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Sirti Bestows Award of Honor
October 21, 2010. Billie Moreland, PhD, of Billie Moreland and Associates and Steve Simmons, PhD, E...

Triangle %u201CGraduates%u201D at Sweet Sixteen
The Idea (1994)
In June 1994, while on a layover in the San Francisco airport, Dr. Steve Simmons cam...

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07/30/2002 - Baked Alaska Buildings Are Recipe For Success

Baked Alaska! This entertaining, high contrast sweet treat is the darling of cruise ship cuisine around the world. It presents a piping hot, golden brown shell of baked meringue --- and then a paradoxical surprise --- the creamy, frozen ice cream center!

This summer, a toasted coconut Baked Alaska variant earned the Pacific East Restaurant of Amagansett, New York, a place on the nation’s map of dessert wizardry. Similarly, Spokane Washington may soon be ranked as a hotspot on the nation’s urban development map. The reason is a unique downtown specialty --- the ‘Baked Alaska Building’ --- where a cool historic exterior is wrapped around a white-hot center of advanced telecommunications and computer technology.

The crown jewel of such buildings --- the equivalent of a break-the-bank nine-layer New York City style Baked Alaska wedding cake --- is the legendary Davenport Hotel. Opened this July after seventeen darkened years, the exterior is a glowing combination of historic brick, molded terra cotta, a massive stained glass skylight, countless stone carvings and an elaborate onion dome entryway dripping with glass panels and quaintly carved metal. The interior technology, by contrast, is blazingly advanced. There are two OC 12 fiber connections, zones of popular 802.11 (WiFi) wireless for laptops, and a subterranean Network Operations Center which connects the ultrahigh bandwidth below decks to state of the art last mile wireless on the roof.

Just like any cruise ship’s dessert buffet, the Davenport is surrounded by a delectable assortment of complimentary pieces. Indeed, in the five years since the Terabyte Triangle was launched, Spokane’s building developers, working in association with technology companies, universities, and government organizations, have created what may be the largest collection of ‘Baked Alaska Buildings’ in North America.

From dozens of examples downtown, here are three buildings that capture the scope, diversity and charisma of this urban innovation.

Downtown’s most diverse technology core is found in the Holley-Mason building --- a virtual microcosm of innovation in the Inland Northwest. Technology dominates, from the basement, where fiber from 180 Networks, XO and Qwest enters the building, to the top floor, where a complete biotechnology laboratory and development center has just served as the launchpad for GenPrime’s new product against Anthrax terrorism. In between, there are technology tenants such as ChoiceNet, INHS, the Information Technologies Academy and new Biotechnology Academy for the high school age group, and leading-edge developer Maplewood Software, which routinely ships code to Microsoft. The Holley Mason was built in 1905 as a hardware store and warehouse and was Spokane’s first fireproof building of reinforced concrete. Nonetheless, it is quite airy and decorative with its tawny brick veneer, multistory Italianate windows and charmingly figured terra cotta trim.

Recently, a young Japanese urban planner, after visiting Steam Plant Square, described it as “the coolest place” he had seen in his seventeen-city tour of America’s restored downtowns. Architecturally, Steam Plant is a fusion, combining the 1890 Seehorn building with the 1916 Central Steam Plant by means of a newly constructed central courtyard. The Central Steam Plant delivers the greatest historical drama, with twin 225 foot patterned-brick smokestacks, massive arch-topped metal mullioned windows, boilers, pipes, steel catwalks, and titanic interior coal bunker.

Today, however, connectivity has replaced coal to fire the engines of commerce. The Steam Plant is now home to some of Spokane’s most advanced connectivity installations. The building’s Network Operations Center is a multi-million dollar asset with elaborate provisions for backup power, security, and Internet server collocation space, all supported by multiple OC 12 fiber connections. This bandwidth bonanza is now heavily used by many technology tenants --- including Contineo Technologies, ActiveServers Inc, ILF Media, and Thinking Cap Communications.

The Fernwell building, which pioneered the Terabyte Triangle in 1997, has now become the epicenter of specialized high volume web traffic in today’s downtown. The building’s technology core is based on fiber connections from Time Warner Telecom, 180 Networks, Qwest and XO, providing both heroic throughput and massive redundancy to Fernwell’s Internet traffic flow. Fernwell is headquarters to Real Resume, which processes over five million Internet resumes per year for national employment Web sites, and of Home Debut, which imports and exports a torrential stream of multimedia data for the real estate industry. There are also very heavy bandwidth users in more traditional services, like accounting and law. All this is wrapped in a spectacular historic package, designed by architect Hermann Preusse and built in 1891. In the spirit of those wealthy years --- in which ‘leasable footage optimization’ was a phrase as alien as ‘MP3 downloading’ --- the building is wrapped around a huge sky lit central atrium which, adorned by old carved oak and elaborately wrought metalwork, descends vertically to illuminate the entire Fernwell interior.

Will Spokane acquire a new civic nickname as “The Baked Alaska City?” Stranger things have happened. And with the ‘Big Apple’ (New York) now a household phrase, and ‘Celery City’ (Kalamazoo) and ‘Crabtown’ (Annapolis) advancing rapidly --- can ‘Baked Alaska’ be all that far behind? --- Steve Simmons, July 2002


Steve Simmons
 
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