East Sprague neighborhood rebrands as 'Sprague Union District'

City accelerates work on streetscape improvements

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As the city ramps up its improvements to East Sprague, businesses in the area want to move away from the "East Sprague" name altogether.

From now on, they want you to call it "Sprague Union D
Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof in the newly dubbed Sprague Union District. - WILSON CRISCIONE
  • Wilson Criscione
  • Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof in the newly dubbed Sprague Union District.
istrict."

The new name came by popular vote of business owners and neighbors of the area, says Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof furniture store on East Sprague and a member of the East Spokane Business Association. The businesses are now in the process of creating a trademark, coinciding with city construction to improve the East Sprague streetscape.

The hope is that this name change goes better than the most recent time businesses around East Sprague tried to brand themselves, when they pushed to be called the "International District" in an effort to build up more international businesses.

"It didn't seem to work. It didn't catch on," Hanley says.

ESBA ran a survey asking local business owners and residents what they should name the district that encompasses the area from the Hamilton Street Bridge to a little bit east of Freya Street, and they came up with Sprague Union District. The name stems from the area being called Union Park in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when it was a factory section of the city, with working-class citizens and immigrants.

Hanley says referring to the area as East Sprague is too broad, and could refer to anywhere from downtown Spokane to parts of Spokane Valley. He says the reputation of East Sprague referring to a hub for prostitution was considered in the name change, though he says that prostitution hasn't been a problem there for a couple of years.

Yesterday, the city announced its East Sprague project should be complete by August, instead of September as originally planned. The first phase of construction from Helena to Stone streets began on April 3. The second phase, from just west of Napa to west of Helena, is set to begin on May 22 (it was originally supposed to start in late June).

"That's totally going to change the complexion of this neighborhood," Hanley says.

Farther west, the development of the University District is continuing, and the University District Gateway Bridge will help connect the Sprague Union District to the University District. The improvements, as the Inlander wrote last month, are already bringing a wave of development to the area, and some are comparing the transformation to that of Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

"I'm looking out my window [at the Tin Roof], and I'm seeing a $5 million apartment complex being built. I look out the other window and see another new $5 million office building," Hanley says. "So this has brought a lot of attention to our area."

Hanley says businesses will be marketing the name change to Sprague Union District in ads for newspapers and local events.

"We'll have new streets, new lighting, new hanging pots, a new name and a new trademark," Hanley says.