11 April 2016

All Mallmanac - River Park Square, Spokane, WA

Poor, poor Spokane. Though not the focus of near as much derision as Tacoma, I’ve heard more than a few people here in the Puget Sound region refer to it as some podunk backwater out in the middle of nowhere. In actuality, the eastern Washington agglomeration is the second largest in the state, and the only metro of real significance in its region. It actually reminds me quite a bit of my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. Within the municipal limits, Spokane is slightly larger, while when looking at consolidated metropolitan areas, Huntsville comes out on top. And while both have skylines much more diminutive than cities their sizes deserve, Spokane does have something that I don’t think the Rocket City will ever have- A vertical downtown shopping mall complete with a Nordstrom.

The three main levels of River Park Square in 2016.

River Park Square is another center located in the urban core of a small to mid-sized city, joining a modest group of peers including Salem Center in Salem, Oregon and Burlington Town Center in Burlington, Vermont. The building held its ribbon cutting in 1974 with an expansion coming in 1978 that included physical links to both a JCPenney and a Nordstrom store, which then joined The Crescent as directly connected anchors. These changes brought River Park Square’s total scope to a respectable 800,000 square feet on three main levels. Before long, another skywalk was built over Wall Street to connect the rest of the facility with The Bon Marché. The mall proved popular and seemed to be successful in luring people back to Spokane’s nucleus despite the presence of its larger, suburban neighbor Northtown Mall.

River Park Square aerial. (Source)

In a story repeated time and time again with these revitalization projects, River Park Square’s good fortune started dissipating sometime in the late eighties into the early nineties. JCPenney relocated to Northtown while Seattle based department store Frederick and Nelson, which had taken over the anchor spot previously occupied by The Crescent, closed all of their stores. The mall limped along through the end of the millennium, but the city, fully aware of the benefits of having a retail anchor in their urban core, embarked on a massive expansion and renovation centered on an enlargement of the lone extant original anchor, Nordstrom.

River Park Square Mallmanac, ca. 2016. View the full PDF version here-
Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3

In 1999, the new and improved River Park Square opened its doors to thousands of eager shoppers. It seems to have remained on its upward trajectory, and remains a popular shopping option in Spokane in spite of additional competition brought on by Spokane Valley Mall in the late nineties. But, with Macy’s on one end (having taken over The Bon Marché’s space in 1997) and Nordstrom on the other, all surrounded by a revitalized central business district, this will hopefully be one of the lucky urban city center malls that we won’t have to say good-bye to, at least not any time soon.

River Park Square Official Website

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