City of Spokane law, via our charter, establishes official neighborhood councils for the purpose of advising the city council and mayor. By virtue of city law, officials must define where neighborhoods are in Spokane and create boundaries and place names for them – a fascinating and fun exercise.
Spokane formally has 29 official neighborhood designations.
While many of the neighborhoods and their boundaries are accurate (at least from SpokanePlanner’s perspective), there are numerous official neighborhood boundaries that are either too broad, too influenced by irrational politics, or are not geographically accurate. Thus, SpokanePlanner’s list is a bit different than the official one. I’d like to think my neighborhoods are a better reflection of the city’s official definitions, though that is up for debate.
I’ve ranked all Spokane neighborhoods and provided brief descriptions, as follows:
45) Airport Business District
What can you say about the “neighborhood” that surrounds the airport? It was annexed by the city a few years ago and for good reason – growing tax revenue. Although there are a handful of homes scattered about, the flight paths and crash zones and natural scab-lands of the West Plains – the westerly plateau that overlooks Spokane – aren’t conducive to shaping a scene from a Dickens’ novel. In short, it’s just ugly up there. But a great place to do business, nevertheless.
Bemiss neighborhood is similar to Lidgerwood (below) in many ways – its grid street system is a great asset, mostly modest homes, an abundance of petty crime, and a generally unremarkable character due to lack of investment. There are, of course, cures for what ails both neighborhoods. A great, affordable place to start is adding more color, whether it’s tree planting or painting new bike lanes a whacky shade of purple, steps ought to be taken to start establishing an improved sense of place for both Bemiss and Lidgerwood.
The Airport Business District being a different product, as far as neighborhoods go in Spokane, Lidgerwood and Bemiss are the only two I would not live in. The remaining neighborhoods on this list carry enough assets and have enough character to satisfy a discerning palate.
Some guerrilla planning would serve both Bemiss and Lidgerwood well. Who’s gonna’ step up?
Lidgerwood neighborhood is located in northeast Spokane and still generally hangs on to the city’s older grid street system, which is an asset for the neighborhood. Although most homes are modest, you will find a few old farm houses that brim with character. Lidgerwood struggles with petty crime – car prowling, theft, and whatnot – which has a significant impact on quality of life. Additionally, although it has a relatively high residential density, it’s also a somewhat forgotten place within the city. Not a lot of investment is flowing into the neighborhood. There are no marquee sexy projects that are sprucing up the area either from the public or private sectors. All and all, Lidgerwood is Spokane’s most bland neighborhood. On the upside, there is plenty of room for improvement.
42) East Central
From a land use perspective, welcome to the most abused part of Spokane. East Central was forced to sacrifice its soul for Interstate 90 back in the 1950s and 60s, which bisected the neighborhood and killed what was once an amazing destination park. Today, true to historic inertia, the “North Spokane Corridor” – a new freeway that will serve as a quarter of a ring road around Spokane – is East Central’s contemporary perpetrator of land use injustices by virtue of the fact that it will cut right through the neighborhood resulting in the same eminent domain, demolition, noise pollution, vehicle pollution, and barrier-building-bullshit the neighborhood suffered back in the 1960s when Interstate 90 was built.
There’s some great literature on East Central. Start with Sounding Spokane, edited by David Wang. He and his conspirators will give you the low-down on East Central that does the neighborhood justice.
Despite its history of abuse, East Central maintains a high degree of character, worthy of literature, which is a testament to the soul of the neighborhood. East Central is definitely a distinct place in Spokane. Despite two freeways slicing and dicing it, residents remain dogged about improving their community.
If the market likes certainty, counting on East Central’s grit is a sure thing.
41) The Y
The Y is where Division Street and Highway 395 disconnect on Spokane’s north side. It’s also a congestion, strip mall strewn, dumpster fire that most urban thinkers, including this one, feel no love lost. There are, however, some nice homes in the area (if you’re into dumpster fires). Otherwise, the neighborhood is entirely too predictable.
Ah… Hillyard, Spokane’s white trash soul. It’s appropriate to give Hillyard its proper due, as follows:
What was once a distinct rail town, the city of Spokane grew into Hillyard and, what remains, are some of the best urban bones around. Market Street is one of the coolest destinations in the metro. If you want to experience some core elements of Spokane culture, walk into any old bar on Market Street, and you will definitly experience some core elements of Spokane culture. It’s like walking into a proper dive in Phili or Southy or Brooklyn that the tourists don’t know about.
