CCDC gets ready to embark on two new urban renewal districts

The city of Boise believes rail access is the trump card for its new Gateway East redevelopment district. Photo by Teya Vitu.

With 30 years of official urban renewal ended Sept. 30 in the heart of downtown Boise, the Capital City Development Corp. is now simultaneously embarking on two new, very different urban renewal districts.

CCDC by the end of the year expects to launch an 194-acre Shoreline District urban renewal district to jump-start developers to build some 1,200 new housing units in the next 20 years in the River Street and Lusk neighborhoods along with adding 190,000 square-feet of office and 128,000 square feet of retail.

If all these developments comes through, the district would generate $33 million in tax increment financing over 20 years to provide support to redevelopment efforts, said Shellan Rodriguez, CCDC’s project manager for property development.

CCDC’s new Shoreline District redevelopment district will include the River Street and Lusk Neighborhood areas. Image courtesy of Capital City Development Corp.

Also by the end of the year, CCDC expects to have a new Gateway East District in play with an ambition to lure some 9 million square feet of industrial, a couple hotels, and 89,000 square feet of retail to areas mostly west of Interstate 84 from Broadway to Eisenman Road. The 2,639 designated acres already have a scattering of industrial but many more hundreds of city-owned acres are undeveloped.

The Gateway East District projections would be a 25 percent increase in today’s total stock of 36 million square feet across Ada and Canyon counties, as measured by Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate.

If these Gateway East projections hold true, that district would generate $95 million in tax increment financing, said Matt Edmond, CCDC’s project manager for capital improvements.

TOK has a count of 1,807 industrial buildings in Ada and Canyon counties with 37 million square feet. As of Sept 1, 1.17 million square feet of industrial were available.

CCDC is the city’s urban renewal agency with three active urban renewal districts in the downtown area: Westside, River Myrtle-Old Boise and 30th Street. The Central District closed Sept. 30 after a 30-year life.

One Shoreline District urban renewal proposal is converting Island Avenue into a festival street. Image courtesy of Capital City Development Corp.

The Shoreline District is rather developed, but the River Street segment has large parking lots that are lightly used and ripe for redevelopment. In the Lusk District, CCDC envisions a potential festival street on Island Avenue such as those on the Basque Block and Broad Street, and additional sidewalks.

“The Forest River parking lots are viewed as underutilized,” Rodriguez said. “We would love to find a way to work with those owners (to redevelop some surface parking lots).”

These city-sanctioned urban renewal districts generate money through tax increment financing. The tax revenue from increased property tax values is diverted to CCDC to inject into the districts by funding infrastructure, roads and sidewalks, garages and purchasing properties that can be sold to developers for low prices.

Island Avenue, a street with minimal improvements, could become a festival street like the Basque Block. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Shoreline and Gateway areas went through exhaustive feasibility analyses, lot by lot, to ensure that every property met the state’s urban renewal requirements. A complex state formula determines whether a property qualifies for inclusion in an urban renewal district. Boiled down, these factors define a property as lacking the elements necessary to better develop an area, Rodriguez and Edmond said.

“(The feasibility analysis) concluded that it is an area that has not kept up with the growth of the areas around it,” Rodriguez said. “We are aiming to incentivize investment in a way that creates economic development, housing and placemaking.”

The Shoreline District measures 194 acres with 125 parcels. The Shoreline District is not all new. The 36 acres east of Americana were part of the 30th Street District, and another 37 acres was part of the River Myrtle-Old Boise District, two other CCDC urban renewal districts.

“In order for people to continue to invest, they need a place to park and be able to get safely from the Greenbelt,” Rodriquez said. “Having a way to invest in the district will create the place and neighborhood we want.”

The redevelopment plans call for a couple more pedestrian bridges across the Boise River more than 10 years down the road.

But the first seven proposed projects for the district’s first five years involve Lusk neighborhood streetscape improvements, moving overhead power cables underground, Boise Greenbelt path improvement and surface improvements on the Eighth Street Bridge.

Gateway East

CCDC’s new Gateway East redevelopment district focuses on Eisenman Road, most west of Interstate 84. Image courtesy of Capital City Development Corp.

The Gateway East urban renewal district would be CCDC’s first district beyond the immediate downtown Boise area.

