Friday, December 08, 2023

Sandpoint 2.0: A vision of the future

Staff Writer | October 8, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Armed with input from the public, city officials, and Sandpoint's Waterfront Design Competition jury, the winning design firm will unveil its revised vision for the city's downtown next week.

The "Blue Necklace" design was designed by GGLO/Bernardo Wills to unite "the thread that ties together the many jewels of Sandpoint — a physical connection that weaves from the Granary District in the west to the tip of the sandy point at City Beach.”

The design includes rewilding the Sand Creek corridor, improvements to City Beach, the addition of native plants, artwork, and interpretive displays, and expansion of Farmin Park, among other projects.

"Sandpoint is a remarkable place," team officials said in a press kit about their original design. "The combination of majestic mountain scenery, fresh waters and sandy beaches, a thriving arts culture, and a charming historic downtown make it truly the gem of the north."

The presentation offers a chance to see GGLO/Bernardo Wills' revised presentation. The selected design team and jury will be participating electronically, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said.

The presentation will take place Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be open to the public for in-person viewing in City Council Chambers at Sandpoint City Hall, 1123 Lake St., or online at

As a team comprised of both "long-time residents and admiring visitors, GGLO officials said the team's goal was to amplify and enhance the city's existing qualities, "reinforcing what Sandpoint already is rather than forcing an alternate vision of what it should be. We think of this plan as the polishing of the gem so Sandpoint shines even clearer."

The "necklace" — a trail of blue camas flowers and native meadow grasses — would be interspersed with artwork and interpretive displays to guide residents and visitors alike on their journey in the city. That might be a drink in the Granary District's refurbished industrial core or a community gathering at an expanded Farmin Park. Or, it might just be a performance in an arts and culture district centered around the city's Second Avenue or an afternoon at City Beach.

"At each turn, Sandpoint’s unique combination of comfortable community living surrounded by scenic natural beauty is on clear display," team officials said.

In the vision presented to the community during the project's second stage, GGLO/Bernardo Wills' design calls for an expanded Farmin Park. While the pavilion would remain unchanged, streetscape enhancements would create more space for markets and community events. The long-term plan calls for a new, retail-supported public parking deck at Third and Pine to make it easy to access the downtown.

Closer to City Beach, the problematic First and Bridge intersection would be improved. The plan also calls for a new entry gateway inspired by a sturgeon-nose canoe's cedar support to be built in the area.

Plans for the Sand Creek corridor include the addition of an expanded boardwalk system, creek-facing business fronts, a restored riparian habitat, the addition of the Carousel of Smiles, and an iconic new bridge.

South of the Cedar Street Bridge, the plan envisions a street-level plaza transitioning to steps and cascading planters to invite people to the water’s edge at Sand Creek.

The new crossing at Bridge Street would add another landmark bridge and separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic by raising the roadway to allow pedestrian paths to cross underneath. Pedestrian safety improvements and an artistic light installation at the Bridge Street underpass enhance the approach to City Beach, team officials said.

Enhancements at City Beach rewild the landscape while simultaneously adding new programs and year-round attractions, team officials said in their proposed design.

A community forest would be added to the town side of the park, while the lakefront edge would see the addition of meadow grasses that deter geese while allowing expansive lake and mountain views. Current recreational offerings would remain at City Beach, while a nature playscape, swim dock, events stage, great lawn, and ice ribbon would be added.

"The Blue Necklace’s camas path culminates at the rewilded point of City Beach, where shoreline meadow grasses encircle a small clearing where inhabitants can experience the landscape as the first people found it — quiet, untamed, and with an expansive view of the great wilderness that surrounds," GGLO/Bernardo Wills said in the presentation.

In selecting GGLO/Bernardo Wills, city officials said the community's wishes of what they wanted their community to be and look like played a significant role in the decision.

“We have heard from the community over the past several couple years online, in person at council meetings, through calls into the office, and in discussions between staff and the council that the public is concerned about the private development that is occurring and that that private development in our downtown core especially does not reflect the historic character and feel of our community," Stapleton said at the time of the team's selection as a finalist. "The way that you influence private design is by creating a master plan for your downtown, putting forth that vision, and then implementing that vision through code changes. This is very much in response to input from the public with concern about private development. We need to define what we want our downtown to look like.”

The city opted to use a design competition to create what is essentially a vision that ties all of its master plans together so that, as Sandpoint grows and evolves, all aspects connect together. The competition concept allows teams to take a fresh look at how the different areas of the city's downtown should be handled and work together.

The process is set up to engage the public and seek input from the community in a structured way, competition manager Don Stastny said in April in announcing the three semi-finalists. Each was given the same manual with the same information and then turned loose to draft a vision to solve challenges outlined by the community.

In introducing the team to the community shortly after being announced as a semifinalist, Mark Sindell said GGLO/Bernardo Wills works to combine nature and cities poetically and with thought. As they looked around the town, he told city officials that his team was struck by how nature was both a visually defining characteristic of the community — and how it served as a draw for both residents and visitors alike.

"So back to nature, let's respect it, let's restore it, and let's bring it forward," Sindell said. "Too often in these projects, it's the last thing that's considered; we want it to be the first thing that's considered."


(Illustration courtesy GGLO/BERNARDO WILLS)

The design includes rewilding of the Sand Creek corridor, improvements to City Beach, the addition of native plants, artwork and interpretive displays and expansion of Farmin Park among other projects.


(Illustration courtesy GGLO/BERNARDO WILLS)

The "Blue Necklace" design was designed by GGLO/Bernardo Wills to unite "the thread that ties together the many jewels of Sandpoint." Above, an aerial view of the area covered in its design.

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