No-Li beer tank centerpiece of new Spokane ‘gateway’

Friday, October 13, 2017

(as reported in The Spokesman Review by Mike Kramer)

A 930-gallon, stainless-steel beer fermentation tank adorned by symbols of Spokane’s industrial past is giving motorists a new welcome into downtown.

The beer tank art was installed recently in a rebuilt traffic triangle at the westbound off-ramp from Interstate 90 where the ramp meets Lincoln Street at Third Avenue.

The piece is the work of Bill and Karma Simmons, of Spokane, and is the focal point for a new Lincoln Street gateway to downtown.

The tank was donated to the city by No-Li Brewhouse of Spokane.

Bill Simmons said the tank is adorned with images of rail tracks; a cutout reflecting the nearby Steam Plant and its windows; and wheels and pulleys representing all of the historic mills and the harnessing of the Spokane River for electricity.

Possibly the most delightful part of the tank art is how it glows at night with internal LED lights, said Karen Mobley, who managed the project through Spokane Arts.

“It is way cooler at night,” she said following the ribbon-cutting on Friday led by Mayor David Condon.

Condon has been leading a multiyear effort to upgrade and beautify the so-called “gateway entrances” to downtown Spokane, using a variety of funding sources in a multipronged approach to beautification.

A new storm sewer tank near Monroe Street has upgraded landscaping that enhances the eastbound I-90 on-ramp. Division and Browne streets to the east are getting multiple upgrades, including improved sidewalks, lighting and other infrastructure.

The Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane donated a sculpture in 2010 at Division and the eastbound I-90 off-ramp.

Other more recent improvements can be seen on West Main Avenue east of Bernard Street and on Division and Spokane Falls Boulevard at the Spokane Convention Center. The University District also carries through on the gateway theme.

The drive for beautification dates at least to 2004 when the late Mayor Jim West started working on the issue with hotelier Walt Worthy.

The Simmonses built the brew tank art under a $20,000 contract, Mobley said.

The overall $200,000 project was funded with $150,000 of parking meter revenue and supported by the Downtown Spokane Partnership. An additional $50,000 came from funds available for street or other improvements.

Ballast rock was laid over new landscape beds that include pines and other native and ornamental plants.

A higher curb was installed at the base of the off-ramp to stop errant vehicles from jumping the curb and damaging the art. The curb is backed by large rocks to help protect the art.

No-Li owner John Bryant said he thinks the tank represents Spokane’s emergence as a regional leader in local craft brewing. No-Li formed in 2012 out of the earlier work of two predecessor breweries. Today, there are 30-plus craft breweries in the area, and they are catalysts for jobs, entertainment and culture. His operation has 63 workers, Bryant said.

“It was a perfectly operational tank” before it was converted to art, he said. It is 9 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter.

Condon said plans are already in the works for a beautification gateway at the Maple Street exit.

City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said the Lincoln Street art “creates a sense of place that is Spokane.”