The areas along Eisenman Road south of Boise Factory Outlets have water and sewer for basic industrial work but not to accommodate large-scale development, Edmond said.

The major proposed projects for the 20-year term are projected $60 million CCDC investments in roadway improvements.

These include widening the south end of Eisenman Road to three lanes on the east side of the railroad tracks and creating a five-lane Production Street on the west side of the tracks to link Gowen Road and the future Lake Hazel Road extension. CCDC could fund numerous industrial roads, too, Edmond said.

CCDC also plans to use tax increment financing for $10 million in sewer improvements, $15 million in water upgrades, $10 million in Idaho Power upgrades and $15 million in fiber optic/telecommunications, Edmond said.

“These are the things that can meet industrial demand,” Edmond said. “These things would be uneconomical for industrial to do themselves.”

Edmond said research determined the Gateway District could create 6,700 new industrial jobs and 125 retail jobs.

The Boyer Company proposes a 1-million- square-foot industrial park next to the WinCo distribution center (rear). Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Boyer Company of Salt Lake City will be the first new project in the new Gateway East. The company has announced intentions to build a 1 million-square-foot industrial park on 159 city-owned acres of desert scrub wrapping around two sides of WinCo’s distribution center near the Interstate 84 interchange at Eisenman Road.

Boyer has developed Utah’s largest business park in Ogden at 11.5 million square feet from the remains of a former military base. They came to Boise to have a look and were surprised by the opportunity right off I-84, according to Dave Ward, partner and project manager at Boyer

“There is very little truck traffic,” Ward said. “It is a very easy property to develop. There have to be some skeletons here. Why has somebody not developed this? The more we dug, the better it got. We feel great about the site. We never found any skeletons.”

Dave Ward of the Boyer Company detailed the company’s plans for an industrial park along Eisenman Road. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Boyer plans to start construction on the first 50,000- to 140,000-square-foot industrial structure in spring. Ward said for now they are starting with a spec building with no leases lined up, but he is hopeful to have a tenant by groundbreaking.

Boyer does not want to be regarded in Boise as a company sitting on the land.

“We know we need momentum,” Boyer CEO Nate Boyer said. “We need to get a building going here.”

The city had bought 380 acres in 2000 along with 18 miles of Union Pacific Railroad track south of Gowen Road with ambitions to create a multi-modal industrial area. Industry, until recently, has not stepped forward in great numbers.

“It’s been a kind of windy road,” Boise Mayor David Bieter said at the Sept. 20 Boyer project launch event. “We struggled with how to handle this property. We gritted our teeth and went forward.”

Ward said the site is already served by utilities, but Edmond believes CCDC investments will come into play as Boyer progresses with developing the site.

Boise’s first urban renewal district rides off into the sunset

Eighth Street became a flourishing dining venue after Capital City Development Corp. widened sidewalks and added trees and bike racks. Photo by Teya Vitu.

In 30 years, the downtown core of Boise has evolved from what was famously described in Harper’s magazine as “an exceedingly tidy bombing raid” to a city that magazines now routinely rank in the Top 10 or Top 20 best this-or-that.

At the heart of this transformation is the Central District urban renewal district, which has been overseen since 1989 by the Capital City Development Corp., the city’s redevelopment agency.

CCDC over 30 years invested $60 million in parking garages, infrastructure and sidewalk amenities. Those, in turn, attracted private investments to take the estimated value of all property in a 10-block downtown core from $31 million in 1989 to the current $370 million, according to CCDC.

The agency built the Grove Plaza and created the Eighth Street restaurant row. It still owns the plaza and Eighth Street between Main and Bannock streets. CCDC built four public garages in the Central District and played an instrumental role in the creation of Boise Centre, Eighth and Main, the Clearwater Building, The Grove Hotel and CenturyLink Arena, and BoDo.

The Central District has a 30-year life span that expires Sept. 30. After that, property taxes that have gone to CCDC since the tail end of the Reagan Administration will be distributed back to Ada County, the city of Boise,  Boise School District, Ada County Highway District, College of Western Idaho, Emergency Medical Services District and Ada County Mosquito Abatement District.

No more redevelopment dollars will go to projects between Ninth Street and Capitol Boulevard (plus the Boise City Hall block) and Bannock to Front (plus a half block into BoDo).

