Atlas mill project may expand urban renewal area

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Developing the half mile of riverfront at the former Atlas mill site is among the first issues the city plans to address at its new property west of Riverstone.

At a recent meeting with consultant Welch Comer Engineers, Coeur d’Alene City Council members gave an unofficial nod to the potential expansion of an already existing urban renewal district that would help fund riverfront development.

If that happens, money from the Lake District could be used to extend a paved bicycle path, a gravel walkway and landscaping along the shore of the Spokane River at the former mill site, which remains for the moment as a behemoth gravel pit between Mill River and Riverstone.

Building a parking lot surrounded by greenery and accessed via West Suzanne Road from Riverstone Drive would provide a jumping off point for visitors.

Money from the Lake District, which expires in 2021, has been used for the Kroc Center, Riverstone, McEuen Park, the Parkside tower and the Higher Education Campus.

Expanding the district would fuel development of the riverfront green space and public access, proponents say.

“There’s that piece of window to build that for the public,” council member Kiki Miller said. “The idea is to build that, so the public can use it now, with the forethought that (amenities) can be added.”

As the former Atlas mill site is developed and generates revenue, the riverfront would be tagged for projects that the community, during public meeting sessions, said they wanted to see along the water.

Many of those projects — including a water feature such as a pond, and soccer fields — would sit idly as money-generating projects take precedence.

“It would be great to go in there to spend many millions of dollars right out of the chute, but that’s not possible for the first phase of the project,” Phil Boyd of Welch Comer said.

The first phase will include developing the ¾-mile waterfront from Riverstone to the city property’s western edge for public access, along with residential property sites along the property’s western perimeter, which will be connected with a loop road to the Atlas and Seltice interchange.

The city has also budgeted more than $1 million for riverbank stabilization, which could be partially paid with grant money, freeing up more funding for public amenities.

Plans for the first phase — which will be unveiled this summer — are meant to minimize the cost of infrastructure requirements and maximize development on the western edge to generate money, Boyd said.

“As money comes available, the city can amenitize that property,” he said.

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