Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"New group hopes to foster downtown growth"

I'd like to give my full support to any group that supports development in Pullman. But the notion that somehow our current planning commission and city council is anti-growth is ludicrous.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Mike Yates says downtown Pullman needs a vision, one that will provide a long-term plan and encourage vibrancy and growth.

He hopes the newly formed Downtown Pullman Business Development Association helps accomplish that goal.

The association was formed about a month ago in response to the city planning commission's recommendation for code changes to downtown parking, Yates said.

Yates, who owns several commercial and residential properties downtown, said those changes could potentially discourage or restrict new business and residential growth in Pullman's downtown district. Most downtown business owners agree.

"It was an overwhelming agreement that people don't believe right now is the time for any restrictions on development," Yates said.

The association wants to foster new business and residential development, along with the revitalization of downtown, Yates said.

"It takes residential living, entrepreneurs and customers to make all of that happen," he said. "If any one of those don't happen you have a break in the chain."

Justin Rogers, who owns H and R Development in downtown Pullman, has participated in the formation of the association. He said a long-term plan that will dictate the direction of downtown is needed.

"The key is we feel like downtown really needs a solid vision and we need a more comprehensive, cohesive plan to reach that vision," Rogers said. "Then it boils down to, is there consensus on the vision? And then from there it is how you bring that vision to reality."

Yates sees two specific needs for downtown Pullman: more people and more business.

"The fuel for growth in a small business is customers," he added. "It's people walking downtown morning, noon and night."

One way to attract shoppers downtown is to have more residential units available for people to live downtown, Yates said.

"Once you get people living downtown you are going to have people shopping downtown," he said. "Once you do that then you have more entrepreneurs looking to locate their businesses downtown."

Yates said a vibrant downtown will help the city and county's larger employers like Washington State University and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories recruit new employees.

"All of these people that come to Pullman, the thing that is on their mind is 'what does Pullman have to offer?' " he said.

Both Yates and Rogers want to hear what other members of the community envision.

"I think we need a good, broad cross section of people in Pullman that really want to see downtown do well and get all kinds of ideas and thoughts together," Rogers said.

Yates and Rogers said there is a need for an official who would more or less act as the area's business manager.

"We need someone to run the business of downtown," Yates said.

Rogers said he would like to see the city step up and create the position.

"That's what we are missing right now," Rogers said. "The city needs to take the lead in that role."

Charlene Jasper, Daily Grind owner and chairwoman of the chamber of commerce's Downtown Pullman Business Development Committee, said she feels the work of people like Yates will make downtown Pullman more attractive to everyone.

"I think we are headed in the right direction," Jasper said. "It takes a few people with a lot of enthusiasm.

"These are people with a vision who believe in the community and want to see it more vital."

Rogers hopes that enthusiasm pays off.

"It would be neat to be able to look back 10 years from now and say that effort was really worth it," Rogers said.


April E. Coggins said...

I'm afraid their vision is to convert downtown Pullman into high-density apartments with no parking. Everywhere else in Pullman has off-street parking requirements (which is very expensive to provide) so they saw an opportunity to exploit the loophole in the zoning code. Now that the Planning Commission and the City Council are threatening to close that loophole, they are trying to fight it.

Gregg said...

A few thoughts on things I'd like to see as part of the vision for downtown Pullman and other areas in town (BTW, I'm not a resident):

1. Re-configure the traffic so that Main Street is a two-way street instead of essentially a thoroughfare which people travel on to get through downtown as fast as possible!

2. Create some open spaces where people can sit outside and socialize with others (and buy food to eat outside during the nice weather). I'd love to see as part of this open space a fountain or similar which people could also sit around.

3. Obviously, the parking situation could be improved, but making Main Street a two-way street with angled parking would seem to me to be helpful.

4. Build the new high school close to downtown (within walking distance). Obviously, Gladish would be a perfect location, but I assume that building will stay intact. Not sure where a new PHS would be located though.

5. Also, I wouldn't limit the "vision" to downtown only. Grand Avenue can be beautified with planting trees on each side...and how about a grass median down the center? I realize this would be expensive and there are space limitations and traffic flow constraints when doing this, but essentially use Stadium Way on campus as an example of making Grand Avenue more attractive.


Bruce Heimbigner said...

Hum.. not sure how ‘Greg’ got to understand downtown Pullman when he doesn’t live here. But I’d do him one better. The Main street thoroughfare kept me from shopping downtown for many years as it was just too crazy with little kids. Now my Kids are gone. I am more likely to be downtown to go to a restaurant, visit the bike or coffee shops, and my church is there. But it still sucks. The really good solution is to move main street one block to the north. Then either close it or make it one lane each way. Yes it would be expensive and yes it cover part of the ‘river’ but it could be done is such a way to eliminate the flooding at the same time.