At that time, CCDC will convey ownership of Grove Plaza and two blocks of Eighth Street to the city of Boise. This will be the only piece of roadway under city control.

CCDC will keep ownership of the garages at Ninth and Main, Ninth and Front, Capitol and Main, but the agency is trying to sell the Capitol and Front garage under The Grove Hotel because it generates only about 5 percent of CCDC’s parking revenue, CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said.

CCDC will relinquish ownership of Grove Plaza and Eighth Street because the agency will have no designated urban renewal revenue, known as tax increment financing, to maintain and operate the two properties. The garages, however, generate income and the money is not restricted to the Central District.

“Parking dollars know no bounds,” said Ross Borden, CCDC’s finance and administration director. “They can be spent anywhere.”

Parking revenue is still paying off bonds that built all six CCDC garages – two of them outside the Central District.

Adding a protected bike lane on Capitol Boulevard is along the last projects for the Central District urban renewal district. Photo by Teya Vitu.

CCDC’s closing acts in the Central District include creating the protected bike lane on Capitol Boulevard from Main to Bannock; the recently completed Eighth Street tree and irrigation replacements; also recently completed Freak Alley improvements; the recently opened new City Hall Plaza and assisting with the Capitol Terrace makeover into  Main + Marketplace.

Brunelle expects a remaining balance of $2,096 as the district expires Sept. 30 after launching the closing year with $9.9 million.

“CCDC feels it didn’t leave any opportunities or money on the table in the Central District,” Brunelle said.

CCDC widened many sidewalks to enable sidewalk dining and also added trees and bike racks.

“I think they have done a pretty amazing job enhancing the environment for us to be successful,” said Dan Balluff, owner of City Peanut Shop and former president of the Downtown Boise Association. ”I don’t know if the city could have ever afforded it. CCDC really thought it out and listened to constituents. It’s all quality stuff.”

Central District satisfaction

The Central District urban renewal district brought downtown Boise the Eighth and Main tower (Zions Bank), the Clearwater Building (behind trees) and Capitol Terrace (left), along with widening sidewalks for outdoor dining. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Brunelle noted that the Central District has a completed feel to it; no obvious gaps remain. He also noted substantial projects developed in the past six years, none more so than the Eighth and Main tower that filled what had been known as the Boise Hole for 25 years.

“This was a 30-year district,” Brunelle said. “All new districts can only be 20 years. We have to work with that in other districts.”

Mayor David Bieter has been in office for half the life of the Central District, since 2011 also serving as a CCDC commissioner. Without prompting, Bieter also addressed the limitations the Legislature put on urban renewal zones in 2016. At that time, the Legislature limited districts to 20 years and limited districts to projects identified at the start date.

“We would not have the downtown we have without the Central District,” said Bieter, elaborating that the 30-year span was vital as tax increment revenue can be fickle, such as the 2007-08 downturn plaguing the Central District. “The downturn was really rough. In order to get the capital you need to be transformative; it takes some time to accumulate. We’ve created one of the most vibrant urban centers in the western states.”

But Bieter firmly believes urban renewal districts have a distinct lifespan.

It’s important that people see these districts sunset,” the mayor said. “It’s a tool for a particular time.”

More urban renewal districts

The conclusion of the 34-acre Central District does not spell the end of the Capital City Development Corp. CCDC has  another 733 acres in three other active urban renewal districts in the southern three-fourths of downtown and across the city-branded West End of downtown to Whitewater Park Boulevard.

CCDC’s River Myrtle urban renewal district, stretching from Broadway to Americana Boulevard, expires in 2025; Westside, which runs mostly from Ninth to 16th streets and from Grove to State/Washington/Franklin streets, end in 2026. The 30th Street district continues to 2033 and addresses the Main/Fairview corridor west of Grove on both sides of The Connector.

CCDC is also assembling a new Shoreline District along River Street and including the Lusk District. Beyond that, Brunelle is considering new urban renewal districts on The Bench, possibly along Vista Avenue, and/or the petroleum tank farm in the Curtis, Franklin, Emerald area.

The Westside is prime hunting ground for redevelopment.

“There is a lot of opportunity there with surface parking lots,” Brunelle said. “If you look at the 10 blocks (of Central District) that is sunsetting, you don’t see (surface lots).”

