Final Downtown Waterfront design nearing completion

Jury reviews Stage 3 changes, plans to deliver last recommendations to council Oct. 18

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The calendar is ticking down to the culmination of the city of Sandpoint’s Downtown Waterfront Design Competition, which envisions a wide range of short- and long-term projects affecting everything from City Beach to Sand Creek, and First Avenue to the Granary District.

Members of the competition jury came together both in person and electronically on Oct. 10 at City Hall to hear a presentation from the design team of GGLO-Bernardo Wills, which the City Council selected as the preferred team among three finalists  in August.

The team highlighted the changes they’d made to their design — referred to as “The Blue Necklace” — based on feedback received from both the jury and council. Those changes fell into 13 broad categories: land use recommendations, balancing ecology with human activity, diversity of housing, bicycle circulation, the “urban tributary,” streetscape hierarchy, year-round us, City Beach circulation, First Avenue Phase 3 downtown revitalization, bridge implementation, overall plan implementation, corrections to the previous draft plan and consultation with area tribes.

The jury met following the Oct. 10 presentation and will deliver its final recommendations to the City Council at its regular Oct. 18 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Sandpoint City Hall Council Chambers, which will mark the conclusion of the competition that began in February.

The team selected to create the final concept in the Sandpoint Downtown Waterfront Design Competition, presented new plans Oct. 10, including changes to City Beach. Courtesy image.

Among the many alterations of the plan that went before the jury Oct. 10 included the recommendation of an expanded historic district overlay zone from Sand Creek to the Granary District — the purpose being to widen protections for existing historic buildings as well as provide a framework for incorporating historic preservation concepts with new construction.

“It’s not transforming the city, but evolving it to meet the growing needs of the city,” said Mark Sindell, of Boise-based GGLO. “How do we protect the existing buildings by having them in the zone?”

A major element of that particular portion of the design is recommending a 55-foot setback for new buildings on the east side of First Avenue with a 55-foot height limit. After 35 feet of height, new construction would have to include a 20-foot setback with the intention of keeping the downtown core from turning into a canyon of tall, unbroken facades.

“[This] provides a significant envelope for development but isn’t out of step with existing buildings,” Sindell said, later adding, “The goal is to be contextually sensitive while setting up ease of future development and creating viewsheds.”

At Sand Creek, the design introduced three more kayak launches at the proposed Cedar Street Terrace adjacent to the Cedar Street Bridge, Farmin’s Landing and near the envisioned site of the Carousel of Smiles on the east bank of the creek south of Bridge Street.

Among the biggest changes to the plan came at City Beach. Among them, the team suggested putting in place berms on the windward side to help reduce the amount of sand that blows off the beach and into the park, as well as adding lawn and picnic areas. Five new pickleball courts would be added next to the tennis courts, though the Snack Shack would be removed and lifeguard facilities relocated to a new pavilion north of the boat launch.

Also at City Beach, the design team reoriented the parking lot east-to-west with car parking to the north and boat parking stalls in the south. The updated plan calls for 245 car stalls, which matches the current number, and 38 boat trailer parking spots, which is an increase of five from the present parking lot.

“Admittedly there might be a little more paving with this than you have currently,” said Dell Hatch, with Spokane-based Bernardo Wills, but the team determined it would result in more efficient traffic circulation.

Disabled parking would be located on the far eastern side of the lot with immediate access to the center of the park, as well as near the non-motorized ADA launch envisioned west of the marina at the southeast portion of the beach.

Traffic would move into the parking lot via an immediate right after the rail overpass with direct access to a turnaround at the boat launch, which would include prepping and tie-down lanes to ease congestion as watercraft are put in and taken out of the water.

Elsewhere in the design concept, the team recommended about 200 workforce housing units be constructed within a 10-minute walking radius of downtown, with locations identified at the current city parking lot and incorporated with an envisioned multi-use parking structure, as well as at the corner of Church Street and Fifth Avenue at the current location of Bizarre Bazaar and another on Fifth Avenue at the America’s Best Value Inn site.

Much discussion was given to a variety of lighting schemes throughout downtown, with the possibility of incorporating seasonal light shows at Sand Creek, as well as plantings of native vegetation from City Beach to First Avenue and along a reimagined “Oak Street Event Corridor” with an expanded Farmin Park at its core — what the designers call “the urban tributary.”

Changes to downtown streets would include more dedicated and shared bike lanes, as well as a roundabout at Superior Street and First Avenue that would serve as a “welcome to Sandpoint” feature extending downtown farther to the south.

Finally, the team offered a few alternatives for how to rebuild the Bridge Street bridge. One option would be to maintain the current bridge while a second is built alongside it (requiring about two and a half years and twice the cost), while another would be to take down the existing bridge and perform reconstruction work while access to the beach is maintained via temporary exits off the U.S. 95 bypass. 

A third option — and one that some jury members preferred — would be to realign the bridge so that it connects directly to the beach entrance from a new intersection on Church Street and First Avenue, though that plan would require building through current private property at the corner of Bridge Street and First.

Don Stastny, a Portland, Ore.-based architect and master planner with whom the city contracted to manage the competition, told the jury, “We’ve got a team that really takes comments and works them in such a way that they’re trying to clarify an overall vision for what this land could be. …

“For the most part it’s workable,” he said, adding that though it’s “not the final answer in a lot of ways,” it’s a “tremendous plan to start working with.”

Find the full GGLO-Bernardo Wills plan, in addition a video recording of the Oct. 10 jury presentation, survey results, schedule and more at

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