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Spokane Gateways provide a retro experience connecting much of the downtown area


It is again that time of year when gateways weaken their usefulness.

And Spokane has a lot to show. Or does he do it?

Downtown Spokane has a network of 16 walkways running through its core commerce and business, making it one of the most notable over-the-street walking trails in the United States.

It’s not on par with Minneapolis, the world’s largest with 8 miles of walkways to give Minnesotans a break from freezing winters. It is also not similar to Houston, with its 10 kilometers of tunnels.

But the gateway system here has survived and at times thrived since the first was built in 1963 connecting the Ridpath Hotel to the Ridpath Motor Inn, according to the spokesperson-Review’s records.

Construction of the Skywalk then began in earnest over the next two decades, although the new walkways were not connected to the Ridpath. It has been hailed as a respite and a destination, especially when the weather in Spokane turns cold and humid.

Similar to the fortunes of retailers and restaurants, the use and appreciation of Spokane’s gateway system has fluctuated.

Perhaps at its best, the early 1980s walkway system allowed shoppers to walk between four of Spokane’s four downtown retail heavyweights: Nordstrom, The Bon Marché, The Crescent, and JC Penney.

In 2000, the catwalk system was feeding the lunch crowd. Crescent Court was teeming with restaurants and hungry office workers.

But the food court did not last, and in 2005, the Spokane Journal of Business reported that the gateways vacancy rate had climbed to 40%.

Much of this space was eventually absorbed into office space as downtown Spokane underwent an economic recovery.

The decline of the bustling gateway system materialized with the goal of filling the downtown area with people and businesses starting on the streets.

What followed was an introspection on the gateway system and whether it remains an asset for a revitalized downtown area with its many retailers, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

Three years ago, The Spokesman-Review published two columns with different views on the gateway system.

Anthony Gill, whose city life blog is called Spokane Rising, argued that maybe it’s time for Spokane to leave its gateways in the past and fully recognize that the growing number of downtown shoppers today wants vibrant stores at street level.

Mark Richard, president and CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, acknowledged concerns about online shopping and the need to keep shoppers on the streets, but he also noted how gateways were providing benefits to thousands of workers in the city. downtown office buildings, many of which appreciate the convenience.

It remains to be seen how the gateways and the businesses linked to them have weathered the pandemic.

But today the gateway system, which connects the second floor of office buildings such as the US Bank Building and the Bennett Block, to the Parkade Plaza parking lot, for example, is largely quiet outside the second floor of River Park Square shopping center. .

And these second-story businesses located a walkway in the mall cater to the downtown banker crowd. On Black Friday afternoon, for example, when there were more shoppers than usual, most restaurants, retailers and service providers along the gateway system were closed for the holidays, as well as many offices.

But there remains the belief in the usefulness of the skywalk system. Three years ago, two gateways connecting the old Macy’s building to the network were replaced at a reported cost of $ 800,000, according to information at the time.

And there have been new restaurants that have tried it at the skywalk level, including Spokanewich and Tio’s Taqueria.

The Spokane Public Library is usually connected by a footbridge via Nordstrom. So, when the flagship location of the library began to undergo its major renovation, it found a temporary space on the second floor of the STA Plaza, which is connected to the walkway system.