The City of Spokane is exploring ways to fund sidewalk repairs and perhaps even new sidewalks in neighborhoods that don’t have them. Plans are being discussed and city employees are administering what is, to say the least, a significant project.
The best cities have sidewalks in every neighborhood with few exceptions.
For your scrolling pleasure, let’s take a look at some good and bad sidewalks. The first 10 photos are from other cities, the remaining photos are from Spokane. Take note of the key features that help create a great sidewalk.
I wonder if this stairway in downtown Billings has an easement to encroach on the sidewalk, or perhaps it’s simply a non-conforming use awaiting an act of God? Whatever the case may be, it sure doesn’t help the function of the sidewalk.
Taos, New Mexico
About the only thing worse than having obstructions in the middle of a sidewalk is hardly having any sidewalk at all, like this one in downtown Taos. This thing is probably closer to a curb than a sidewalk. What’s doubly baffling is how much room there is to expand the sidewalk onto the street considering there’s no parking and only one lane in each direction. Taos, you’ve got great architecture, but your sidewalks need work.
Kansas City, Kansas
At least this sidewalk just outside downtown KCK is a little wider, which is good, but we can hardly consider it a great place to take a stroll. There’s also too much regulatory signage. It’s cluttered and ugly.
Little Italy, Phili
Wow. I feel like a tough guy just looking at this sidewalk. Perhaps it’s time to bury those power lines and plant trees where the poles are? That way lonely birds will have a place to perch.
Corpus Christi, Texas
If you like sitting and starring at the ocean, this sidewalk provides the opportunity. Alternatively, you can also sit and stare at a busy street. It’s a wide sidewalk fit for a stroll, the banners add nice color, and that gazebo looks pretty cool but, other than providing access to the water line, this sidewalk does not appear to lead anywhere.
In this set of photos, downtown Anchorage is going to help us turn the corner. Ornamental street lamps, shops that spill onto the sidewalk, some awnings, and, I’ll be darned, that’s our first pedestrian!
If you haven’t been there, you wouldn’t know downtown Lewiston has a few square blocks that are quite charming. In this photo, there are two pedestrians in the background and one model in the foreground who looks quite displeased with the photographer. (Fourteen years later, the photographer still gets the same look.)
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Now we really have an action shot, and there’s actually somebody just sitting. We’ve come so far! Lush greenery, hanging planters, stamped sidewalks, street furniture. For a little town that no one has heard of an hour east of Durango, Pagosa Springs has some inviting sidewalks.
Cherry Creek Neighborhood, Denver
One of the poshest of Denver’s many posh hoods is Cherry Creek. Based on all the green, you would hardly know that this sidewalk is xeriscaped.
Walla Walla, Washington
Now this is a sidewalk where a guy can sit and write poetry all day. Trouble with poetry is most folks don’t like it. What most folks will enjoy, however, are the mature street trees, active sidewalk seating, hanging planters, banners, ornamental lighting, diverse architecture, angled parking, and syrahs of the Walla Walla region. Good news is the more Walla Walla syrah you drink, the more tolerable poetry becomes.
Spokane sidewalks, starting with the business districts:
Outside Jack n’ Dan’s
One would think that the Number 1 college hoops bar in the country would have a better sidewalk in front of it, particularly when ESPN or CBS film crews come to town and showcase the metro. Alas, we have some work to do. Here’s to hoping the City of Spokane eventually figures it out.
Of course North Monroe’s ugly sidewalks will be showcased on this post — it’s the planning topic de jure these days. The Spokesmen Review has run a long form piece on the subject, the Inlander has run a long form piece on the subject, and SpokanePlanner has published two posts on the subject (here, and here). The City of Spokane presently intends to invest about $7m to beautify the street, a wise decision considering how it looks at present.
This sidewalk along Market Street in Hillyard ain’t bad and, look! Our first pedestrian. This picture was taken in winter but, come summer, street trees, sidewalk seating, ornamental street lamps, and potted plants sure do help soften an urban environment.
Although too narrow and drab, this sidewalk along east Sprague benefits greatly from the local businesses working to add zest to the streetscape. Good news is, City of Spokane is soon to follow with beautification improvements along this very same corridor.
Our first real street trees are found along Garland in the business district. Even though it’s winter, shop owners’ wares still spill out onto the sidewalk — a sign of healthy pedestrian activity.
Historic Davenport, Downtown
When a property owner invests in engaging the sidewalk, good things tend to happen. These potted evergreens and window shrubs along the Historic Davenport Hotel downtown add classy nuance to this sidewalk.
Great sidewalks stimulate commerce. The relationship between the private market and the public realm is mutually beneficial and both parties, when aligned, can create great places together.
East Main Avenue
If you haven’t noticed, the block between Browne and Division on Main Ave. has become quite the little go-getter, where all the cool kids hang out. One could argue that having great sidewalks is a big reason why. There are a lot of good things to point out in this photo but the best is those hanging lights.
Spokane residential sidewalks:
There are good sidewalks in the Shadle Park neighborhood, this is not one of them. In fact, it’s not even a sidewalk at all and appears to be a good place to put one. The best cities have sidewalks in every neighborhood with few exceptions.
Hopefully when the city ventures into sidewalk rebuilding it can replant street trees where they are clearly appropriate. A uniform line of trees would cure a lot of ills along this sidewalk on Northwest Boulevard.
Those mature street trees go quite well with the mature mansions along swanky Sumner Avenue.
Some might argue that this picture doesn’t do Rockwood Boulevard justice because it was taken in the winter. While it’s true the green of life tends to be more pleasant than the drab of dormancy, in a city that’s 120 miles south of Canada, this sidewalk is still inviting despite winter.
I believe Spokane’s next inner-city neighborhood that’s on the cusp of a comeback are the blocks surrounding North Central High School, and it’s largely because of sidewalks like this. When the tech refugees from Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and San Francisco start cobbling up property in Spokane, this neighborhood is ripe for the picking.
Corbin Park is one of the best neighborhoods in Spokane because of its great sidewalks and great mix of housing choices.
Are we at all surprised Browne’s Addition has some of the best residential sidewalks in the city? It’s part of the reason why many residents and outsiders consider it the best neighborhood in Spokane.
This blog is written by Mike Tedesco, officially a candidate for Mayor of Spokane, 2019. Check out his other totally awesome website at votetedesco.com.