Finalists present their concepts for downtown waterfront design competition

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

After nearly six months, the city of Sandpoint is getting close to identifying a finalist in its downtown waterfront design competition, which kicked off in late-February when the City Council voted to invite eligible teams to submit proposals for redevelopment of Sand Creek and City Beach, as well as inform the Comprehensive Plan update and future zoning and code changes.

City officials meet with the public at Farmin Park Aug. 5. Photo by Soncirey Mitchell.

Since then, the competition has progressed through its first stage and most of the second phase, arriving at three finalist teams. From those, one will be selected by a jury after public presentations at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The winning team will then present to the City Council at a date to be determined, after which the design will be further vetted and modified — potentially even incorporating elements from other teams’ concepts.

The three finalists include:

• Team A: Skylab, PLACE, KPFF, PAE & LUMA, Brightworks and ECONorthwest; 

• Team B: First Forty Feet, Greenworks, Fehr & Peers, Century West Engineering and North Root Architecture; 

• Team C: GGLO + Bernardo Wills, Welch Comer, Greg Moller, Erin Blue and Sarah Thompson Moore.

Team A will present its proposal Aug. 15 at 11 a.m., followed by Team B at 1:30 p.m. and Team C at 3:30 p.m. All the presentations will take place in person at City Hall (1123 Lake St.) and be available virtually by following the links at under “News & Announcements.”

In the meantime, all three proposals — including visuals and supporting documents — are available on the city’s website and boards depicting the concepts will be on display in the City Hall council chambers Thursday, Aug. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 11 from 9 a.m. to noon, as well as Saturday, Aug. 12 at the Jeff Jones Square east of Farmin Park on Third Avenue and Main Street from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton will also be on hand to answer questions and gather feedback.

An original design report from each team is also available from the reference desk at the East Bonner County Library Sandpoint branch (1407 Cedar St.).

Other opportunities for community participation include a survey, which is open until noon on Monday, Aug. 14 and available at

Team A: Skylab

This concept focuses on the downtown watershed, envisioning a corridor of redevelopment from the Granary District to Sand Creek and the beach. That includes a daylight stormwater treatment system that would result in a creek running from a “source” at the Jeff Jones Square through reimagined pedestrian-only “re-wilding blocks” along Main and Oak streets filled with trees and other vegetation — and flanked by multi-story mixed-use redevelopment at the current city parking lot — before spilling out into Sand Creek over a constructed waterfall.

The “source” would form a centerpiece for events surrounding Farmin Park — which would also be home to the Carousel of Smiles — and during winter would serve as an ice skating rink. 

Along the waterfront would be floating wetlands, numerous docks, a floating screen for projecting movies and an observation tower providing views of the lake to the east and downtown to the west. 

Team A proposes a bladder dam at the mouth of Sand Creek, near the railroad and byway overpass, that would keep water levels in Sand Creek at full pool level year round.

City Beach would feature much expanded parking and features including pickleball courts, a floating spa, floating surf pool, enclosed family swimming area, event spaces, a new playground and space for a cafe near an enlarged moorage area on the south side of the beach.

Skylab’s plan also proposes a mining-themed underpass with interpretive information about the area’s mineral extraction history through which pedestrians and motorists alike would access City Beach from Bridge Street.

Team B: First Forty Feet

The team led by First Forty Feet envisions waterfront redevelopment beginning in the vicinity of Farmin Park, with Main and Oak streets serving as curbless “festival streets” shaded by a canopy of trees and leading pedestrians and bicyclists — the latter benefiting from a protected bikeway — east toward Sand Creek. 

There, the entrance to the waterway would be through a plaza flanked by mixed-use redevelopment at the current Zero Point and A&P’s locations on First Avenue — south of the Panida Theater — and marked by sculptural gate-like elements extending into the watercourse on constructed berms. 

The berms are intended to serve as “wetland flux zones,” connected in places by stepping stones. During the winter, when water levels drop, Team B envisions snowsports activities such as cross-country skiing in and around Sand Creek over trails and pathways.

Overall, the First Forty Feet team approaches waterfront redevelopment with First Avenue and Main Street as a “hinge” connecting Farmin Park to Sand Creek.

At City Beach, the concept includes expanded parking as well as a regional playground, relocated sand volleyball court, new boat launch and enlarged boat access on the south side of the beach; a hardscape/event space and stage area alongside an amphitheater in the center of the park; a location for the Carousel of Smiles; and — notably — a large circular boardwalk encompassing the swimming area on the east side of the beach with a promenade for fair and market activities, concessions and a protected swimming/sunbathing lagoon.

Team C: GGLO

The third team in the competition embraces a concept it calls “The Blue Necklace,” defined as “a uniting thread that ties together the many jewels of Sandpoint,” from the Granary District to City Beach.

The design includes building out Farmin Park to include an “event corridor” on Oak Street leading to Main Street and into an “arts and culture district” on Second Avenue near new mixed-use development and a public parking structure at the current Sandpoint city parking lot. 

A new intersection at First Avenue and Bridge Street would enable angled street parking to the south and a First Avenue “gateway” with sculptural elements and signage pointing the way to downtown and City Beach.

Team C’s vision emphasizes mixed-use development along the west bank of Sand Creek, though fronted with vegetative plantings to restore the riparian habitat while refurbishing Farmin’s Landing and establishing a terrace at Cedar Street featuring public space and plantings, along with the potential location for a small restaurant.

The most dramatic element of Team C’s vision for Sand Creek includes a reconstructed bridge with large vertical elements evoking a suspension structure, over which vehicles would travel while a second route beneath the roadway would be reserved for pedestrians.

The Carousel of Smiles would be located adjacent to the existing parking area on the east side of Sand Creek. 

At City Beach, the GGLO-led team expands parking, moorage and launches for both motorized and non-motorized watercraft, and also proposes a nature playscape on the northern portion of the park with a nearby “ice ribbon/roller sports course.” The center of the park would be given over to a “great lawn” with an event pavilion to the west; tennis and pickleball courts to the south; sand volleyball courts to the east; and a native pollinator meadow, community forest, picnic pavilions and a native landscape plantings on the point to the southeast.

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