The atmosphere at City Hall may have changed, but the presentation about a vision for a thriving civic center rang with a familiar theme when Matt Jacoby spoke before the Liberty Lake City Council on Tuesday night.
Jacoby, an associate with Bernardo Wills Architects, first pitched the plan for a community hub back in 2007. In April 2008, Liberty Lake ran a $9.8 million capital facilities bond that would have funded a new library and city center on 6.4 acres of city-owned land. The initiative – which would have also included features like an ampitheatre, landscaping and pedestrian amenities – failed by a resounding 61-percent margin.
Since then, talk of developing the property has been minimal.
That changed when Steve Peterson returned to the mayor’s office in January after a four-year hiatus. At his first meeting on Jan. 3, Peterson enthusiastically introduced an idea to restore the civic center notion, describing it as one of the priorities of his new administration.
“Hopefully, this will someday house a community center,” the mayor said.
On Tuesday, Jacoby dusted off the schematics from the original design, concentrating on the first phase of the project that would add 40 to 45 parking spaces to the Spokane Transit Authority parking lot to the south of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market and add improvements to the curbside along Meadowwood Lane.
“This land has great potential,” Jacoby said.
Peterson has emphasized that the initial upgrade would be a boon to the farmers market, a community staple since 2001 that typically draws around 3,000 visitors each Saturday from May through autumn.
Jacoby also discussed additional phases of the project on Tuesday, including construction of a park that would lead to a new library and community center. A community garden, fountain, sidewalks and a founder’s wall – featuring an ode to the history of Liberty Lake – were also mentioned.
The final phase recalls the ambition of Spokane Valley’s Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan with a conglomeration of mixed used buildings, from retail sites to restaurants.
“Our vision really hasn’t changed for this being the center of town,” Peterson said.
Bob Moore, chairman of the Liberty Lake Planning Commission, chimed in toward the end of Jacoby’s presentation, noting that city officials told his board a year ago that the civic center proposal was “a low priority.”
Moore went on to say that Peterson’s reintroduction of the idea had led to a review of the design and “looking at the priority of this as far as capital expenditures are concerned.”
Currently, the 6.4 acres is not included in the city’s capital facilities plan, a fact reiterated by Community Development Director Doug Smith on Tuesday. Council Member Josh Beckett, who ran for mayor against Peterson in the November general election, brought up the construction timeline for the first level of improvements, noting that Smith indicated that an upgrade of the capital facilities plan would not be completed until April at the earliest.
Smith did observe that the first phase of the project could be left off the capital facilities roster if financed through money from the general fund, but added it would need to be added to the plan if drawing from the city’s real estate excise tax.