Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods –
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 9
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: About $100,000 to $500,000
Rentals: About $500 to $2,000
Housing Density: Moderate in most places
Mixed Use Rating: Good
The West Central Neighborhood is undergoing a phase of gentrification specifically due to the Kendall Yards development. Long known as Felony Flats, Kendall Yards has injected new life and increased market activity into the West Central Neighborhood. Located on the north bank overlooking the Spokane River, West Central is only a short distance from downtown and many neighborhood views provide a sweeping panorama of the City’s core. As the neighborhood continues to revitalize, West Central has great potential to clime the list of Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods.
Kendall Yards itself is a fine example of economic development and urban infill at its best. The development is located on a vacated rail yard overlooking the Spokane River. Vacant and unimproved land for years, the area was finally purchased about 15 years ago and a mixed-use, mixed density development plan was put in place. The City of Spokane, recognizing a good proposal when they see it, established a TIF district overlaying the entire West Central Neighborhood from the western reaches of the Spokane River bluffs all the way to Monroe Street. The difference between property values when the TIF district was established and increased property values over time (as new taxable construction occurs) – the tax increment – is reimbursed to the developer to help underwrite significant public improvements associated with Kendall Yards and West Central as a whole. Such a deal structure is common in cities throughout the country, the genius being that the risk is placed squarely where it should be – on the private sector – and the city only pays if the developer performs, i.e., actually builds taxable new construction.
The good news is the Kendall Yards development has reached a fever pitch. All that investment has trickled into old Felony Flats and property values are rising, new homeowners are investing, and what was once blight on the City is now its best example of what good economic development looks like.
An Identifiable Center
One could probably make an argument that the growing commercial district within Kendall Yards is West Central’s (new) center; however, I prefer the old school approach and will still cast my vote toward the County Courthouse. One of Spokane’s most distinguished architectural achievements, it towers above the neighborhood and serves as an orientation point for visitors.
West Central has good, distinct boundaries, the most obvious being the Spokane River. Monroe Street serves as the eastern boundary and, to the north, the neighborhood gradually fades into the A.M. Cannon Park Neighborhood.
A Front Door
There are no front doors into the West Central Neighborhood, a factor ripe for improvement.
Mix Land Uses
West Central scores high when it comes to mixing land uses. Parks, trails, commercial uses, high density housing, and governmental uses all live (mostly) harmoniously as neighbors.
Generally, West Central’s architecture is quite diverse, with the exception being Kendall Yards, which takes a more contemporary approach. That aside, on older West Central blocks, you will be hard pressed to find two homes that are identical.
Structures that Address the Street
Both old and new structures within West Central do a great job of addressing the street. The tightly knit old homes have large porches that speak to the passerby, and in Kendall Yards both commercial and residential structures do well placing eyes on the street.
Streets that Generally Connect
West Central is one of Spokane’s original neighborhoods. Built upon a grid street pattern, the vast majority of streets connect.
Most blocks within West Central, including Kendall Yards, have detached sidewalks.
Although freshly planted in Kendall Yards, street trees are prominent in the neighborhood, despite a couple of gaps in the old part of West Central.
One could live in West Central without a vehicle. There are plenty of trails, sidewalks, and commercial activities in the neighborhood and a grocery store recently opened in 2017.
In the list of Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods, West Central has perhaps the most insignificant challenges to improve because the largest hurdles have already been jumped – establish a TIF district, attract a developer.
In fact, West Central’s largest challenge is more of a political one: the risk of criticism due to rapid gentrification. On the dirty laundry list of inner-city neighborhood challenges, I suspect most would prefer rapid gentrification as opposed to the alternatives. All and all, a good place to be.