"You'd have thought we moved to the North Pole when we moved to the other side of the freeway."
Lois D'Ewart has lived in the East Central neighborhood since 1960, long enough to remember the Clark's Department Store in the Sprague Business district and that the streets in East Central remained gravel long after those in other neighborhoods were paved. Despite their primitive state, however, East Central streets were dangerously busy and congested before the construction of I-90. There were areas that were simply unsafe for pedestrians, while others were consistently clogged with cars and trucks making their way downtown, to stores on Sprague Avenue, or to and from farms in the Spokane Valley. Like other interviewees, Lois doesn't remember much resistance to construction of the freeway. Most people reacted pragmatically, excited by the prospect of a highway that would take traffic off East Central surface streets. She recalls that "everybody thought it was a good idea at the time."
In retrospect, however, Lois thinks that East Central residents did not fully understand the implications of building a freeway through the center of their neighborhood. It has "split the neighborhood in two," she says, adding that "the north side of the freeway and the south side of the freeway are like two different places." Indeed, there is a sort of simmering tension between the two sides, both of which think the other is getting services it is not. For example, residents of the south side complained bitterly when the City of Spokane moved its Community Officer Police Station (COPS) south of the freeway near Sprague. Likewise, the north side has insisted for years that the city relocate some of East Central's community services, almost all of which are on the south side, north of the freeway. Both sides justify their requests by insisting that residents who need services located on the other side of the freeway "can't get there."
That is not true, of course. While they are not the most direct routes, there are ways to get from one side to the other including a multi-million dollar pedestrian bridge. It does, however, illustrated a tangible and persistent sense of division and alienation that has set in over the years. For many residents of the south side of I-90, it has been easier to move their lives and business up the hill, so while areas like the South Perry District and 29th Street have flourished over the last twenty years, the north side continues to deteriorate.