It’s Hillyard that the wise concierges that work our metro hotels will point you to, like a secret that only they know. A secret it is, indeed, because you’ll feel like a local if you enjoying a pint in Hillyard.
Welcome to Spokane.
The downside? Once you get into the residential portions of Hillyard, large swaths are run-down and neglected. Nevertheless, Hillyard maintains a great sense of place and it’s a neighborhood ripe for investment.
Northwest Spokane is a classic post World War II neighborhood, which is precisely what gives it its character. Bungalows and ranchers are the architectural norm. Although she ain’t the prettiest girl at the ball, she’s also not the ugliest. Proper neighborhood centers are only a short drive away, such as Garland. There’s also a big outdoor sports complex and the veteran’s hospital, which draws traffic to the neighborhood. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to say about the Northwest Neighborhood, which is a statement that speaks for itself.
38) Hays Park
Hays Park is Corbin Park’s little sister. Hays Park is about as big as Corbin Park, the homes that surround it are about as nice and, most importantly, it’s the park itself that serves as the pillar that holds up the neighborhood. Hays Park Neighborhood is well embedded within Spokane’s grid street system. Historic, unique, and affordable homes abound that are every bit as good as the best of Spokane. So why is Hays Park so low on this list? You can thank Bemiss and Lidgerwood (above).
Otherwise known as South Downtown, SoDo is sandwiched between an elevated railroad track and an elevated freeway, which gives it distinct boundaries – an asset. SoDo’s cool factor is off the charts, with tasting rooms, great local joints, and historic character, SoDo helps define the whole of Spokane. From a livability perspective, your best bet is to grab a high-end condo adjacent to the railroad tracks.
On the other hand, and at the risk of communicating a paradox, Spokane’s homeless individuals need a home, too, and they tend to prefer SoDo due to an abundance of social service facilities and sheltered outdoor environments, such as elevated Interstate 90. Additionally, SoDo could use a good dose of re-urbanization; e.g., there’s too many surface parking lots, the density is spotty (particularly for a downtown) and 2nd and 3rd streets have far too high a priority from a traffic management perspective in city hall’s collective mind. Which is to say, traffic engineers at the city have long deemed efficient vehicle flow a priority over proper neighborhood building. Once that mentality changes, so too will SoDo (and for the better).
36) Trent Industrial District
The Trent Industrial District represents the hallmark of an old cow town. With grain elevators dominating the landscape, interwoven between them you’ll find some gems. With East Sprague and the University District rounding out Trent’s boundaries, Trent is close to booming due to the high level of investments taking place all around it. Trent is both old and new Spokane wrapped together into an unusual market dynamic that has yet to define itself.
If I were a betting man (and I am a betting man), I’d bet on Trent. I’d also live there.
35) Chief Garry
Chief Garry Neighborhood is anchored by Chief Garry Park. The park is big enough and dynamic enough and attractive enough to compel people to visit what is otherwise an out-of-the-way geography within the metro. Like Trent (above), Chief Garry’s boundaries are chalk full of both public and private investments that are sure to draw outsiders into the neighborhood.
If SpokanePlanner had more money, I’d be buying up lots in Chief Garry because everything going on around it is proving up the market.
34) North Hill
North Hill is a neighborhood without a proper name. Firmly located on Spokane’s grid street system, it’s not quite Garland and it’s not quite Shadle Park; it’s a neighborhood unto itself but with very similar qualities to its adjacent patchwork. Homes are predominantly modest bungalows with a random old farmhouse entwined into the neighborhood fabric here and there. Although a broad and somewhat bland neighborhood, there are gems to be found. Some block faces can compete head to head with the best of Spokane, such as Cedar Street (pictured above), and petty crime isn’t all that bad — hence North Hill’s ranking on this list.
All and all, North Hill is a fine neighborhood that simply needs that little something extra. Brainstorming around how to improve North Hill is a fun conversation city hall should entertain.
Grandview is one of Spokane’s more obscure neighborhoods. Located on the upslope to the West Plains, some homes capture great vistas to downtown Spokane, hence the neighborhood namesake. Grandview also has some meaningful assets, such as Fish Lake Trail and being about a four-minute commute to downtown. The housing stock is mixed with some older split-level ranchers and some newer split-level ranchers. Thus, Grandview’s demerit is its suburban feel. Nevertheless, the slope it’s built upon is one of a kind.
32) Indian Trail
Indian Trail is trapped by an abundance of transportation planning incompetence. Indian Trail’s access, from a transportation perspective, is terrible. Whereby places like SoDo suffer from too much vehicular emphasis, Indian Trail suffers from too little. For Indian Trail to become a proper suburban neighborhood, building more streets that connect with Francis Avenue or Nine Mile Falls Road would serve it well. If you’re into middle class suburban enclaves that suffer from a feeder road mentality, Indian Trail is for you.
