Big Picture: A walk in the park

November 9, 2016 -  By

Location: Huntington Park, Spokane, Wash.
Company: Land Expressions
Photo credit: Dean Davis, James Richman, John D. Moore, Isaacson Aerial Photography and Kathy Swehla

Avista Utilities tapped Land Expressions to refresh the Huntington Park area in Spokane and add a plaza. The plaza is on city land, and city officials sacrificed their parking lot for the space. The utility company owns Huntington Park, which exists within a power-generating facility on the Spokane River.

The plaza was to be used as an event space for city hall and community activities, art projects and public gatherings. The park, which was overgrown prior to renovation, was designed to provide riverside access and to educate the public about the geology and the history of the river. Construction went on through the winter to meet an 18-month deadline for Avista’s 125th anniversary.

Working with both the utility company and city officials, the firm changed a major downtown thoroughfare to a one-way street, reduced road width and installed a mid-block crosswalk to connect Riverfront Park, the new plaza and park and the river. To accommodate the elevation change and access while addressing the removal of 2,000 cubic yards of contaminates, large multifunctional terraces were designed in the plaza, which is known as the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place.

This project earned Land Expressions a Grand Award last year from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.


The landscape site plan.


Prior to renovation, Huntington Park was overgrown and generally inaccessible. Design constraints included the Gondola (shown) from Expo 74 World’s Fair.


The entire project: Spokane Tribal Gathering Place, Huntington Park on the Spokane River and the new landscaping of the Washington Water Power Building, which is on the National Historic Register.


The Spokane Tribal Gathering Place boasts two water features, a fire feature, event space, scenic overlooks, interpretive signage and dramatic views of the park, river gorge and lower falls.


Spokane’s City Hall parking lot was demolished to make way for the Gathering Place plaza.


The team demolished the parking lot, removed overgrown trees and lowered the grade to 14 ft. below the parking lot grade by installing terraced plaza spaces.


Unique plantings, furnishings and lighting alert pedestrians and vehicles as they navigate the crossing. Rain gardens were installed to reduce street runoff.


The steel structure “Gas Works,” designed by Land Expressions, is testament to the natural gas service that has helped build Spokane and funded the construction of the plaza and park.


The client added both water features after most of the concrete had been poured.


The Weir water feature, made of concrete and native stone, reflects the connection between the city and the Spokane River’s Lower Falls.


Several flights of stairs with multiple terraces allow pedestrian access from plaza to park. An overlook with prime views was added for wheelchair access.


Below the plaza, Huntington Park, on the river’s edge, is a functioning hydroelectric facility. Lighting became a major component for safety, security and aesthetics.


“Water Works” is a steel arbor that measures 25 feet long by 18 feet tall.


The Washington Water Power Building, included in the National Register of Historic Places, is the backdrop for newly renovated Huntington Park.

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