When Mike Maciaszek set out to build his home in McCall, he looked for a downtown space on Payette Lake. He quickly realized that with zoning on the downtown lakeshore limited to commercial buildings, he’d have to put up a mixed-use property.
“I wanted to be downtown and by the lake, and so the only way to accomplish that was to do mixed-use on a commercial lot,” said Maciaszek, who previously lived above a coffee shop in San Francisco and is a proponent of dense urban development.
“If you get into the philosophical side of it, mixed-use makes for a vibrant downtown,” he said. “A downtown that only has commercial buildings is dead.”
The result: the Hub, Maciaszek’s 4,800-square-feet coffee shop, bed and breakfast, and third-floor personal residence.
For a small resort town, McCall has a lot of mixed-use development: the city of 3,000 full-time residents has three separate projects downtown including the Hub. The other two are Park Street Plaza, a condominium development on the corner of Highway 55 and Park Street, which has commercial space facing the highway with the residential units above, and Alpine Village, the city’s largest and newest mixed-use project, with 27 condos and a clubhouse, 18,000 square face of retail and office space, and parking. A master plan calls for more construction on the 5-acre site.
Mixed-use is a priority for McCall, said Michelle Groenevelt, the city’s community development director. City code was actually revised in 2006 to require mixed-use construction in the central business district. The code calls for 50 percent of the ground floor area to be designed for either commercial or public use.
“We just have a limited downtown area,” Groenevelt said. “Back during the last boom period, we were losing a lot of our central business district to condo development. And once you lose your commercial district, it’s hard to get it back.”
“There are a few loan options for such things,” he said. “I built it with cash and then took out a loan.” But he said he had no problem finding a buyer for the Hub. It’s under contract with someone who plans to continue using it as a mixed-use building, he said.
Alpine Village was the first mixed-use development for its builder, said principal Michael Hormaechea, who is also building the mixed-use Afton condominium project in downtown Boise.
“It’s a good way to diversify the markets you’re approaching, by selling residential and leasing commercial,” Hormaechea said. And he felt the downtown location would appeal to vacationers.
“There was an opportunity to get people to drive to McCall, park their car, and live work and play and not have to drive around,” he said.
Because McCall is a resort community, downtown housing doesn’t necessarily bring the vibrancy to the downtown that it does in more full-time cities, Groenevelt noted. Although the population can swell to 20,000 on a busy weekend, at other times downtown condos can be empty for months on end.
“In McCall, our downtown becomes very quiet around 6 to 8 o’clock, because right now there are not a lot of people living downtown,” said Groenevelt. “There are some apartments and houses, and some subdivisions right near there. But there’s not that activity and vibrancy, and that’s usually why you encourage mixed use.”
The city council also looked at an affordable housing project within McCall’s downtown core. It was rejected last year, but Groenevelt said it will come up again this year.
Groenevelt said she’s heard talk of more mixed-use projects downtown as the economy has picked up over the last few years.
“Even within small towns, when you show the public the kind of pictures of that mixed-use mountain town development, with two, three, four stories, the walkable sidewalks, everyone seems to like it,” she said. “As long as the architecture is good.”