All and all, eh.
31) West Terrace
West Terrace is one of Spokane’s most distinct neighborhoods. Located at the bottom of a bluff in northwest Spokane, it’s a subdivision that specializes in split-level ranchers and tree-lined streets. From an urban planner’s perspective, it is quite isolated, unwalkable, and unremarkable. Although you won’t find too many hipsters around, West Terrace will prove a quiet, family friendly neighborhood with stability and low crime. The downside is you must drive to your pleasure.
30) Lincoln Heights
Lincoln Heights is the South Hill’s neighborhood shopping center. Lincoln Heights is also a local neighborhood center and, pound for pound, is quite like Shadle Park (below) as far as neighborhood commercial centers go. It’s the strip mall strewn, commercial area of Lincoln Heights that defines it. The residential developments around it are hit and miss courtesy of some design dynamics not of Lincoln Heights’ creation.
One way or another, somebody must serve as the commercial center for the South Hill, and Lincoln Heights abides.
29) Shadle Park
Now you know what neighborhood owns that funky water tower. I sure do like Shadle Park. It’s perhaps the most Spokanee neighborhood in Spokane. Another post World War II bungalow oasis, Shadle Park is workin’ it on several levels. It has a public pool, a public library, a big park, a big shopping center, a crazy green and yellow water tower, and a proper grid street system with some gems to be found.
Of all the architectural features of Shadle Park, it’s the kick-ass water tower that serves the neighborhood best. It was a brilliant move by whoever designed it to place the bold color dynamic into the neighborhood – you can see the darn thing from most any vantage point in town. I know, I know, it ain’t no Saint John’s, but it’ll do.
The next step for Shadle Park, for what it’s worth, is to work with the owner of the big shopping center to integrate walkability and mixed uses into it, which will take a public/private partnership. If the shopping center can rebrand itself into something walkable, Shadle Park will be the most hip-hopping blue-collar destination in the metro.
Southgate, they tryen. They tryen to build an urban, walkable neighborhood on the fringe of south Spokane. They tryen to beat back a Target design dynamic. They tryen not to be another ordinary suburban environment – a place one can stamp onto any metro in the nation. They tryen not to be predictable.
Trouble is they failing. But it’s not for lack of neighborhood leadership, what Southgate has is a classic case if suburban zoning code syndrome. Suburban zoning code syndrome is a Euclidean version of Hep C and Southgate has the virous. Everything books tell you not to do, Southgate does. James Howard Kunstler would be disappointed, indeed. Aside from the Ponderosa pines, it is a geography of nowhere.
27) North Perry / Crestline
Interestingly, the feeder high school for North Perry / Crestline neighborhood is Lewis and Clark – South Hill’s high school. If we’re being honest with each other, it sure beats Rogers.
Above and beyond what high school your kids are going to go to, North Perry / Crestline has some dynamic characteristics. Let’s start with its historic housing stock, which sure does come in handy if you’re trying to be a distinct neighborhood. Geography helps, too. With its own little High Drive overlooking the Spokane River and the neighborhoods around it, I’d take a home on Illinois Avenue any day over most homes in most other neighborhoods on this list.
North Perry / Crestline, as far as this list is concerned, is a proper pivot point from average Spokane neighborhoods to Spokane neighborhoods that can compete on a national scale.
Welcome to the upper echelon.
26) Central South Hill
Central South Hill neighborhood is in a strange no-man’s land whereby it’s south of 29th Avenue, east of Comstock, and north of High Drive. It has a grid street pattern, a housing stock that’s not bad but nothing special, and enjoys all the amenities of the South Hill as a whole. Make no mistake, however, Central South Hill ain’t the South Hill. Central South Hill rides the coattails of all the neighborhoods that surround it.
Minnehaha? Screw that. Minne-effing-coola – that’s more like it. If the goal is to attract every Colorado hipster in the nation – those that rock climb, river raft, mountain bike, and fly fish – Minne-effing-coola is the neighborhood that will do it.
But stop! Word to the wise for all you Colorado hipsters, a proper Spokanite does not suffer a Broncos fan, so tread lightly.
24) Five Mile Prairie
Well, as far as suburban neighborhood products go in Spokane, Five Mile Prairie is a pretty good one by virtue of its unique geography. Located atop a distinctive plateau on the north side of Spokane, the outcrop rises a few hundred feet above everything else. Although it is indeed a classic suburban subdivision, Five Mile Prairie is pretty cool, nonetheless. If you have a few middle-class dollars to spend, you’ll do just fine with Five Mile Prairie.
