Naming the new bridge in Spokane’s U District is down to a shortlist of suggestions

Friday, March 2, 2018

(as reported in The Spokesman-Review by Nicholas Deshais)

How pedestrian. 

After months of soliciting names and working the recommending power of social media, five names for the walking and bicycling bridge connecting Spokane’s University District to East Sprague Avenue over the railway have risen to the top. 

They are:
University District Gateway Bridge
The Salish word for “Spokane Way”
The U Crossing
The U District Nexus
People’s Unity Bridge

According to Andrew Warlock, a planner with the city who works on University District projects, the city received 425 naming suggestions, 281 of which were unique names.

With more than 40 submissions, the most popular suggestion was to name the bridge after Harold Balazs, a celebrated Spokane artist whose large-scale sculptures are easily encountered in public and private spaces throughout the Inland Northwest. Balazs died in December.

But Warlock said the naming committee shied away from naming the bridge after someone.

“There were a bunch of deserving people, but it would’ve been hard to say this one is more appropriate over this one,” Warlock said. 

When completed this fall, the arch cable-stayed bridge will be 120 feet tall and a new landmark on the city skyline. The $12 million project is funded with $8.8 million in 2015 Connecting Washington funds and $3.2 million generated in the University District Revitalization Area.

The naming committee’s members were Patricia Kienholtz, a plan commission member; Lars Gilberts, director of the University District; Debbie Simock, Avista spokeswoman; the Rev. Happy Watkins, a pastor central to Spokane’s civil rights movement; and City Council President Ben Stuckart. Members representing the city’s administration and the East Central neighborhood were invited but did not participate.

Of the five names under consideration, the University District Gateway Bridge received the most submissions. It has been the bridge’s interim name since 2014 and “symbolizes the concept of the University District as a gateway to knowledge, community and prosperity,” according to a briefing paper for the plan commission.

The naming committee consulted with the Spokane Tribe for the Salish name after numerous submissions recommended using the native regional language.

The U Crossing echoes the bridge’s shape and symbolizes the human-sized nature of the bridge. According to the briefing paper, in a submission for the name, someone wrote the “bridge is for people, for you, not cars or trains!”

The U District Nexus highlights the connection between “learning and industry, academics and daily living.”
People’s Unity Bridge combined two popular suggestions: People’s Bridge and Unity Bridge. “Unity signifies that the bridge unites two now separated neighborhoods, took unity to create and links our diverse community for future growth,” the paper said.

The full plan commission will hold a hearing, hear public testimony and vote for a recommendation at 4 p.m. March 14 at City Hall.

Commission members will pick one or more of these names, and forward their recommendation to the City Council, which has the final say in the naming.