Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods –
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 8
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: $200,000+ with lots of variance
Rental: $700+ with lots of variance
Housing Density: Mostly multi-family units, be them condos or rentals.
Mixed Use Rating: Pretty good.
North Bank Neighborhood Description
The North Bank neighborhood is located in downtown Spokane directly north of the Spokane River and extends perhaps a half 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.
Elements that Create Great Neighborhoods
An Identifiable Center
The center of the North Bank neighborhood is the Spokane Arena, which sprawls over several city blocks. (More on this subject below under Neighborhood Challenges.)
The North Bank neighborhood’s boundaries are fairly distinct, particularly with the Spokane River, Gonzaga University, and Kendall Yards creating three distinct boundaries for the neighborhood. The northerly boundary, however, is far more subtle as the neighborhood transitions into single family, historic homes.
A Front Door
One could make an argument that Riverfront Park is the de facto front door to the North Bank, and they would be right. But the City of Spokane has invested little towards place-making the North Bank, hence no entry signage upon arrival.
Mixed Land Uses
Being adjacent to downtown, the North Bank scores well in this category. From luxury condos, to grade A office space, to mom and pop small businesses, the North Bank has everything but a grocery store.
The neighborhood also scores well in this category considering its historic nature. Many parcels, however, have been redeveloped over the years; thus, the visitor gets to enjoy architectural eras from the late 1800s to present day, including the 1980s masterpiece, Rock Point Plaza.
Buildings that Address the Street
There are many examples of redevelopments within North Bank that have a suburban development dynamic, which is disappointing. The more historic structures, however, all address the street and promote urbanism and walkability.
Streets that Generally Connect
Aside from avoiding large basalt outcrops, the North Bank’s streets generally connect.
Because the North Bank is one of the first neighborhoods that was developed in Spokane, most of the sidewalks are not attached. There are even a few highly neglected sidewalks adjacent to vast swaths of surface parking that degrade the neighborhood. City Hall would do well to underwrite some sidewalk and esthetic improvements throughout the North Bank.
There are indeed neatly lined street trees within much of the North Bank. Gaps in the street canopy exist, however, particularly along the surface parking lot waste lands.
As you might expect, the North Bank scores well in the walkability category. There are stretches, however, of no-man’s land with deteriorating sidewalks overrun with weeds and bushes and acres of parking before the next land use.
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.
One of the reasons why the North Bank is so low on this list is because all the surface parking in the area inhibits livability. There’s no reason why all that beach front property overlooking waterfalls should be wasted with surface parking lots. To fix it, the public sector must bite the bullet and start building parking garages, or at least one big one, that can manage the event facilities traffic that converges on the neighborhood regularly and predictably. Build a parking structure, then develop public/private partnerships with developers to build some quality mixed use projects on all those surface parking lots the public owns. The new tax revenue from private development can fund the parking structure (alongside parking fees). Similarly, we can also entice quality private developments because we’ll be enticing them to build on public land and the right projects with the right visions might just get that land for the low, low price of $1.
The North Bank can have it all and we don’t even have to raise taxes to do it.