Spokane’s Logan neighborhood is easy to love. Big homes, tree lined streets, Gonzaga ever looming in the distance, some halibut and chips from Jack and Dan’s, plenty of homemade tartar sauce, and big-time investments happening on both sides of the river, Logan Neighborhood is in the middle of transitioning into a marquee place within the city. Logan is the sort of Spokane neighborhood that when Californians see the home prices, they buy three.
22) Doomsday Hill
Most locals know Doomsday Hill as the long slog up from the river bottom back to West Central when you’re running Bloomsday — Spokane’s marquee annual footrace. What most locals don’t know, however, is there’s a dope neighborhood that overlooks Doomsday Hill that quietly is one of the best in the city. Historic homes, great views, mature trees, grid streets, walkable commercial amenities, recreational amenities, low crime, and total obscurity. Doomsday Hill is one of the best kept secrets in the metro.
21) Manito Country Club
Caution! Entering a total snobatorium. Wear the required protective gear and be sure to shower upon return. Manito Country Club is such a snobby neighborhood that I have to stick my pinkie in the air when I pull from my Rainier as I write this.
Aside from the old-school exclusive attitude that permeates the neighborhood, it is quite beautiful. Located as the South Hill transitions into Southgate Neighborhood. Manito Country Club is anchored by, you guessed it, a golf course. Homes are ornate, large, and pricey, particularly those overlooking the bluff. The trees are mature, the lawns are green, the money is green, and you get to fake nice to your neighbors. Welcome Home.
From a livability perspective, Manito Country Club will live more suburban than urban but, nevertheless, you’re still a short drive from most all your needs. Despite the snobbery, Manito Country Club is ranked high on this list for a reason.
20) East Sprague
East Sprague is saddled by both history and contemporary investment. The former being a bad thing and the latter being a good thing. East Sprague, outside of the other 19 neighborhoods above it on this list, has some of the best character in Spokane. What was once a fascinating little market environment — with high-end furniture shops entwined with low end bars and tattoo parlors — not to mention the best butcher block in the metro — East Sprague attracts money from the South Hill and the desperation of those that turn toward a life of prostitution (among other things) from the street.
You need some company, honey? Don’t be surprised if someone were to ask you that on East Sprague. (Obviously, it’s best to say “no.” [Unless you are, in fact, looking for some company.]) Nevertheless, East Sprague is turning for the dope (and I mean that in the non-opioid way). The public and private sectors have pointed some generous fertilization toward East Sprague, the fruits of which are shaping one of Spokane’s best real estate investment environments.
If you’re looking for a place to park a few dollars, East Sprague is a competitive candidate. If you like, I can give you a little company on East Sprague, but you gotta’ buy me dinner first – let’s start with pint of IPA and a side of Beer Buddies from Benni’s.
19) Emerson / Garfield
If you’re looking for a place to park a few dollars, Emerson / Garfield is a competitive candidate, too. The neighborhood’s housing stock is historic, affordable, and potentially luxurious. Additionally, the City of Spokane is investing about $7 million to beautify the main thoroughfare through the neighborhood – otherwise known as north Monroe.
Emerson / Garfield is Spokane’s next South Perry District.
On behalf of everyone who knew better but can’t say it: I told you so, Skippers.
18) North Bank
The North Bank Neighborhood is located directly north of the Spokane River and extends perhaps a mile northward. The North Bank Neighborhood is an excellent example of how a dense urban environment transitions into a single family residential environment. The highest densities, of course, being along the river and a gradual transition into historic homes occurs as you meander northbound. Some big time land users are also along the North Bank, such as the Spokane Arena, a future sports complex, and perhaps even a downtown stadium.
To improve the North Bank, the neighborhood would be well served to develop more density on all those surface parking lots along the river. Ironically, in part because of the surface parking lots, the North Bank is ripe for a real estate explosion.
The top 17 neighborhoods…
…in Spokane are so good they have pages unto themselves, respectively, with lots of pictures, maps, and information. Have fun exploring!
17) Vinegar Flats
16) Comstock Neighborhood
15) High Drive
13) Corbin Park
12) Lower South Hill
11) Indian Canyon
10) Medical District
9) University District
8) Lincoln Park / Altamont
7) Audubon / Downriver
6) Peaceful Valley
5) South Perry
4) West Central / Kendall Yards
2) The South Hill
1) Browne’s Addition