"Some of the residential that was left wasn't worth saving. Probably the best homes are still left here."

The lasting effects of the construction of the I-90 freeway were not all bad, according to Bill and Doug Trudeau. Both long-time East Central business owners (Bill since the 1940s and Doug since the 1980s), they remember the neighborhood as a run-down residential area prior to the 1960s, and they are right. By the time the freeway was built, East Central had been in decline for several decades, especially the northern part that lay just east of Trent avenue on the outskirts of the city. If the federal government's buy-out of the lowest-value homes for the I-90 right-of-way resulted in further deterioration of the part of the neighborhood located north of it, it also had a sort of gentrifying effect on much of the housing south of the several blocks directly adjacent.

East Central prospered in other ways as well. The character of the area north of the freeway subsequently changed from low-income residential to light-industrial. According to Doug and Bill it has become, over time, "one of the most productive business areas in Spokane" boasting as many as 1,100 small and mid-size companies generating more revenue (and paying more taxes) than East Central businesses had before. Because commercial properties were several times less expensive than those in the Spokane city core, new business owners moved in and began to buy up and either demolish or make improvements to residential properties as well. Doug, for example, recalls removing as many as five properties that were operated by "slumlords." While the I-90 may have disrupted social networks within the community, for East Central business owners the net result has been a safer neighborhood more conducive to their interests. They, in turn, have formed the East Central Business Association, which has advocated for more and better services from the city. To Bill, Doug, and others, this is part of an upward trajectory that points to a greater future for the whole neighborhood.



Audio File 1
View File Record