Second round of Sprague Avenue makeover is in the works

Thursday, November 9, 2017

(as reported in the Journal of Business by Samantha Peone)

Next phase to include span from Browne to Scott Street

Following reconstruction of one of the more downtrodden stretches of east Sprague Avenue, the city of Spokane is turning its attention closer to downtown for another section of improvements along the well-known thoroughfare.

The next phase of improvements will include the nearly mile-long span of Sprague Avenue between Browne and Scott streets, says Andrew Worlock, principal planner for the city of Spokane.

The preliminary cost for the project, often referred to as phase two, is estimated at $5.5 million, says public works spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

Lars Gilberts, executive director for the University District, says the Sprague construction could have a positive impact on the community.

“We see this has a lot of potential to spur business development. It can either be seamless, productive, and good, or really painful,” Gilberts says. “We really want to make sure the outcome of the project leads to more economic growth in the community, but the process doesn’t unnecessarily hurt residents or business owners.”

The project will include a full-depth rebuild of that section of Sprague. It also will include sidewalk reconstruction.

The existing water main, which is more than 100 years old, also will be replaced, Worlock says.

The project also will include stormwater system improvements and pedestrian accessibility updates at intersections, says Worlock.

The second phase will be broken up into two segments. The first segment, from Browne Street to Sherman Street, consists of four lanes, two in each direction. That lane configuration may change as part of the second phase’s renovations. The second segment, from Sherman Street to Scott Street, involves three lanes—one in each direction and a turn lane. Those lanes most likely won’t be reconfigured, he says. 

Melissa Owens, assistant planner with the city of Spokane, says the earlier phase of Sprague’s recent redevelopment included full-depth street reconstruction, landscaping, wider sidewalks, more bike racks, new trash receptacles, water main replacements, and upgraded water services.

Feist says that project cost $4.3 million and included a half-mile stretch of Sprague between Helena and Stone streets. Work began on April 3, and the street reopened on Sept. 15.

Owens says both projects include Spokane Transit Authority bus stop improvements for STA’s High Performance Transit Network lines. 

Worlock says the second project is currently in the scoping stage, which began late September.

While some aspects of the project have been determined, the city is seeking community input for other project elements. Some amenities up for debate include certain landscaping decisions, whether to install street furniture, and sidewalk widening, says Worlock.

City staff has been meeting with stakeholder groups in the area, to talk about the project. The city plans to send out a more formal survey to stakeholder groups within the community to get a better feel of what the groups and others want regarding the project, he says.

Right now, the city has funding for the scoping and designing portions of the second phase, but not for physical construction. At the earliest, the design phase would be finished by the end of 2018, and the city would go out to bid for the 2019 construction season, says Worlock. 

Ideally, the construction would be complete within one season, but it might take longer, Worlock says.

Brandon Rapez-Betty, customer and community relations manager for Spokane Transit Authority, says, “We’re working closely with city staff as we are looking at how transit interacts with traffic.”

Because the project is so early in the scoping stage, there isn’t much information available on STA’s involvement with it, says Rapez-Betty.

He says STA estimates it will add three or four high-performance transit stops pairs to Sprague Avenue between Bernard and Scott streets, but the agency hasn’t decided where all of those will be.

“The only one we know for sure is the small transit plaza planned for the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge,” he says.

A stop pair is a bus stop location on each side of a street, he says. Transit stop pairs have been built along Sprague at both Helena Street and Napa Street, Rapez-Betty says. 

The average dwell time, or time a bus remains at a stop, has dropped by 55 percent for high-performance transit stops, he says.

Such stops contain curbs 10½ inches above the ground, while a conventional stop has six-inch rise. That enables buses to load and unload people more quickly because those buses don’t have to “kneel,” he says.

When a bus kneels, it lowers its floor and produces a ramp to better help certain individuals, such as people with walkers or wheelchairs, get on the bus, he says.

STA plans to extend its medical shuttle by using University District Gateway Bridge. The transit authority expects to roll out the shuttle in September 2018. 

Gilberts says the University District Gateway Bridge will open next year. Crossing the BNSF Railway Co. tracks and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, the bridge will connect Sprague Avenue to the Washington State University Spokane campus.

On the north side of Sprague Avenue, near the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge, Avista Development’s proposed Catalyst Project is expected to have four mixed-use commercial and residential buildings with nearly 685,0000 square feet of gross floor area.

As earlier reported the Journal, Avista has said the first phase of the Catalyst Project, at 601 E. Riverside, will include a 140,000-square-foot building with a basement and six above-ground stories. 

The project’s environmental application says the mixed uses could include medical office and educational buildings, multi-family residential structures, and coffee shops.

Other projects near Sprague include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Health Care for Homeless Veterans program facility under construction at 504 E. Second. The program plans to move into that location by next spring.

On the southeast corner of Sprague and Madelia Street,  Spokane Housing Ventures recently has developed a $7 million low-income housing apartment complex named One South Madelia.