Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You can say what you want about her and it's all true. Betsey Cowles in the Cruella of the downtown business community here in The 'Kan. She's the central figure in the draconian conspiracy locally known as Riverpark Square. I could be wrong but I don't believe she'll experience redemption in her lifetime or mine for her dastardly deeds as an evil, corporate greedmeister who ripped off the taxpayers of the city in the biggest scam ever. Did I get it all in? Surely I said it all, right? Good. Now shut it. No more.

You can say you want about her and it's all true. But you also have to give her credit for single-handedly reviving downtown Spokane. From the porte-cochere of the Davenport Hotel to the front door of Riverpark Square, Post Street is a whirlwind of activity, including the street kids and people waiting for the bus, well-heeled tourists, lawyers and bankers, girlfriends out for lunch, couples meeting for martinis and all kinds of other people on various and sundry missions. Buses chug back and forth through the downtown bringing and taking people back and forth to home, work and outward points. Where did the renaissance of Post Street come from?

Riverpark Square. Riverpark Square begat the Davenport Hotel, which in turn begat the Bing Crosby Theatre, which in turn begat the Fox Theatre, which in turn begat Barbieri's condo project, which in turn begat all kinds of new and terrific restaurants, which begat new indie dress and accessory shops, which is generating all kinds of new retail and service activities too numerous to mention. Look at how the banks in this town have gone to town since Riverpark Square opened their doors. How many beautiful bank buildings in downtown now? Let me help: Washington Trust, utterly classic 70's architecture, beautiful and timeless; Bank of America, granite and escalator wonder. Sterling Savings, perhaps a misstep but a hallmark of masonry accomplishment nonetheless; Bank of Whitman, noble and classic, Global Credit Union, snappy and edgy. All creating a diverse and interesting skyscape in downtown and filling empty storefronts where formerly some of the less purposeful pedestrians here in The 'Kan used to spit and urinate.

Which brings me to my second point about Betsey Cowles. Call her what you want; accuse her of anything. But you can't deny she builds beautiful buildings. Riverpark Square is utterly charming and a surprising departure from urban mallscape. The Cowles condo project on the corner of Main and Post is complimentary to the mall, yet strikes its own note on the skyscape and holds it. The integrity of downtown took a giant step forward when Ms. Cowles relocated the NBC affiliate television station downtown and build a pleasing, lovely studio on West Sprague. The Cowles Publishing modernization project features exquisite bronze busts of city pioneers here in The 'Kan EWA and it's always fun, every time, to walk up the sidewalk and look into their faces.

Betsey Cowles builds beautiful buildings and her projects contrast sharply to projects in urban areas of Puget Sound and others across the stateline in my hometown of Coeur d'Alene. No tilt-up masonry for Betsey Cowles. She puts in gorgeous projects that have put people on the streets again. She has crafted an environment that brings people together for a variety of reasons. She has breathed life into a downtown that was headed down the path to outlets, trinket stores, and fast food. Ultimately, it looks like to me that history will treat Betsey Cowles favorably; heck, Stacey's grandkids will probably have to strike a new bronze bust for the pioneer collection--of Betsey.

The 'Kan EWA


toadman said...

Yeah.. but does she make Dalmations into coats? That's just evil. is important for a town to have a town father (or, mother, in this case). Someone who will be beneficial to the community, even if they do it for selfish reasons. Oft times people with that much dispensable cash will do something for themselves, that ends up benefiting us all...until it doesn't. It's a delicate dance. We sometimes feel like we're at her whim. Her pawns. We fear making suggestions lest she pull her purse strings tighter.

But it's a dance that Spokane has seemingly done well, so far. Even since we moved here in 2003, downtown has gotten better. I like revitalized downtowns. I like 19th century architecture that's been refurbished, and refilled, and made useful again (read that "The Steam Plant Office Space is cool, even if the restaurant is mediocre.").

All in all, we love and hate the people that make our lives better. Why? Because; (one)we can't let them forget that we're here, and that we matter just as much as they do, and (two) also appreciate what they do, and want them to continue to do long as they remember number one.

Phil said...

I'm not that familiar with most of downtown now, but I remember it well when we'd come up from Moscow in the late 80's and early 90's. Not pedestrian friendly, and kinda scary in places.

When we come into the city these days, it's usually to the Arena or Riverpark Square. I find the Square to be extremely impressive, and a fun place to take the kids (Mobius, especially). We like to then walk across to the park and the carousel.

Most of Spokane remains something of a mystery to me, which is funny because it's where my wife works. But even I can tell that things have improved dramatically over the last twenty years.

PDX Pup said...

Plus, Betsey and her family were always generous tippers to their paper-carrier, circa 1989-1993. ;)

green libertarian said...


Shirley, you jest.

See Ron Wells, etc.

While DT revitalization is important, scamming the Spokane taxpayers out of $15-20M in a state that is VERY restrictive of tax-payer money going for private benefit, may be good for major DT property owners like the Cowles Gang, and some others, but it's still WRONG.

As was Avista's denial of responsibility for the bunker oil problem, until taken to task by Shari and some other dedicated citizen activists, including a good friend of mine who's a hydro-geologist.

The RPS fiasco once again soured the public on "good government", and showed that "crony government" is the order of the day.

Sad, that.