By Lars Gilberts
Spokane University District CEO

The heart of Spokane is growing. This past year has tested us and inspired us to look out for one another. Not only that, but the activity and vibrancy that were once primarily in the downtown core have continued to bloom and spread to Browne’s Addition, the North Bank, and now the University District (UD).

The UD and the downtown core are naturally linked by the flow of the Spokane River, the popular Centennial Trail, and the century-old Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line. For decades we have worked side by side to improve city amenities, business and academic opportunities, and quality of life.

As the days get brighter and warmer, the air is filled with sounds of construction. It’s not just kids who are eager to see the big machines making big changes! With spring harmonizing birds and backhoes, we invite you to imagine what the new seasons will reveal.

Soon the dilemma of how to quickly and conveniently get across downtown will have a new solution. The high-performance City Line will unite both parts of town, and major construction will be completed this year. Running eight times an hour when we need it most, it will be a better option than driving and reparking when a nice walk or scooter ride won’t do.

In the not-too-distant future, if you are lucky enough to get tickets to watch the (hopefully) 2022 NCAA Champion Gonzaga Bulldogs, the City Line will drop you right at the Kennel. No traffic, no parking, no fuss.

If you do want to go for a walk, run, scoot, or cycle, there are more trails and connections than ever. And with the completion of the Trent Bridge, along with Post St. and the suspension bridges, you’ll be able to safely and quickly enjoy every part of downtown and the UD.

The most important aspect of connection is always the “who” more than the “how.” With 600 new apartments being developed in the UD along these trails, rivers, and high-performance transit lines, we will have nearly 1,000 more people living, learning, working, and playing here.

In addition to these new homes in the UD, there are nearly 400 more units of housing coming in and around downtown. Like the dormant promise of seeds and bare trees, our downtown is starting to blossom with new life.

Growth will surge as the assets and resources of six higher education institutions (Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, University of Washington, Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane, Whitworth University, and Community Colleges of Spokane) and two medical schools continue to provide a steady stream of customers, talent, medical professionals, business innovators, and entrepreneurs.

While each institution is boldly investing in the place and the people, the Health Peninsula, anchored by the UW/Gonzaga Health Partnership Building, is a great example of how public-private collaborations in the UD are drawing new world-class research and education into the fabric of Spokane and its downtown.

This 178,000 square-foot campus by McKinstry affiliate Emerald Initiative will house some of Spokane’s most gifted students and advanced life science lab space.

The novel construction approaches, ultra-efficient energy systems, and collaborative spaces planned for the Health Peninsula will help further cultivate innovation and inter-organizational partnerships, not to mention healthier, more sustainable neighborhoods.

As young professionals chase advances in medicine, healthcare, IT, and energy, at work and in the classroom, the UD is seeing local and out-of-town developers recognize our momentum and invest in our future.

Years of collaborative problem solving are jump-starting investment and revitalization on nearly every block, and the powerful intersection of business, education, and smart and sustainable land use is helping the UD and our neighbors be resilient in a quickly evolving world.

The snowy remnants of this “pandemic winter” are quickly melting away. Day by day, we can see and feel a long, bright “summer” of growth and vitality emerging. It’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy downtown and the UD.