Document 66: Downtown Development Committee

“Notes from Letter of L. B. Cornish,” [J. C. Penney Co. representative, Downtown Property Owners], Spokane Chamber of Commerce Papers,
Box M, Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

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We have had a Downtown Development Committee come into being the last six months. It started with a select committee of large property owners, retailers, banks, hotels, our unusually community-minded Washington Water Power, and our publisher and heavy property owner who also is our landlord. This committee has the same objective as all downtown development organizations popping up all over the country, which is; namely, to underwrite a thorough and highly skilled appraisal of downtown problems to set up long range plans for the orderly implementing and carefully integrating of solutions to a broad base of problems confronting the downtown area. These are; namely, parking, proper land use, arterials, a new freeway in the next five years which will bisect our city, a sound urban development program, the wise selecting of a new Civic Center Building site for City, County, and State facilities as well as the new Y.M.C.A. building, library, etc., all of which we hope together with new mall ideas, open air space planning, etc., will make a magnet of our already quite attractive central business district.

There is already a very encouraging strong base of broad downtown interest for the program. The committee of which I am a member has spent nearly four months interviewing five of the largest national firms now prominent in this work, including; Victor Gruen Associates, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, Richard Joseph Neutra of Los Angeles, John Graham & Company of Seattle, and finally Ebasco Services Inc., to whom we gave the contract two months ago. This $100,000 contract called for a three-phase survey and study of the city, the furnishing of a long range plan on all the ideas I listed above, and finally a program for implementing the plan. The committee is also attempting to raise an additional $50,000 which will be necessary to cover costs of a secretary and needed personnel in the next three years, material including a scale model of the plan to be used in selling the project to the public.

You might be interested in my personal evaluation of the program. I am heartily in favor of it. First, because we have a very real stake in its long range accomplishment. The position we enjoy in our downtown store assures the Company of a growing stake in the protection that such a program assures. Fortunately our downtown Spokane has not felt many of the disintegrating forces that so many American cities have felt. However, there are alarming signs of this developing, and I am very happy that our downtown interests are not only smart enough to realize that something should be done; but for the first time, have been able to hurdle all the accumulation of years of petty jealousies, conflicting interests, etc., and have been able to get together on a fine cooperative basis to collectively protect and build the future of the central business district.

I am sure you are familiar with the Ebasco Company. They happen to have a close working relationship in our city through the years with the Washington Water Power in planning a national and international award winning facility as well as having planned two large multi-million dollar power dam sites in the state for them. They are particularly anxious to make the Spokane program effective as it is something of a “guinea pig” for them. Ebasco has done most of the engineering and fact finding around the country for nearly all of the large architectural and planning firms. This is their first attempt on a rather large scale to get into the final planning steps, and we feel fortunate indeed to have their interest in the project.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest