NEWSREVIEW.pngIssue 28/August 2014

Our mission is to bring together resources to achieve Coeur d’Alene’s vision of a diverse, sustainable community with healthy neighborhoods, a vibrant central city, a strong regional economy, sustainable, superior public open spaces, and quality jobs and housing for all.


Update on Acquisition of BNSF Railroad Right-of-Way to the City

The abandoned BNSF railroad right-of-way that stretches south from Huetter Rd., along the Spokane River to the Hwy 95 bridge, has long been a BNSF-RofW-Map.jpgmissing piece of the puzzle needed by the City of Coeur d’Alene to increase public access to the water in what is known as the Spokane River corridor. In years past, the price tag for the property stood at $4 million, but through recent negotiations BNSF has stated that they will accept $2.5 million if they can enter into a purchase/sale agreement  by mid September. The anticipated closing date would be January 2015.

At August’s city council meeting, City Attorney, Mike Gridley, described several purchasing options that could come into play in order for the city to acquire the property, and also reviewed the desirability of acquiring the right-of-way, and what it could mean in terms of benefits to the city and its citizens. He stated, “The goal of the city’s acquisition of the property would be to enable the city to have better control over the way the Spokane River waterfront is currently being used, to increase public green space, and to put a trail through. “

Public comments at the council meeting by Mill River resident, Bill Lewis expressed concerns over increasing public access close to the Mill River subdivision and Johnson Park due to a rise in traffic, illegal parking, crime, and lack of police presence in the area.

North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation Chair, John Bruning also gave comment, and stated that the foundation wholeheartedly supports the city’s effort to acquire the right-of-way. “Riding along a river is a much better experience than the current trail that travels parallel to Hwy 90,” he said. “The current trail is ok, but very noisy, compared to riding next to the river, there’s no comparison,” he added.

Discussion between the city and LCDC’s Property Acquisitions Committee and board have taken place over the years regarding the right-of-way purchase. Executive Director Tony Berns agreed that he will recommend to the LCDC Board that LCDC purchase the portion of the right-of-way that is within district boundaries for a total cost of $1,483,727 (approx. $295 per square foot)

The right-of-way that the city is looking to purchase does include portions of land that are not within urban redevelopment district borders, but LCDC funding will only be provided for the portions of the right-of-way that lies within River District and Lake District borders.

Several scenarios exist on how the city could pay for the property without affecting the city’s fund balance. It was also brought to light the fact that the land locked properties, and property bisected by the right-of-way along the waterfront would be able to undergo development as a result of the city’s acquisition, which in turn would result in $970,000 in probable annexation fees. “However, it does not workout perfectly as of yet, because we do not know for certain what the density will be,” said Troy Tymesen, City Finance Director.

Mike Gridley pointed out that whatever is developed next to public space tends to have a higher value, so in theory it would also provide more tax increment revenue. “Why are we doing this?” he asked.  “We recognize that one of the trademarks of the community is waterfront”.  The comprehensive Plan and other studies have expressed that getting people to the water is a priority. “One of the reasons to look at acquiring this property is to insure that our public, the growing public, has access to the water, which is owned by the public, and certainly the citizens of Coeur d’Alene,” he stated.
It is to be noted that, the right-of way is not on the water, but the acquisition will allow the city to enter into negotiations with waterfront owners that will enable them to develop their land in exchange for some of the right-of-way that bisects their properties which hinders optimum development.

Gridley also shared that owners of the Rivers Edge Apt LLC Property which lies closest to the Mill River development, have stated that they will consider granting waterfront access to the city.

Prior to voting to proceed with the purchase and the method of funding, Councilman Gookin stated that he recognized that the railroad right-of-way met the definition of “blighted property” for the use of urban renewal funds for the purchase.  “No developer is going to buy that property because there is no value in being 60 ft wide by 3 miles long, it’s something that cities have to do,” he said. Councilman Gookin also expressed that his only reservation in making the purchase was that “LCDC is not controlled by the city, they control themselves”.  Theoretically, they (LCDC) could do whatever they wanted to with the property, “he added.

Mike Gridley stated that the nature of all the discussions the city has had with LCDC has included the extension of a trail through the old mill site, and expansion of public green space. It is a fact that LCDC’s track record shows that they have always worked with the city as partners in these types of public projects.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to proceed with a formal request to LCDC to help fund the purchase of the right-of way.


Robotics as an Economic Pillar

Lake City Development Corporation has long recognized a need for an additional business sector or “pillar” to bolster the economic profile of our community. Currently, tourism, health care and a growing higher education campus are leading the charge.

Using a pillar model provides a framework for strategic planning at local, regional and state levels of government. This method works toward harnessing fragmented viewpoints into a common and consistent conversation.

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The newest focus as a possible economic pillar in our community brought to light by Nick Smoot and the Innovation Collective is robotics and software technology. This effort has been further progressed by the recent Robotics Ordinance passed earlier this month by CDA City Council.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, whose purpose is to promote and strengthen the robotics industry worldwide, ROBOTICS will be a major driver for global job creation over the next five years. The author of the report, Peter Gorle, identified three critical areas of growth in robotic deployment as areas where: 

  • robots carry out work in areas that would be unsafe for humans
  • robots carry out work that would not be economically viable in a high wage economy
  • robots carry out work that would be impossible for humans.

On August 15, nearly 250 interested individuals attend the Innovation Collective’s Think Big Festival (#TBF) and were enlightened as to what is happening in the robotics revolution not too far from home.  Speakers such as software architect, Brad Templeton brought us up to speed on what was happening in the artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic vehicle industry, such as the Google Car.

