New bridge at U-District will likely keep ‘Gateway’ in name

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

What’s in a name?

In the case of the pedestrian and bike bridge rising in Spokane’s University District, not much new.

For years, the city has referred to the bridge as the University District Gateway Bridge. After a unanimous vote, the city’s Plan Commission wants the name to remain the same.

Last month, the commission voted 9-0 to call the bridge either the University Gateway or University Gateway Bridge. The recommendation now heads to the City Council, which will have the final say when it votes to name the bridge in coming weeks.

“Naming something is very, very difficult,” said council President Ben Stuckart, who was part of a naming committee that led to the Plan Commission’s vote. “The worst thing we can do is to name something.”

The plaza next to City Hall was originally proposed to be named after the “father of Spokane,” James Glover, until his controversial treatment of his first wife was recalled. The plaza instead is called The Gathering Place.

“Anytime we talk about places with a name attached, somebody is furious,” Stuckart said.

The recommendation to the City Council comes after months of public input, in which the city received 425 naming suggestions, 281 of which were unique. 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, as Stuckart said, the committee that chose the final names didn’t want to name the bridge after someone. Instead, the five recommendations they sent to the Plan Commission were the University District Gateway Bridge, the Salish word for “Spokane Way,” the U Crossing, the U District Nexus and People’s Unity Bridge.

The top five weren’t embraced by all, with some critics calling them “lifeless and generic,” and “uncreative to downright boring.”

The commission was unmoved by such criticism. Todd Beyreuther, the commission’s vice president and senior director of advanced building materials at Katerra, made a motion to give the bridge one of the “gateway” names. The board voted unanimously in favor of the names. Commission President Dennis Dellwo was absent.

Stuckart said he supports the “gateway” names because that’s what people have been calling it for years, and it helps establish the “brand” of the University District. But he acknowledged the final say isn’t yet determined.

“I will say that I haven’t had a single conversation with any of the other council members,” he said. “It could all go different. I have no idea what this council thinks about a lot of things.”

The City Council is scheduled to hear about the name on April 9 and vote on it the following Monday, April 16.

Photo caption: The city’s Plan Commission voted 9-0 to name the pedestrian bridge either “University Gateway” or “University Gateway Bridge.” Their recommendation will be considered by the City Council this month. Work continues on the bridge along MLK Way in the U-District. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)