Back in 1986. except for the U.S. Bank Plaza tower, the four blocks bounded by Front, Capitol, Ninth and Main were a dirt lot. Dozens of historic structures were cleared a decade earlier for a long-planned shopping mall that never materialized.

The Capital City Development Corp. is an independent government agency, established by the city, with the mayor appointing the CCDC Board of Commissioners, currently including three City Council members.

“This was Idaho’s first urban renewal district,” Brunelle said. “We think that we used it effectively.”

Downtown park destined for 11th and Bannock

One concept for a west side park has the event lawn at an angle to 11th and Bannock streets. Image courtesy of GGLO Design.

A $3 million public park and gathering space will be included in a new office tower development in downtown Boise.

Boise Plaza owner Rafanelli & Nahas plan recently proposed a 10-story tower on an existing surface parking lot at 11th and Idaho streets. The new park, a collaboration between Capital City Development Corp., the city of Boise and Rafanelli & Nahas, would sit between the proposed tower and the Boise Plaza building.

At .56 acre, the park will be a bit larger than the .55-acre Grove Plaza and its spokes to the streets. It will also be the second largest downtown city park (between Fort and Myrtle, Broadway and 16th Street) behind Cecil D. Andrus Park (formerly Capitol Park).

The city’s Downtown Parks And Public Spaces Master Plan seeks a west-side gathering place, and a  park was part of the Rafanelli & Nahas master plan as it acquired the Boise Cascade (now Boise Plaza) building and surrounding surface parking lots in 2006.

A west side park at 11th and Bannock streets would have an event lawn, possibly aligned with the streets (pictured) or at an angle. Image courtesy of GGLO Design.

“We see that as important because there is a lot of energy and activity emerging in that part of downtown,” said Leon Letson, the city’s project manager for the Downtown Parks and Public Places master plan. “Treefort is largely held in this part of downtown.”

Scott Schoenherr

Rafanelli & Nahas envisioned a new officer tower, a hotel and a park to accompany Boise Plaza. A new 10-story tower is proposed to share half the block with the new west side park.

“There are a lot of opportunities for development in this area and having an active, well-designed open space is critical to the success of the entire area,” said Scott Schoenherr, a partner at Rafanelli & Nahas.

CCDC will invest $2 million, the city $1 million and Rafanelli & Nahas $30,000 in the park. A small .28 acre surface parking area with about 32 spaces will remain at 12th and Bannock.

CCDC Project Manager Doug Woodruff noted that the $30,000 from Rafanelli & Nahas essentially is worth as much as $1.5 million, the amount of parking revenue the park property could generate if it remained a parking lot over the 40-year parking lease that Rafanelli & Nahas will surrender.

“Instead, they have agreed to partner with the City and CCDC on this public park,” Woodruff said.   “Albeit not a cash contribution, the $1.5 million in parking revenue value that they have agreed to forego is a notable contribution to this project that both CCDC and the City recognize and appreciate.”

Two park design options

A park and 10-story-office tower are proposed for this surface parking lot across from Boise Plaza (left) at 11th and Bannock streets. Photo by Teya Vitu.

GGLO Design of Seattle and Jensen Belts Associates of Boise presented two rough design options June 14 at an open house on the park. Both design options feature rectangular lawns with trees at the edges. One option has the rectangle flush to the streets; the other has it at an angle to the streets.

Each has a hard surface “focal feature” that could be interactive art, a water feature or a fog/mist feature. A separate crushed rock plaza is also offered.

Both concepts allow for event staging with designated places for stages and sound booths. The park could accommodate audiences of 1,200 to 1,500 people.

Food truck areas could be on the street or between the park and the proposed 10-story office building. Both concepts have restrooms.

The June 14 open house sought public input on the concepts as well as smaller features such as charging stations, water fountain bottle fillers, lounge seating, free WiFi and numerous others.

“We will put amenities in there that the public desires,” Woodruff said. “We want to create a center for this up-and-coming urban neighborhood.”

The west side, with its large number surface parking lots, is becoming a focal point for CCDC with the Sept. 30 termination of the Central District urban renewal district between Capitol Boulevard and Ninth Street.

“What you’ve seen us do in the last five years in the Central District is what you will see us do in the next seven years on the west side,” said John Brunelle, CCDC’s executive director. “There is a lot of opportunity there with all the surface lots.”

