Although it is a bit out of sight due to the elevation of Seltice Way, many people may have noticed the construction activities going on along the Spokane River between the U.S. Bank Call Center to the West, and the Atlas Mill development to the East.
River’s Edge is a multi-family residential development, and, as currently approved, will include 384 apartment units, 28 single-family homes, and a public storage facility. Right now, River’s Edge is preparing a rezoning application which it will submit to the City of Coeur d’Alene in the coming months.
The new proposal seeks to have the parcel rezoned. Part of this rezoning plan would allow for higher density apartment homes in the area currently slated for the public storage facility. The new plan would also eliminate the 28 waterfront homes to build apartment homes along the riverfront part of the parcel. However, the riverfront construction would be set 80 feet back from the river (the current set-back is 40 feet), and also create a 40-foot wide public access area along the riverfront to provide a scenic walking/biking trail, as well as accommodations for beach access, picnic tables, and seating areas.
The River’s Edge development is just one of the many recent changes to this part of Coeur d’Alene. A great deal of construction has been taking place in this whole riverfront area for a while, but development has really taken hold primarily in the last five years. Properties like Bellerive, Riverstone, Atlas Mill, and Mill River have transformed this area of Coeur d’Alene from a rather messy-looking river embankment into a somewhat swanky residential area, mostly with high-end houses, but also with some upscale restaurants and fashionable shops in Riverstone.
If you have not been a long-time resident of Coeur d’Alene, this might seem like a perfectly natural way to use this beautiful riverfront area, and some might even wonder why this part of the river was not used for residential purposes before, given its sweeping views and the obvious attraction of the river for recreation. But longtime residents know that, only two decades ago, this whole area was the site of one of the county’s oldest businesses: the Atlas Tie lumber mill.
The History of the Spokane Riverfront
Before Coeur d’Alene became a fashionable tourist and resort destination, it was a rustic lumber town. The whole area is surrounded by wooded mountains, and Lake Coeur d’Alene and all the rivers feeding into it provided a natural highway for transporting logs. About a mile and a half down the Spokane River, in 1909, Marcus Wright established the Atlas Tie Company, whose primary business was cutting the logs to supply railroad ties to the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Over the years, the lumber mill shifted away from railroad ties to other wood products. The Atlas Mill became part of Idaho Forest Industries, and was ultimately purchased by Stimson Lumber in 2000. The mill turned out siding, trim, decking, and fencing from local pine and cedar forests. However, when the construction market shifted away from wood to vinyl and composite materials for these products, the mill steadily lost business until, in 2005, Stimson decided to shut it down. The mill closed at the end of 2005, putting 120 mill employees out of work. And for several years afterward, the property remained vacant.
The Future of River’s Edge
There are several remnants of the mill site remaining, including numerous piers and posts on the Coeur d’Alene side of the river. And, of course, the mill is commemorated in the names of “Mill River” and “Atlas Mill Park.” Someday, people will probably use these names just as a matter of habit, never fully recognizing that the property was, in fact, the site of a lumber mill. In many ways, the character of the area has changed so much in the last few years that it already seems a bit odd.
This unusual shift from the slower-paced rural atmosphere of Coeur d’Alene’s past to the resort and retirement destination it has become, can be a bit jarring – particularly if you chose to live in sparsely populated northern Idaho to get away from crowds. But the shift is a fortunate trade-off for the welfare of the area. For many communities across the country, the closing down of a lumber mill or other local manufacturing facility can be economically devastating, but Coeur d’Alene has been able to weather the closing down of the mill well, precisely because it does offer so many opportunities for recreation, and has so much appeal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The River’s Edge development seeks to make the most of the site by providing attractive affordable housing opportunities for young residents starting out and for newcomers who are wanting to settle in the area. By adding a riverfront esplanade, River’s Edge hopes that local residents will be encouraged to participate in the life of the River’s Edge community. Unlike many of the other riverfront developments, River’s Edge makes riverfront living available to more than just the wealthy. Coeur d’Alene citizens will be able to enjoy life on the Spokane River and all the recreational and economic opportunities that the area has to offer.
For more information about River’s Edge development and the proposed rezoning request, please review the maps and details on our website. We would welcome your thoughts, and hope you will support the changes we are proposing.