Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods -
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 6
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: About $300,000
Rentals: About $1,000
Housing Density: Single Family
Mixed Use Rating: Above Average
Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood Description
One could easily make the argument that the Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood is actually two neighborhoods. Separated in half by Northwest Boulevard, Downriver straddles the Spokane River bluff to the south while Audubon is anchored by Audubon Park to the north. However, because both areas share the same neighborhood center (Northwest Blvd.) and both areas were developed during the same time period and thereby share very similar housing stock and architectural styles, this writer has chosen to lump the two neighborhoods together. Indeed, they are two sides of the same coin.
Many Spokane locals refer to the Audubon-Downriver area as the poor man’s South Hill, and there are few better compliments. Every bit on par with the best of the South Hill, Audubon-Downriver offers a fine affordable alternative for those looking for similar qualities. The same homes on the South Hill will sell for roughly $100,000 more than homes in the Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood. Aside from the predominance of mansions intermixed among the more affordable homes on the South Hill, there are no other significant differences between the neighborhoods.
Elements that Create Great Neighborhoods
An Identifiable Center
The Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood center is Northwest Boulevard, which bisects the neighborhood in half. All commercial activity within the neighborhood, with the exception of a local hardware store, takes place along Northwest Boulevard.
Audubon-Downriver has great boundaries. As a traveler going northwesterly along Northwest Boulevard, you are well aware when you cross into the neighborhood. The architecture changes (for the better), the tree canopy thickens, and soon you are upon Audubon Park, the neighborhood’s show-piece. Still traveling along Northwest Boulevard, as you transition out of Audubon-Downriver, the tree canopy thins and the architecture changes (for the worse).
Audubon-Downriver is a great example of neighborhood boundaries marked by architectural styles and trees rather than physical geography.
A Front Door
There are no front doors into the neighborhood. This is Audubon-Downriver’s greatest opportunity for improvement, particularly for northbound travelers along Northwest Boulevard – the intersection of Alberta and Northwest screams for an ornate gateway round-a-bout.
Mixed Land Uses
Audubon-Downriver scores well in this category. Great pubs, pizza joints, fine dining, coffee shops, an elementary school, and bakeries dot Northwest Boulevard – all within easy walking distance wherever you might live within the neighborhood. A little hardware store at the corner of Garland and Driscoll is the cherry on top.
Much of Audubon-Downriver was developed during the 1920s. The neighborhood is dominated by a theme of brick-built homes that can generally be characterized as English cottage. Most homes are not over 2,000 sq. ft. but there are a good handful of larger homes intermixed amongst the cottages.
Structures that Address the Street
Both commercial and residential structures do a great job of addressing the street in Audubon-Downriver. No snout-houses here.
Streets that Generally Connect
Audubon-Downriver is built upon a general grid street pattern. Most streets connect to other streets.
Audubon-Downriver bats about .500 in this category. Perhaps the most obvious improvement the neighborhood can make for itself is finishing the sidewalk system. Most blocks have detached sidewalks. The problem, however, is they stop and start at random between properties. As a walker attempting to navigate such confusion, one wonders if the neighborhood might be better off with no sidewalks at all -- nothing like cutting through someone's front yard to get to the next stretch of sidewalk. Of course, the better alternative is for the City to finish the system.
Despite about a 50/50 rating for detached sidewalks, the neighborhood is well-canopied with trees. Many streets have dense foliage of pines, maples, and oaks.
Audubon-Downriver is nearly perfect on the walkability scale. Aside from lacking a grocery store, nearly every other day-to-day commercial amenity is a short walk away. Pints at The Goat are the best part.
The two largest challenges for the Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood include its front door and lack of sidewalks. Constructing an ornate gateway round-a-bout as one enters the neighborhood along Northwest Boulevard will help solidify Audubon-Downriver as its own unique destination and clearly define the sense of place that already exists but for a front door.
Secondarily, it's strange that an older neighborhood such as Audubon-Downriver lacks for sidewalks. The infrastructure mysteriously stops and starts, seemingly at random, between properties. It appears the neighborhood was designed for those perfect detached tree-lined sidewalks but development thereof was at will of the original property owners. Nonetheless, residents have an opportunity to boost neighborhood desirability by lobbying the City of Spokane to finish the sidewalk infrastructure.
(Featured photo by Will Maupin)