SPOKANE, Wash. — The South Perry District is one of the “it” neighborhoods in Spokane, but it has not always been so “in”.
Yes, the average house in the neighborhood is only on the market for about a month before it is scooped up. Yes, it has a 10 out of 10 hipster rating on the Spokane Planner Blog.
But just about 20 years ago this would not have been the case. It was run down and marred with crime and drugs.
You cannot discuss the Perry District’s revival without mentioning The Shop coffee shop. Located just south of Ninth and Perry Streets, it is the local watering hole for those who live and work in the Perry District.
Years ago, people went into the former transmission repair shop to get their car fixed, now people go to get their caffeine fix.
In 1994, Mark Camp started the renting the building for just $200 a month. It housed his welding work. In 1999, Camp decided to begin a new endeavor and turn the building into The Shop.
“I just thought it would be good for the neighborhood and a good place to have a shop and people said I was crazy,” Camp said.
It might have seemed like a wild idea back then, after all the Perry District was not the best the neighborhood. Camp said it was rough as he gestured toward the door with a bullet hole still in it.
“It was classified as low income, but really I think it was a transition neighborhood,” Camp said.
Camp and other business owners saw the Perry District’s true potential and got to work. They sought out grant money to beautify the district and make it safer and held community events like farmers markets and movie screenings.
“I just felt like it was a good place to try to revitalize and there’s all this infrastructure,” Camp said. “We did everything we could to put ourselves on the map and create energy in the neighborhood.”
Camp eventually sold The Shop coffee shop, but he still owns the building and the old pharmacy building that now houses Casper Fry.
Their efforts eventually attracted new restaurateurs and retailers. The Perry District quickly became an “it” neighborhood in Spokane, and that did not go unnoticed.
In the last three years, housing prices have gone up 21 percent in the Perry District as the neighborhood gained more attention.
Ron McIntire, owner of Choice Realty in Spokane, said the average home price is about $200,000, which is still less than the country wide average of $266,000. He said there is a wide range of price levels throughout the district.
“So there is some room there if you find a home that needs some love. Perry is very active, a lot of investors have been buying in Perry. The least expensive purchase last year was about $80,000 and the most expensive at the upper end of Perry is in the 350, 360 range,” McIntire said.
Melissa Stewart lives and works in the Perry District now after spending years on the west side.
“When I was in high school this was not a great part of town and it was really nice to come back to Spokane and realize ‘oh hey’ this is beautiful now,” Stewart said.
Stewart said she is happy with the progress that has been made to clean up the area and make it more inviting. But she said the effects of the revitalization have not always been positive.
“I have seen the bad side of that too as far as people being priced out of the neighborhood that they have been living in for 20, 30 years,” Stewart said.
This neighborhood like so many has had its growing pains over the years. Through the challenges and changes the Perry District has come a long way in serving the people who live, work and play there.