The Urban Land Institute (ULI) chose a GeoEngineers project, the City of Spokane’s Riverfront Park Revitalization, as a finalist for its Global Awards for Excellence. ULI is the oldest cross-disciplinary network of land use and real estate experts in the world, and each year it recognizes development projects across the private, public and nonprofit sectors that represent the highest development standards of the profession. Winners are carefully selected from across ULI’s Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific regions. Although not a Global Award winner, Riverfront Park was one of just five Special Mention projects acknowledged by ULI from the field of global finalists.
Historic Riverfront Park is situated along the Spokane River and includes scenic Spokane Falls, but the area wasn’t always a public park. The riverfront was primarily used for industrial activity during the first half of the 20th century, including hydroelectric power generation, manufacturing and commercial use, railroad operations and industrial laundries.
Spokane successfully lobbied to host a World’s Fair (Expo) and redeveloped the industrial area for what would become Expo ’74, but the redevelopment occurred without remediation of industrially impacted soils, and buildings and fill were placed on top of historically contaminated material. After Expo ’74 (ironically, the first environmental-themed world’s fair) Spokane designated the space as a public park.
GeoEngineers’ work on Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington began back in 2014. The City of Spokane planned a bond-funded large-scale revitalization of Riverfront Park and GeoEngineers contracted with the city to provide environmental characterization and remediation services, as well as geotechnical design recommendations for several key features.
Most park revitalization wrapped up in 2021, with a few minor art installations and repair of a pedestrian bridge completed near the year’s end. Major revitalization included construction of an outdoor ice-skating ribbon, new buildings for the historic Looff Carousel and Gondola ride, replacement of a large bridge over the river, installation of a major utility corridor through the center of the park, construction of two playgrounds and a new maintenance facility. In keeping with Pacific Northwest geology, a new 40,000 square-foot playground was built around the theme of ice age floods. It includes a wheel park, splash pad, 10,000 square-foot basketball court and three-story slide tower.
The revitalization also included a ground-up reconfiguration of one of Spokane’s signature skyline features—the Pavilion. The reconfiguration included consolidating and capping more than 30,000 cubic yards of soil in the center of the Pavilion, equipping its cable netting with programmable LED light blades and developing the space as an event center. In 2021, the Pavilion started hosting outdoor music concerts again, including Primus, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Counting Crows, Death Cab for Cutie, Machine Gun Kelly, Louis the Child, Billy Strings and more.
With these changes, and GeoEngineers’ help, Riverfront Park will continue to serve the Spokane community for many years to come.