2021 Awardee – City of Airway Heights Downtown Subarea Plan
The City of Airway Heights is booming. Once a bedroom community next to Fairchild Air Force Base, it’s now the fastest growing city in Spokane County with a 64% increase in population in the last 10 years.
U.S. Highway 2 runs through the heart of downtown, dividing the city in two. The high-speed traffic corridor poses challenges to the nearby community and local businesses, as many of the people driving through are not residents. Airway Heights is home to many of the largest employers in the county, so 95% of people working there commute in, clogging the roads and highway with 30,000 daily car trips.
City leadership knew their city needed a gateway to welcome people to town and encourage them to venture into the community. With the planning commission, professional consulting and community involvement, Airway Heights developed a plan to update commercial zoning and development standards to create a new, mixed-use downtown core. The Downtown Subarea Plan was born.
“The spirit in this community is our community members, our businesses, our residents,” said former Mayor Sonny Weathers. “They’re a deserving population and they’ve gone without for a really long time. So these outcomes matter. They matter to the heart of our community. Communities are more than just a collection of houses.”
The spirit of Airway Heights is welcoming, and the multi-generational community is focused on creating a place to live, work, learn and play for everyone. For too long, the West Plains community has felt forgotten, with cars speeding through on their way to or from other places.
The Downtown Subarea Plan will create a sense of place for Airway Heights. It includes new civic buildings, open courtyards and makers’ spaces. Transition zones will be added along the highway and the designation of a main street will bring visibility and the awareness that people have arrived somewhere special.
Through the years, development has focused on the area bordering the highway, with the residential areas clustered away from the downtown core.Now, the community is poised to add more missing middle housing and enhance mixed-use development in the downtown corridor. Adding more resources, updating infrastructure and filling the gaps in services is central to the plan.
“We need to leave a legacy,” Weathers said. “That’s our responsibility as leaders in the community today –to leave a legacy behind us that sets up our future generations for success.”