The CCDC Board of Commissioners on June 11 approved a master development agreement among CCDC, the city and Eleven Eleven West Jefferson LLC (Rafanelli & Nahas). The city will sublease the park property, CCDC will design and build the park, and city Parks & Recreation will own, operate and maintain the park, while Eleven Eleven will continue to own, operate and maintain the remaining surface parking area.

“If you look at this part of downtown, there aren’t many large, open (park) spaces,” Letson said. “If we are serious about creating distinct, downtown neighborhoods and district, this park helps in that effort by creating that space for the west side neighborhood.”

Wright Brothers of Boise is the construction manager/general contractor. The plan is to start construction in March and open in September 2019, Woodruff said.

Workforce housing on the way at Ash and River streets

Workforce housing at Ash and River streets will include garages, carports and landscaping. Image courtesy of Dean Papé.

Foundation work started in mid-April on a 34-unit, two-structure workforce housing complex off River and Ash streets in downtown Boise.

Eugene, Oregon,-based deChase Miksis, headed by Dean Papé in Boise, and prominent Portland developer Mark Edlen took up the challenge from the Capital City Development Corp. to build workforce housing on an oddly configured .71 acre lot the shape of Nevada.

They were the only applicant to follow through CCDC’s request for proposals process for the deed-restricted project. CCDC requires rents be affordable for a family of four earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the area median income – $70,300  for a family of four – so  that no more than 35 percent of the wage goes to rent.

The workforce housing stipulation will be in place for seven years.

Construction recently started on a 34-unit workforce housing complex off River Street. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“What attracted us to it was the opportunity to do workforce housing,” Papé said. “We believe the need and demand is there.”

The $7.34 million project, yet to be named, defies the conventions of downtown apartment development with 22 three-bedroom units, nine one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units. Closed-door garages will come with 22 units and the rest will have carports, Papé said.

“These are typical amenities you’d find in the suburbs, not downtown.” he said.

Pivot North of Boise is the architect, with conceptual designs from GGLO Design of Seattle. The general contractor is Visser Building Company of Boise.

“Those quirky sites create something more interesting,” said Shellan Rodriguez, CCDC’s real estate development manager. “From my perspective, it is surrounded by public rights of way. It has a lot of front door space pointing to the Pioneer Corridor, which is unique.”

The historic 1907 stone Hayman House sits on 4,609 square feet between River Street and the apartment project as does a 3,100-square-foot strip of adjacent city land. CCDC, which owned the Hayman House and apartment property, in early May deeded the Hayman House to the Boise Arts and History Department.

City plans to face off with ITD over Front and Myrtle streets

Front Street becomes an expressway during rush hour, resulting in an extended wait for crossing traffic. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Formal suggestions to make the Front and Myrtle commuter corridor in downtown Boise more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly will be submitted to the Idaho Transportation Department in summer, a city official said.

These suggestions are the outgrowth of a 2017 alternatives analysis for the two streets. The study was paid for by the Capital City Development Corp. and was jointly produced by CCDC, the city of Boise, the Ada County Highway District, COMPASS and the Idaho Transportation Department. The latter has jurisdiction over Front and Myrtle street, which also serve as U.S 20/26 highways.

The city and CCDC will likely present a mix of ideas discussed at a May 15 Urban Land Institute panel meeting on the Front and Myrtle Couplet Alternatives Analysis, said Daren Fluke, the city’s comprehensive planning manager.

These could include retiming traffic signals to give pedestrians more opportunities to cross the street (ACHD controls the Front and Myrtle traffic signals); adding more pedestrian crossings, especially between the Ada County Courthouse and Broadway; “right-sizing the road,” that is, lowering the number of traffic lanes; widening  the sidewalks; installing trees and street furniture; and adding weekend and evening parking on Front and Myrtle.

“It will be some mix-and-match,” Fluke said. “Probably not a full menu. This is all about a trade-off. We’re looking for a corridor that serves all the modes (walk, bike, car) well.”

ITD District 3 engineer Amy Revis was part of the panel discussion and indicated the transportation department was open to changes – as long as five lanes remain on Front and Myrtle and traffic flows unimpeded.

“Anything we do on Front and Myrtle has to consider a ripple effect on I-184,” Revis said.

