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This zoning change could make neighborhoods west of Downtown more pedestrian-friendly

A developer last year sought to demolish the Arcade Building, which houses 23 apartments, and three houses to build a CVS pharmacy at State and 17th streets. After the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission denied a drive-thru request for a proposed drug store and an appeal was withdrawn, the city began looking at making that section of State Street friendlier to pedestrians. Photo by Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman

The city of Boise, working with the West Downtown and North End neighborhood associations, is looking to create a Pedestrian Commercial zone, which officials say would make the area more walkable.

The proposed changes would involve rezoning areas along State Street and Main Street. Building height limits would be lowered and the types of businesses that could locate there would be reclassified.

The current zone allows for “auto-centric uses,” such as drive-thrus, car washes and vehicle repair businesses, which are less friendly to pedestrians because of cars going and out. The rezone would allow ground-floor space to be used for office, commercial or retail use, while encouraging the addition of housing.

“It’s a result of wanting to make sure that some of the developments that come in there respect both the character of the neighborhood, but also promote more residential units and the expanding part of the Downtown core,” Wayne Rysavy, communications manager for the city’s Office of Community Engagement, said in a phone interview.

The decision to pursue a rezone comes after nearly a year of conversation about the neighborhoods, Rysavy said. The proposed changes are in part due to a previous proposal to build a CVS Pharmacy at State and 17th streets.

Building the CVS at 1625 W. State St. would have led to the demolition of the Arcade Building apartments on the southeast corner of 17th and State and three houses east of 17th and north of Jefferson Street. The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission denied the applicant’s request for a drive-thru window and an appeal to the Boise City Council was withdrawn in January 2018.

Since then, the neighborhood associations and the city have worked on the proposed rezone to better blend the interests of residents and commercial property owners.

Some owners are concerned about the future use of their buildings. Rysavy said those businesses would be grandfathered in with their current use but would need to go through the formal application process if they make major changes or if a building was sold and the use of the building changed.

“We will continue to promote the collection of public feedback up into November,” Rysavy said in an email. “Assuming the project aligns with the broader community vision, the project will be heard next at the Planning and Zoning Commission on either Sept. 9 or 16. If approved by the commission, it will then be heard at city council sometime in early November.”

The rezone isn’t the only proposed change along State Street, though. Another project would add continuous street lighting on State Street from 16th to 23rd streets. Lighting only exists at the intersections along those streets.

The project is part of an effort to reduce crashes along the street. In the past five years, that section of State Street had three serious injury crashes, 14 evident injury crashes, 12 possible injury crashes and 41 property damage-only crashes, Natalie Shaver, Ada County Highway District spokeswoman, said.

Adding the lighting could reduce crashes by 37%, Shaver said.

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