Spokane's Best Neighborhoods -
Hipster Rating (out of 10): 5
Predominant Housing Prices:
Ownership: Around $300,000 but with much variance
Rentals: Around $1,000 but with much variance
Housing Density: Low
Mixed Use Rating: Fair
South Hill Neighborhood Description
How does one define and organize the South Hill into a neighborhood? For those familiar with the area, they will be the first to tell you that the South Hill is a collective of neighborhoods with different neighborhood centers, architectural styles, development eras, walkability, and boundaries. For the purposes of ranking Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods, how does one choose between the neighborhoods surrounding Manito or Cannon Hill or Cliff Park or Hutton or Rockwood or High Drive?
It’s a nearly impossible task to rank each of these neighborhoods against each other but, taken together, they are what form the backbone of Spokane’s Best Neighborhoods, otherwise known as the South Hill. It is the preferred destination amongst most locals. Kids on the north side aspire to buy a home on the South Hill when they grow up, and when kids growing up on the South Hill leave home, leave Spokane, in search of something new and exciting only to discover that what they are searching for is a place, a neighborhood, that emulates in every way the best of the South Hill, only to discover there is no comparison, that the bar for neighborhoods was set by running around and riding bikes and walking to school and growing up on the South Hill. That’s when those kids, now adults, come back. And when they return they search for a place on the South Hill that stirs all those nostalgic, warm memories, and they realize they want the same for their children.
Elements that Create Great Neighborhoods
An Identifiable Center
The center of the South Hill is Manito Park, which is so large it provides an orientation point regarding which side of the park one lives on.
Some may wonder why the southern reaches of High Drive and, not to mention, the neighborhoods surrounding Comstock Park are not incorporated into my definition of the South Hill. The answer is actually pretty simple, everything south of 29th just isn’t as good as the neighborhoods I depict on the above map -- less sidewalks, less street trees, and many homes were built during the rancher and split-level rancher era. Additionally, make no mistake, the southern reaches of High Drive beyond 29th is one of the premier residential areas in the city. But those homes and surrounding neighborhoods just aren’t as livable as the neighborhoods north of 29th Avenue, nor do they share the same neighborhood characteristics. Thus, 29th makes for a fine boundary to the south.
On the north side of the South Hill, 14th Avenue is the general dividing line. As one heads toward downtown Spokane, particularly down from 14th, the housing density thickens, as does congestion, thereby everything feels a little different. There’s a few more commercial land uses, and structures grow taller until you reach the boundary of downtown.
To the east is South Perry, and to the west is the steep bluff down to Vinegar Flats.
A Front Door
All of the South Hill’s sub-neighborhoods could use better front doors. There is, however, pretty good signage and old monuments in areas helping to add a sense a place, such as the Olmsted Triangle Parks signage near Hutton and the old basalt monuments leading into Rockwood.
Mixed Land Uses
The bulk of the South Hill’s commercial activity takes place at the intersection of 29th and Grand. For those uses of a higher market caliber, one must travel to Lincoln Heights shopping area. However, both destinations are retail neighborhood centers and regional centers (retail industry terms), respectively, and are vehicle oriented environments.
Mansions, Tudors, cottages, Victorians – if I was well versed on architectural styles, they would all be listed, because the South Hill has ‘em.
Structures that Address the Street
The vast majority of homes on the South Hill open up to street. No place does it better in the city.
Streets that Generally Connect
Most streets connect on the South Hill. Much of the neighborhood is organized around a grid street pattern. However, significant areas exist whereby developers utilized a bit more creativity to create meandering drives and ornate boulevards.
Where the South Hill does not have detached sidewalks, the City of Spokane should spring into action and create them. Otherwise, the majority of the neighborhood has a great pedestrian infrastructure.
The South Hill does this better than any other neighborhood in the City. Rich canopies of street trees line just about every single street.
Although the South Hill lacks for well integrated commercial accessibility, much like Lincoln Park / Altamont, that’s not the product the South Hill is best at being. Chances are you’ll need a vehicle to live on the South Hill, but the trade-off is worth it.
Only two minor challenges face the neighborhood. The first being working to develop the pedestrian infrastructure via ensuring all sidewalks are detached. The second is related to the first: a street tree planting campaign will ensure that, as trees from the old canopy begin to die-off, new ones are already planted and working toward maturation.
(Featured photo by Roman Eugeniusz)