Revis said the alternatives analysis did not explore all options. She’d like to include consideration for a pedestrian overpass at Eighth and Front streets; use of the 2½-foot shoulders at the edge of the roadways; and the exchange of sidewalk and landscaping in areas where the sidewalk is next to the curb.

“I think those are all ideas that need to be fully explored,” Revis said. “Those are benefits that have very minor impact on vehicle traffic. Weekend and evening traffic on Front and Myrtle – we’re open to that.”

Traffic at the intersection of Front and Ninth during rush hour demonstrates the imbalance for pedestrians, bicyclists , and cars on Ninth Street, said Matt Edmond, project manager of capital improvements at CCDC.

At Ninth, Front gets 1 minute 32 seconds green, while Ninth, in itself a commuter street gets 37 second green. At Eighth Street, pedestrians get 24 seconds to cross the street, while Front is green for 1 minute 50 seconds, Edmond timed.

“Asking pedestrians to wait two minutes is excessive,” Edmond said.

“Get me here, get me home”

There, of course, are two sides to the Front and Myrtle saga: the people walking and biking downtown, and the 30,000 or 40,000 downtown workers, many of whom commute west. It was noted, however, that even commuters ultimately have to walk downtown.

“Get me here, get me home, as quickly as you can.” That was the most common comment from Ada County employees surveyed by Larry Maneely, special assistant to the Ada County Board of Supervisors.

“We are in love with our vehicles,” Maneely said at the ULI forum. “We want control of our life.”

He noted the 250 employees (out of 700) who responded to the survey also opposed additional bike lanes, more pedestrian crossings, lengthening traffic signals for cross streets and narrowing Front and Myrtle to three lanes in some places.

Bryan Vaughn

Panelists noted that downtown Boise has changed dramatically since the Front-Myrtle couplet of one-way, five-lane highways was created in the 1980s, when the southern edge of downtown was minimally developed.  The couplet pre-dates BoDo, JUMP, the Simplot corporate headquarters, the Boise Centre, the Grove Hotel, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, WinCo, the Ada County Courthouse and nearly everything else that lines the length of Myrtle and Front streets.

“It’s a real issue we need to address,” ACHD Commissioner Paul Woods said. “There are not many cities I  see that succeed that are all, ‘Come in at 8 and go home at 5.’”

Along with the five lanes, the couplet has a couple examples of double left-turn lanes that are inherently dangerous for pedestrian, noted Brian Vaughn, development partner at Hawkins Companies, whose office is at Ninth and Broad – the street between Front and Myrtle.

“I won’t cross on the east side at Ninth and Myrtle because I was almost hit three times,” Vaughn said at the forum. “I’m concerned about accidents for my clients.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 18 and May 20.



Retracting bollards, new irrigation and tree work ties up Eighth Street

New irrigation systems and tree grates are being installed on Eighth Street in downtown Boise. Photo by Teya Vitu.
New irrigation systems and tree grates are being installed on Eighth Street in downtown Boise. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Eighth Street is getting a spring makeover before the Capital City Development Corp. hands over ownership of its two-block stretch of the downtown event street to the city of Boise.

CCDC is focusing on the furnishings area between the sidewalks and street, where it is replacing some trees and installing new irrigation and tree grate systems. The $617,884 project will also replace the 30-year-old lamp posts with new historic-themed lamp posts, said Doug Woodruff, CCDC project manager for capital improvements.

Another new feature will be hydraulic bollards at the end of each block to replace temporary bollards that have been used to block traffic. The new bollards will retract into the ground and can be raised to block traffic during, for example, the Capital City Public Market.

The last of the Norway maple grove trees that have been in place for 30 years will be removed on the Main-to- Bannock stretch of Eighth Street. About three-fourths of the trees now are honey locusts, which have been installed over the past five years.

Woodruff said the Norway maples were not suitable for downtown, and the city Community Forestry division has lobbied to replace them for years.

CCDC gained ownership of Eighth Street between Main and Bannock Streets in 1987 as an early implementation of the Boise Downtown Urban Design Plan, the 1986 template for the modern downtown Boise.

CCDC’s Central District urban renewal zone, which includes Eight Street, expires in September.

Eighth Street work started Feb. 26 and completion is expected June 15. Guho Corp. is the general contractor.

Boise Centre lights up with color at night

A continuous, colorful light show in now a nightly attraction outside Boise Centre. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.
A continuous, colorful light show is now a nightly attraction outside Boise Centre. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.

