#21 Airway Heights, Washington

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Metro Spokane Places to Live

2020 population: 9,332
Drive time to downtown Coeur d’Alene: 50 minutes
Drive time to downtown Spokane: 10 minutes

The West Plains of Spokane County, Washington

Overall Character: ★★☆☆☆
Urban: ★★☆☆☆
Suburban: ★★★☆☆
Walkability: ★☆☆☆☆
Market Activity: ★★★★★
Farm Town: ☆☆☆☆☆
Timber Town: ☆☆☆☆☆
Lake / River Town: ☆☆☆☆☆

Airway Heights Community Description

The wind-swept plain of Airway Heights is a heck of a town. It has two major casinos owned by two different Indian tribes, two prisons, an airport, and an Air Force base. All of them are either directly adjacent to or located within Airway Heights. Thus, the city should consider a name change from Airway Heights to Airway, Casino, and Prison Heights. Obviously, there’s a lot to juggle from an intergovernmental perspective if you are an Airway Heights city council person.

Between all those crazy land uses are several modern subdivisions, which are livable (aside from the incessant wind). The older part of Airway Heights maintains a grid street pattern and also a degree of neighborhood character (but not much). Airway Heights benefits greatly from its proximity to Spokane, which is 10 easy minutes down the hill.

Highway 2 is the major five-lane thoroughfare through the city and it dominates the urban design and real estate development process for both city planners and others – be them public, private, or Native American. Thus, of all the intergovernmental jurisdictions that do business in Airway Heights, not the least of which being the Department of Defense, it’s the Washington State Department of Transportation (WA-DOT) that chooses whether to deal new development into the game as players come to the table.

But a solution is in the works to create bypass options around Highway 2 by developing roads within Airway Heights connecting to the city of Spokane’s. Either ironically or by happy coincidence, because the Highway 2 bypass plan is solely located within local rights of way, WA-DOT is not necessarily in the driver’s seat when it comes to planning the project. In this instance, Airway Heights can exercise leadership.  

In the end, however, Airway Heights’ municipal leadership has little control over their own community, because it’s the state of Washington, the Department of Defense, and two Native American tribes that have the authority to make all the big decisions.

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