I am making my way downtown, walking fast—but it is not because I am homebound. It is getting dark and I feel the need to get back to my car before I get mugged. It may be normal to fear crime while spending time in any city’s downtown, but this is Spokane, “the city with the small town feel.” Certain changes need to happen soon, lest it will be known as “the city with the ghost town feel.”
Spokane’s downtown needs a major overhaul if it wants to keep its college graduates around for long after graduation. As of now, the city is not properly designed to receive the annual influx of graduates from schools including Gonzaga University, Whitworth University and Spokane Community College. Even nearby Eastern Washington University, along with other smaller technical programs, contribute to the wave of fresh-off-the-campus citizens.
The majority of people graduating from college do not stick around the area. Some of the reasons include, but are not limited to, a lack of job opportunities, safety, recreation, transportation and living accommodations.
Some may counter by saying, “Spokane is not Seattle. If you want city living, go to the west side.” I would agree; Spokane should not try to be Seattle, which has enough of its own problems.
But consider this: college graduates need jobs, which means companies need to be available. Even more so, graduates need companies located near their college to help with a smooth transition. Cities often have the highest concentration of businesses, especially companies that recruit college graduates.
Cities must also host the proper amenities to make it worthwhile to live where one wants to work. Easier transportation for foot traffic or by motor (such as bus, train or metro), apartments and other living accommodations located near work, proper places to take clients while they are in town and activities to do to during downtime are also staples of a successful city.
Within the last year, Spokane has taken measures to become a safer community, such as cracking down on violent crimes.
“Violent crimes, such as murder or robbery, have dropped by about 4.9 percent compared to 2012,” Jacob Jones of The Inlander said.
Police are now working on the rising property crime rates. Last year, the city hired a new police chief, who is making progress through interdepartmental shake-ups, Jones said.
However, safety is just a basic necessity. The city needs to be worthwhile as a whole for college graduates to stay. The rewards of Spokane’s downtown do not outweigh the risks. The city needs to emphasize becoming a friendly place for developing companies.
Let the suburbs remain residential, but there is no denying that downtown needs to become a more welcoming environment, one without block after block of empty buildings.
Downtown will thrive if it makes efforts to offer city housing, proper downtown structuring and strong entertainment draws. It needs to develop into a place that college graduates can feel excited about landing after the flurry of university is over.
Claire Hunter Columnist
Contact Claire Hunter at email@example.com