Eyes on East Sherman

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Envision East Sherman Strategy Workshop

The community is invited to attend a workshop Tuesday and provide input on efforts to improve the East Sherman corridor. Input will be included in a master plan set to be unveiled this year. The workshop from 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 13 in the Library Community Room at 702 E. Front Ave. will be an interactive event that builds on input already provided by the community. Food and beverages will be provided.

Tuesday’s meeting will be followed by an additional opportunity for input the week of April 16, according to the city, when consultants will focus on the design of the corridor. Stay tuned.

To further the East Sherman improvement efforts, the city of Coeur d’Alene recently received a grant for technical assistance from Community Builders to complete the East Sherman Master Plan. The grant, valued at $90,000 including the city’s match, was written by CDA 2030 and the city’s planning department. Community Builders is a nonprofit that assists western communities with land use, transportation and economic development issues by providing training, research, and webinars.

The morning sun makes long shadows on Coeur d’Alene’s East Sherman Avenue.

It is cold still, almost spring, and most of the businesses aren’t open yet at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. The broad street, once a market center, seems to yawn.

Traffic — cars, pedestrians, joggers, a bicycler — travels past gas stations and convenience stores, music stores, taverns, cafes, restaurants, shuttered filling stations, martial arts dojos, closed down eateries, empty buildings, business plazas and auto repair shops.

From the 11th Street light east to the interstate, a distance of less than a mile, the wide street drearily passes a plethora of motels, some of them used as halfway and boarding houses for probationers and parolees.

This is a section of an otherwise chamber of commerce postcard community that needs an uptick, residents say.

And the city of Coeur d’Alene agrees.

For the past three years the city, stakeholders and community members have met, discussed, hired consultants and generally laid out their wish list — and a list of necessities — they think can help revert the city’s East Sherman corridor from being an afterthought to becoming part of the city’s main attraction.

A public workshop set between 5:30 and 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Community Room will give community members an opportunity to provide further feedback on a draft version of upgrades outlined for the corridor.

The potential upgrades have been hashed out in similar meetings over the years, but Tuesday’s meeting will be different.

“We’re in the final phase of the master plan,” city planner Hilary Anderson said. “This is an opportunity for community members to revalidate what we heard already. This is really finding out from our community members are we stating what the vision is.”

Fifteen items that include safety features, aesthetics and restructuring of the street lanes will be re-evaluated.

A grant and city match of $90,000 help will pay for the final design after the city gathers additional community input at Tuesday’s meeting.

The upgrades will encompass the main thoroughfare and a one- or two-block neighborhood zone on the north and south side of Sherman Avenue.

It’s where Greg Johnson lives, two blocks off Sherman on Mullan Avenue.

Johnson, a cashier at Lakeside Harvest Foods on the 1200 block of Sherman Avenue, stands behind a register wearing shades because the morning sunlight through the store windows is blindingly bright.

He likes this part of town, in part because he’s used to it, Johnson said. But he sees room for improvement.

In a lot of places in his neighborhood the sidewalks are twisted and broken; some blocks don’t have sidewalks at all.

“They are terrible,” Johnson said.

Refurbishing the neighborhood sidewalks and making them handicap-accessible would be a good start, he said. And Sherman Avenue could use more crosswalks.

“There is a lot of pedestrian traffic, so that would help,” he said.

Six blocks up the street, Jordan Smith has known the neighborhood his entire life. Smith, of Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service, established on the 1800 block 35 years ago, has a lot of ideas of how upgrades should look. He has participated in the East Sherman corridor meetings since they began.

His ideas start with pride of ownership and investment, he said.

“If business owners would invest some of their own money, and do remodels,” Smith said.

Some of the buildings on the corridor, the old ones that have stood empty for years, should be razed, he said. Two buildings near his have been a hangout for area homeless.

Fins and Feathers did a remodel and expansion 15 years ago.

“Nobody wants to come down here, on this side (of town) it seems like,” he said. “Some people don’t come down here because they don’t feel safe.”

Coeur d’Alene police have a substation in a former business plaza at the 11th Street intersection.

He wonders why the former gateway to Coeur d’Alene — 50 years ago, this part of Sherman Avenue was a city mainstay that included car dealerships and hardware stores — is stigmatized.

“Why do they call it East Sherman?” he asks. “They don’t call downtown West Sherman.”

Smith has watched businesses come and go on the corridor.

“We’re still here,” he said.

And he’ll be at Tuesday’s workshop.

Once the community stakeholders and residents give the stamp of approval to the improvements and the city council endorses them, Anderson said, the next step is to find ways to implement the plans.

“The endgame is to encourage more reinvestment of the corridor,” Anderson said. “To help beautify it, to encourage those who already own properties to feel like they’re comfortable putting more money into … new projects, improve safety … that’s a lot of it. It’s also an important gateway to the city and currently it’s not as vibrant as it once was.”

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