Spokane's Best Neighborhoods -
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 6
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: Around $250,000
Rental: Around $1,200
Housing Density: Mostly single family homes with spots of multi-family complexes.
Mixed Use Rating: Good
Garland Neighborhood Description
The Garland Neighborhood is anchored by its traditional, historic commercial district, which is quite similar to a small town's Main Street. Of all the neighborhoods on the list, Garland likely has the most potential for improvement. As it stands, Garland is under-performing at number 19 on this list and can easily take strides to crack the top five best neighborhoods in Spokane if active, simple changes are taken to improve the neighborhood.
Located a couple miles north of downtown, Garland's development began mid last century. Its commercial center is approximately three blocks long anchored by the historic Garland Theater. The neighborhood can be characterized as predominately blue collar but with significant hipster potential.
Elements that Create Great Neighborhoods
An Identifiable Center
Garland's neighborhood center is it's best and most distinct quality. Anchored by the old Garland Theater, restaurants, pubs, and small business line the street for about three blocks before fading back into single family homes. Although most of the commercial structures that hug the sidewalk are only one story, the street is narrow enough, and the sidewalks are wide enough, for the visitor to feel proper definition. Of all the neighborhoods on Spokane's Best Neighborhoods list, the Garland Neighborhood has the best center.
Garland's neighborhood boundaries are fairly subtle. The southern boundary is the most distinct as a steep bluff separates Garland from its neighbor to the south. Otherwise, as you travel further and further from the center of the neighborhood, changes in architecture and streetscapes signify that you've transitioned into an adjacent neighborhood.
A Front Door
The Garland Neighborhood does not have a formal front door, which is an opportunity for improvement.
Mixed Land Uses
Garland does well with mixing land uses, particularly the closer you get to the neighborhood center. There are a variety of different housing choices aimed toward different income levels, and there are a variety of different commercial services, all within a 10 minute walk from even the outer reaches of the neighborhood.
The Garland Neighborhood's architectural dynamic isn't the worst in Spokane, nor is it the best. Neighborhood housing is a mix of older craftsmans, split level ranchers, and simple bungalows. Commercial architecture has a few more bright spots, such as the famous Milk Bottle Restaurant on Garland Avenue.
Buildings that Address the Street
Garland's commercial district does a fine job addressing the street. On both ends of the district, however, buildings that front directly to the sidewalks were replaced with buildings that front directly to parking lots. From a residential perspective, most homes in the neighborhood generally address the street (rather than a garage).
The Garland Neighborhood is a mixed bag when it comes to detached sidewalks. Some blocks have them, other blocks don't.
Several streets within the Garland Neighborhood have a great canopy of street trees. However, most streets within the neighborhood have spotty tree cover from random plantings by various property owners.
The Garland Neighborhood will provide most of your needs within a short, walkable distance. Naturally, the further you are from the center, the longer the walk.
For the Garland Neighborhood to take the next step in a positive direction, there are several simple, affordable recommendations. In this writer's mind, step 1 should be improving upon what you already do well. The Garland Neighborhood Center is the most pronounced center in Spokane. Business and property owners might consider forming a business improvement district. This will allow them to organize formally into a governmental entity, establish an annual pool of revenue by which local improvements may be financed, and will largely solidify future decisions about the neighborhood away from City Hall and back where it should be -- with the local businesses and property owners.
A self imposed fee structure need not be too onerous. Start small. A hundred grand a year can go a long way. The tricky part will be to minimize administrative expenses as to maximize revenue for improvements. What those improvements might be, of course, should be dictated by the business and property owners. However, capitalizing on aesthetic trends already occurring is perhaps a good place to start. For instance, many businesses have neon signage displayed in their windows or outside. In the evening, it looks pretty cool and even somewhat artistic. There may be an opportunity to help theme the street with increased neon signage.
Another unique trick to help theme commercial districts is dangling a dense canopy of "Christmas Tree" lights above the street hanging between the buildings, such as they do on Larimer Street in downtown Denver.
Otherwise, funding elevated crosswalks, curb bump-outs, and installing plentiful street furniture are also good, affordable first steps.
In the longer term, a business improvement district could start to work toward attracting new investment to the neighborhood, Specifically, mixed-use development to help fill toothless gaps in the smile. Enticing mixed-use developers will help increase residential density and the business environment for the whole neighborhood.
(Featured photo by Ed Suominen)