Spokane campus in the area. Besides higher and graduate education, there is Logan Elementary School, Gonzaga Prep and St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic School, a private elementary.

Large older homes, which have been turned into rentals, make the neighborhood popular with students attending Whitworth, Eastern and WSU-Spokane as well as Gonzaga.

Having so many young adults renting in the neighborhood poses some challenges, said Amber Waldref, a Spokane city councilwoman who lives in the area. Families interested in purchasing a home in the area are competing with investors buying up properties for rentals.

Waldref sees opportunities for more multifamily housing in the Logan/University District, including townhouses and condos. However, “it’s going to be the same issue Browne’s Addition is grappling with,” she said. “How do you add new housing while keeping the area’s historic Victorian character?”

Karen Byrd, who has been active in the Logan Neighborhood Association, said local residents have been open to higher-density development along busy aerterials. She also likes the idea of small, neighborhood businesses sprinkled throughout the area, similar to the restaurants and coffee shops in Browne’s Addition. Her family patronizes the Clover Restaurant, just east of Hamilton Street on Sharp Avenue, which they can walk to for a fine dining experience, she said.

While Byrd enjoys the vibe students bring to the neighborhood, she also thinks the area will continue to attract families. She’s a nurse and her husband works in commercial real estate. They’re both short commutes from their work.

Mission Park, which was designed by the Olmstead brothers, is one of the gems of the neighborhood, with Spokane River frontage and access to the Centennial Trail, she said. The tree-lined streets also are home to a number of landmarks, such as the old Health Library and St. Aloysius Church.

Over the years, she’s noticed more people accessing the Spokane River for recreation from the neighborhood. She may join them soon: An inflatable paddle board is on her wish list.

“I can see more people moving here because of quality of life,” Byrd said.


Photo credit: Family cars, some fresh from multi-day road trips from out of state, line up on Cincinnati St. at Gonzaga University Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 and wait to drop off new freshman students at the University. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)