Clay Carley steps out of the iconic rusty red brick-faced Pioneer building and is promptly greeted with a handshake by a passing acquaintance.
“You’re pouring concrete now, right?” the man asks Carley, gesturing down Sixth Street to one of Carley’s latest projects.
The brand-new garage and apartments are just one of 10 projects Carley has been a part of for downtown Boise, and they are a shift from the historic building revitalization work Carley has been part of with Old Boise LLC, such as the 109-year-old Owyhee Plaza Hotel, which now houses commercial tenants, residents and event spaces.
Carley credits this passion for restoring historic buildings to his mother, who is known for restoring the Pioneer Building.
“The sense of place here is strong because of the architecture,” Carley says. “So what my mother did in restoring these buildings was preserve history but also create this interesting, diverse building structure that’s very different from what’s happened since.”
When he came back to Boise permanently in 2000, Carley hoped to diversify the neighborhood tenants around Sixth and Main streets and to create mixed-use communities to fill the gaps of downtown Boise’s needs. He continues to do that through not just Old Boise LLC but through local committees, including the Downtown Boise Association.
“My mother instilled in me a real sense of responsibility, to leave the community better than I found it,” Carley says. “She improved the character of the neighborhood dramatically. I’m honored to take that base … and improve it further.”
Carley further gives back to downtown Boise in his roles with the downtown YMCA, as chairman of the Endowment Trustees Committee and a member of the Strategy and Community Planning & Downtown Y Development Task Force. This task force is working to create a new Downtown Y.
“When Clay sees something like that he sees not only how to help the Y, but ‘How do we help the community?’ says David Duro, president and CEO for Treasure Valley Family YMCA. “‘Can we get affordable housing? Can we get other non-profit partners involved? What can we do that would really elevate the whole vision of the project to make it something that benefits all walks of life of people,’ … that’s sort of the viewpoint that describes Clay Carley.”
Carley has volunteered with the Downtown Y for 17 years and in that time, Duro has seen Carley balance being a successful business person, making money and receiving accolades with doing the greater good in the community and being committed to his family.
And, in that time, Carley also received the Vern Emery Award, one of the highest volunteer awards given.
“You’ve got to not only make a big difference and apply yourself on the long term to volunteer work to the Y,” Duro says, “but you also have to have certain characteristics like having a positive and sunny outlook, having a good sense of humor, being quick to credit others … when you think about Clay it’s perfect.”
Clay Carley chose his first career path in the automotive industry in New York City. He worked as the vice president of exports for a Swiss company that dealt with international trade, including in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He switched to creating new products, eventually founding Advantage Lift Systems in 1985, which specialized in electro-hydraulic lifts. Following more product development, complete with patents, Carley sold his automotive business ventures and returned to Boise in 2000 for new challenges. He is now the general manager of Old Boise LLC.
Being a part of a fantastic family
Carley and his wife Jan have two sons, who also live in Boise.
Helping the Boise Rescue Mission find a new home
It now has several locations offering a variety of services.
Helping to create a better downtown Boise
As a past president of the Downtown Boise Association, he led a restructuring effort for improved sustainability.