Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods –
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 10
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: Around $300,000 but with much variance
Rentals: Around $600 but with much variance
Housing Density: Moderate
Mixed Use Rating: Perfect
There’s a group of hoity-toity planning and urban design professionals that sit in their offices in downtown Chicago and run an organization called the American Planning Association (APA). They’ve got the bulk of the nation’s professionals in the field convinced that the APA is the industry’s foremost authority that dictates what, exactly, Urban Planning is.
In 2009, these strangers from a strange land cast their gaze across the entire nation in search of the country’s 10 best neighborhoods. With little fanfare they posted their findings online. It only took a few days for word to spread that one of Spokane’s neighborhoods made the list: Browne’s Addition. There are a lot of neighborhoods in America, there are a lot of great neighborhoods in America, and then there are the top ten best neighborhoods in America.
A whole industry of curious people, both academics and practitioners, study, research, read, and write about how to make cities better and what factors contribute to a healthy urban environment. Whatever those factors may be, Browne’s Addition executes them to perfection.
An Identifiable Center
Browne’s Addition arguably has two centers: the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Cannon Street, and Coeur d’Alene Park. The neighborhood was designed and built around Coeur d’Alene Park as its center piece. However, over the past several decades, a trendy new commercial center has arisen that not only serves pints and coffee and pastries and food to the entire neighborhood, but to the entire City of Spokane.
About 2/3rds of Browne’s Addition is bounded by a steep bluff into Peaceful Valley. The other 3rd is bounded by a busy arterial that, on the other side, is generally a no-man’s land of blight and vacant parcels.
A Front Door
Sometime in the early 1990s, the City of Spokane posted simple yet ornate signage welcoming visitors into Browne’s Addition. This affordable and simple act marked the beginning of the neighborhood’s transition from largely a low income area into a diverse mix of household incomes.
Mixed Land Uses
About the only land use missing from Browne’s Addition is an elementary school. Otherwise, a big grocery store, pubs, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, parks, natural areas, B & B’s, museums — Browne’s Addition pretty well has it all.
There are a lot of historic, custom built mansions in Browne’s Addition. Many have been converted into multiple unit apartment complexes but many also remain single family homes. During the 70s and 80s, a few multi-family apartment units were erected that, to put it generously, don’t exactly fit well with the neighborhood. Despite those blemishes, there is no lack for architectural diversity.
Structures that Address the Street
You don’t get to be one of the nation’s 10 best neighborhoods without performing in this category to near perfection. A couple poor development decisions do exist, however (see above).
Streets that Generally Connect
With perhaps only one or two exceptions, all streets connect in Browne’s Addition.
All sidewalks are detached in Browne’s Addition.
Browne’s Addition has a rich canopy of street trees. The City of Spokane would do well to ensure toothless gaps in the smile receive an arborist’s attention.
No car, no problem, because you don’t need it. What services you can’t walk to in Browne’s Addition, you can walk another 10 minutes into the heart of Downtown, and receive anything you need.
Perhaps Browne’s Addition most significant challenge is petty crime. It’s not a neighborhood where you want to leave your car unlocked all night. Nonetheless, show me a high density urban neighborhood that is?
Otherwise, Browne’s Addition’s most pressing challenge is improving upon an urban environment that is already nearly perfect.