A touch of big-city glitz and even a tiny nod to Las Vegas is lighting up the Boise Centre. The venerable meeting space now presents splashes of nighttime color on its outer wall between Grove Plaza and Front Street.

The LED visual art display light show started Feb. 1 and will be presented nightly to animate a large blank wall on a popular thoroughfare.

During winter, the constantly changing lighted color schemes will play from 5 p.m. to  1 or 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. The hours will be adjusted as the days grow longer with the morning “architainment” ceasing once sunrise is early enough, said Chris Morrison, audiovisual services manager at the Boise Centre.

Architainment  is entertainment incorporated into architecture, in the words of Steve Johnson, CEO of HP Marketing, a representative for Martin Exterior PixLine, the producer of the LED equipment.

“It’s an art wall,” Johnson said. “This is all about creating a feeling and an emotion.”

The $220,000 display involves 700 feet of linear LED fixtures, nearly all of them set in existing grooves in the Boise Centre wall.

The fixtures protrude only 3 inches from the wall and are nearly imperceptible during the day.  At night, however, they pulsate in an ever-changing array of color synchronized with music broadcast on speakers attached to lightposts – or with a conspicuous blue-and –orange theme on certain sporting days.

“The city is dotted with art all over,” Boise Centre spokeswoman Mary-Michael Rodgers said. “We added our own new visual art display. It’s a new best place to have your photo taken.”

Cameras were out for the first night of Boise Centre's new visual art display. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.
Cameras were out for the first night of Boise Centre’s new visual art display. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.

First Thursday wanderers seeing the light display for the first time Feb. 1 reacted enthusiastically, with many people posing for selfies with the lights as a backdrop.

The fixtures run the 168-foot length of the building. The light system starts 12 feet above the walkway and continues to the roof, at some points a 40-foot vertical line. The LED strips vary in length.

Boise Centre has the first Martin Exterior PixLine system in the United States, though Martin, a Weston, Fla., lighting solution company, has installed several in Europe, Johnson said.


Solving the problem of a large, blank wall

The colors change constantly with Boise Centre's new visual art display. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The colors change constantly with Boise Centre’s new visual art display. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The LED display was not publicized until the closing days of January but has been in the works for two to nearly four years.  The first thought for wall decoration was a mural, but Boise Centre Executive Director Pat Rice said that was quickly scrapped.

The visual art display idea originated a couple years ago as Rice wandered through the neon light tunnel linking United Airlines concourse at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Boise Centre had already been challenged by the Capital City Development Corp.  to animate its wall, which would become more monolithic with the removal of a retail space during convention center renovation.

The Grove Plaza and the walkways leading to it are owned by CCDC. All of the development at Grove Plaza in the past four years has been a tightly choreographed collaboration among the owners of The Grove/CenturyLink Arena, the Clearwater building, Boise Centre, CCDC and the city of Boise and others.

The recent development includes construction of the Clearwater building and adjoining Boise Centre East expansion along with the Boise Centre concourse that is attached to the privately owned arena and crosses CCDC’s airspace, and the reconstruction of the Grove Plaza itself.

“The group all agreed the plain wall was an opportunity to do something fun and exciting to activate that part of the plaza,” said Doug Woodruff, CCDC’s project manager of capital improvements. “It will help illuminate and improve safety and also add another landmark to downtown and help connect BoDo to Grove Plaza.”

The $220,000 visual art display was budgeted within the $11 million renovation of the original Boise Centre building, now called Boise Centre West. This included replacing the tiered auditorium Summit Room with a downstairs small ballroom and upstairs executive board room, installing an escalator and renovating the lobby and bathrooms.

In all, Boise Centre spent $47.5 million to build Boise Centre East and the concourse and to renovate Boise Centre West.

Rice translated his O’Hare experience into somehow illuminating the wall. Morrison, the Boise Centre’s audio visual person, took the ball and ran with it.

“We can step this up a little better,” Morrison recalled.

Morrison conferred with Noah Bard at the Garden City office of Production Services International, an audio, lighting, video, staging firm, who pointed Harrison to the Martin Exterior PixLine product.

Production Services designed the installed the Boise Centre system and Lea Electric LLC of Boise did the electrical work.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at  2:21 p.m. on Feb. 5 with a correction on the name of Chris Morrison.