Just a thought.

April E. Coggins said...

I agree with both ideas.

Grand Ave. and Main St. are currently Pullman's only thoroughfares. Bishop Blvd. helps but the roads that provide the most efficient access to Pullman are Main and Grand. Plugging them up with trees and grass will not help the immediate problem.

My vision is for Pullman to have a large enough retail presence that high impact retailers can afford to move from downtown and downtown can become an artsy sort of place. This will require a great deal of tax revenue to pay for new infrastructure.

Bruce has the right idea that we need to move Pullman's major retail base. My vision is development south of town and east of town, with a southern bypass for new businesses to locate.

Gregg said...


Good comments. Maybe the "artsy" downtown is ultimately the future for downtown. Really need gathering places for people to sit outside and enjoy the weather and eat, socialize, etc....including a water fountain (or ?)...

The "freeway" through downtown was just a plain bad idea. It's been that way for years and years. Make it two way...or maybe single lane like I believe you suggested.

BTW, even though I don't live in Pullman, I spent a significant number of years there. I left my heart there so to speak...and visit often.

Pullman has so much potential for improvement. With more tax dollars coming in after WalMart builds/opens...and the Hawkins development going...maybe some of the asthetic improvements can be done.

Need a vision from the leaders though. Make it a 50 year plan if they have to. It'll take time, but nevertheless a strong vision of what should be done (in downtown and along the main traffic corridors) are needed in my opinion.


Gregg said...

Good comments from both of you.

I was attempting to generate some further discussion on this topic because I find it very interesting. Even though I don't live in Pullman, I spent a significant number of years there and still visit regularly. Maybe because I don't live there anymore I can provide a "fresh" perspective.

Not sure how you'd move Main north by one block. Sounds interesting, but I don't see how that works.

Agree that one lane for main (nice rhyme!) sounds interesting. At the most, make it two lane (opposite directions) with angled parking perhaps. That in itself would increase parking places.

April, maybe downtown becomes "artsy" like you suggest. If done right, that could be very nice.

Like I stated before, I really feel strongly about an open place for people to gather/sit/visit in the core of downtown. It doesn't have to be really big (it can't be because of space limitations), but it should be a nice area done right.

Grand Street really needs upgrading in terms of attractiveness. I still like the grass median with trees concept like Stadium Way on campus...even if it impacts traffic some.

What do you all think of the high school idea (close to downtown)? Maybe it is not even feasable with space limitations the way they are.

What is the long-term vision for downtown Pullman. Have the leaders attempted to propose something? I'd like to see a 50 year plan or whatever. Something long-term. Has this been developed and communicated?

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Pullman has so much potential..and with the upcoming increase in sales tax revenues due to WalMart in Pullman and the Hawkins development, perhaps some extra money will make it possible to upgrade some of these areas discussed.

Gregg said...

Sorry, I thought my other post was lost (due to my mistake)...so you may have some duplication in my two most recent posts above.

Tom Forbes said...

Take it from me everyone. Gregg is a good guy, a long-time Palousitics reader and an ally. I think his insights are great.

Gregg, drop me a line at palousitics@adelphia.net and I'll fix it so your comments don't have to be moderated.

April E. Coggins said...

Many things you are suggesting are already in the works or are in place. They all take time, money and the cooperation of private property owners and taxpayers.

Grand Avenue Greenway, Downtown Riverwalk, Artesian Fountain (a favorite of pranksters), the City of Pullman's Comprehensive Plan. There are long term goals such as the South By-pass.

Many good things are happening in and around Pullman right now and I am very excited for Pullman's future. But it's going to take 10, 20 and even 50 years for everything to happen. We have an excellent council and planning commission. We are on the right course but our history, topography and lack of money are going to have an impact. And we have to be careful not to harm our current infrastructure before we have new infrastructure to replace it.

Gregg said...

April - one edit to one of your last sentences above...

"We have an excellent council and planning commission. We are on the right course but our history, topography, lack of money due to the ridiculous PARD efforts are having an impact."

Thanks for the links. I'll look those over.

Gregg said...

I think it's great that the city used WSU landscape architecture students for the concepts. I'll be watching the developments on this. Agree with the lady in the linked article that was driving down Grand with a relative form out of town stating how much she loved living in Pullman and the relative thought she was crazy based on how bad Grand Avenue looked. Just improving that street alone would make a large impact on the attractiveness of Pullman.