Kootenai Health may soon be collaborating with Yoshikazu Kanamiya, Professor at the Tokyo City University's Department of Mechanical Systems Engineering who was also one of the speakers at the Think Big Festival. Kanamiya is at the forefront of robotic exoskeleton research and development, and is in the process of arranging to take a sabbatical in CDA where he will partner with Kootenai Health, the University of Idaho and the Innovation Collective on medical rehab robotics.

Charles Andrews, Regional Information Technology Services Director for Kootenai Health who is the primary information technology (IT) liaison between Kootenai Health and its affiliates and consortium members also spoke at TBF. Andrews related an incident where a medical diagnostic robotic was used to save the life of a critically injured pregnant women in remote Alaska.

Robotics are destined to make great inroads in service industries, especially healthcare where an aging population will require support services, for which human care givers may soon be too few in number to provide. 

Nurturing the robotics industry in Coeur d’Alene can provide high tech, high paying jobs and expand our economic base.


Parting Shot

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Here's a photo of one of the several summer concerts put on by the Coeur d'Alene Arts & Culture Alliance at Riverstone Park. As you can see, Riverstone's live, work and play development is alive and well in the background. 

 


 

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Community Profile

Editor's note: As part of the LCDC's continuing commitment to maximize public awareness about community issues and the agency, we offer monthly profiles of community leaders. This month, we feature Nick Smoot of the Innovation Collective.

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Nick Smoot
Founding Member
Innovation Collective,
Founder Here on Biz,
Chief Marketing Officer Rohinni

Coeur d’Alene native Nick Smoot is the author of the robotics ordinance that was approved by CDA’s city council on August 5, 2014. He is the Chief Marketing Officer for the CDA tech firm Rohinni, a new technology that actually prints “light” as a paper thin product with a myriad of uses. He is founder of Here On Biz (hereon.biz), the connectivity app for business professionals. Here On Biz has partnered with Virgin America and Gogo Inflight Internet to transform all of Virgin America's flights into a realtime, social networking experience which allows passengers to network with other guests on their flight, any guest currently in the air on any Virgin America flight, as well as the people who are at the destination city; all from an IPhone. Smoot is also a founding member of the Innovation Collective, who describes themselves as a group of business leaders, citizens, and officials who are ready to change the economic storyline of our region.

Nick has been involved with church groups, non-profits and local schools helping young people understand “their design”, uncovering the magic within themselves, and how to use that magic for the benefit of a global community. In his early twenties, Nick had the experience of taking a group of sixty-four teens to Tanzania, Africa on a leadership development trip.  The teens had to help formulate decisions that had real world consequences for real people.

After living in the Los Angeles area from about 2002, Nick and his family moved back to Coeur d’Alene last September to be closer to his over 40 family members that live in the region,  and to enjoy the lifestyle that Coeur d’Alene has to offer.

When I mentioned your name, someone thought of you as a motivational speaker.  What do you consider yourself to be?
I am an entrepreneur, story teller, strategist and visionary.  I help businesses develop strategies to get their companies to the next level.  I guide them in how to reposition their business and get them up to date with technology and the mobile arena.

What was your motivation for getting CDA to pass a Robotics Ordinance?
When I moved back in September of 2013, I realized that there was a need for another economic pillar to help our region grow. The answer was clear that it should be software and technology. As Marc Andreessen, coauthor of the web browser Mosaic, who is credited with popularizing the World Wide Web says, “tech is eating the world”.  From my perspective, we need to join the movement  or our community will behind the eight-ball economically.  By adopting the Robotics Ordinance, CDA is announcing to the global community that it has a specific focus aimed at a specific audience, which in turn can foster a start-up culture with technology.  One area for this focus can be in the emergency medical field , and search and rescue arena. 
Companies like Google with their development of the Google robotics car, have shown us that robots are no longer just creepy syfy , and are now moving forward as the next tech revolution. I believe it is necessary for Coeur d'Alene to succeed in the effort to attract and protect robotics R and D, and clearly have an ordinance in place that protects the activity of robots being operated on public property for extended periods of time, and for citizens to treat the machines with respect while not interfering. I want to see more participation at the citizen, city and state level. CDA can be one of the leaders in the world of Robotics.

What can the average citizen do to further this course or action?
The Innovation Collective has 50 events planned for next year. We want people to “dare to dream, and find their fit in a collaborative community”.  People can do individual research and educate themselves about robotics and communicate it back to the community. We would also like to see the art community get involved in robotics art installations. What may start out as art piece could evolve into something else with a different purpose. In the future, 40% of jobs will be replaced by robots. We need to help Coeur d’Alene identify itself.

What infrastructure needs to be developed in
Coeur d’Alene to support robotics?

First of all, whatever is developed needs to have a global intent. Infrastructure should not just serve the city, but should have global ramifications. We need high speed internet and better data like Google Fiber which is 100 times faster than today's basic broadband, and allows you to get what you want instantaneously. This infrastructure compliments the creative class, which in turn can help create jobs.

I would like to see daily flights to San Francisco from Coeur d’Alene Airport, perhaps based on a travel membership model like SurfAir.

How can all of this help create area jobs?
The first thing we need to do is to stop the talent drain, and keep smart people here in our region.  Too many people here are under-employed.  We need to ask ourselves, “What do we want our kids to have as a wage here in our community”.

We need to give people that you would never expect an opportunity to change the world. For example, look at Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of SpaceX and Tesla motors, who came to the U.S. at 17 and made his first fortune as a co-founder of PayPal. His fortune is now worth 2.7 billion.

New companies will also require support personnel in their offices like receptionists, operations, janitors, accounting and human resource jobs. 

Robotics is also a clean technology. I think it is possible to develop Artificial Intelligence and robotic options for our mining community. We do not want to be a curmudgeon community that never changes.