To park or not to park: That is the question CCDC wants people to ponder

Capital City Development Corp. started rebranding its garages ParkBOI in early January in collaboration with the city's parking meters that have been branded ParkBOI since 2016. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Capital City Development Corp. started rebranding its garages ParkBOI in early January in collaboration with the city’s parking meters that have been branded ParkBOI since 2016. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Even with three new parking garages on the horizon, downtown Boise workers should still be thinking of alternatives to driving,  says Max Clark, parking and facilities director at the Capital City Development Corp.

CCDC owns six public garages in the heart of downtown and has bought 300-some spaces in the new garages opening soon at The Fowler apartment and the Pioneer Crossing development at 11th and Front streets.

Old Boise General Manager Clay Carley said he plans to start construction sometime in 2018, possibly spring, on a 600-space garage at Front and Sixth streets, whether the garage is built alone or in tandem with a proposed hotel.

But “we obviously have a shortage of supply and an overabundance of demand,” Carley said. “We need more parking.”

square-feet-january-blurbMore parking is not the only answer, Clark repeats frequently. About 34,000 people work downtown and there are about 18,000 parking spaces in public and private garages, surface lots and street parking.

“What if everybody did one alternative mode one day a week?” Clark posed. “Carpool one day a week. That would mean 20 percent of the vehicles off the road.”

Katy Decker, an environmental consultant at Haley & Aldrich, does what Clark would like to see more downtown workers do. She bikes from her home near Collister and State via the Boise River Greenbelt.

“Honestly, it’s more the experience of riding is so much better than the experience of driving,” Decker said.

Scott Schoenherr is a partner at Rafanelli & Nahas, which owns several downtown Boise office buildings as well as the 150-space Key Bank and 951-space Boise Plaza garages. But Schoenherr likes to bike in from his southeast side home.

“I go through spurts,” Schoenherr said. “I try to average one day a week. Some weeks I ride three to four days. I think bike commuting is a hidden gem. You can’t answer the phone. You don’t have any distractions.”

CCDC has 550 people on waiting lists for its garages. Schoenherr said even at only $90 a month, he has about 100 monthly passes available for the Boise Plaza garage at Bannock and 12th streets.

“We don’t have takers,” he said. “It’s a little farther away but it’s not that far away.”

CCDC will raise monthly parking rates Feb. 1 from $140 to $175 on the Idaho Street garages and from $120 to $140 on its other garages, which are being rebranded with large ParkBOI signage. CCDC hourly parking will increase from $2.50 to $3 per hour, but the free one-hour parking will remain.

“The parking is abysmal already,” said Anne-Marie Trebbi, co-owner of Wild Root Cafe & Market. “Parking is a challenge already for our customers. (The city) needs to come up with a solution other than raising rates. They are just pushing the problem aside.”

The CCDC and city pricing philosophy for garages and meters is if you want to park close in, you pay more. That philosophy rings hollow with A10 Capital, which is located at the Eighth and Main building and parks about 100 people in that building’s garages and at CCDC garages as far away as Hotel 43 and BoDo.

“It’s a pretty big (rate) increase, especially since they just raised them last year as well,” said Noelle Nicula, vice president of operations at A10, a commercial real estate firm that pays for employee parking. “(Carpooling) is not convenient for a lot of people to do that because many live in Star and Eagle and Meridian.”

Clark countered: “They could carpool if they took the effort to do it. I bet there are two people that live close to each other.”

City parking meters are also going up Feb. 1, from $1.50 to $2 for the first hour in the downtown core. And for the first time in decades, parking meters will be active on Saturdays.

The people paying for Saturday parking meters will likely be shoppers and vendors at the Capital City Public Market, which sees 15,000 to 20,000 people at the height of summer.

“I don’t think people will stop coming to the market because meters are no longer free,” said Kristin Porter, development director at Capital City Public Market. “I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact.”

Carley doesn’t have problems with the increase.

“It’s really painful to go through it right now, but it’s essential we do it,” Carley said. “We are in a time period where we are moving from a big town to a small city. You have to pay for what you want.”

CCDC plans to use increased parking rate revenue to pay for alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. As soon as January or February, Clark wants to have dedicated garage space for motorcycles and preferred parking for carpool drivers.

A park-and-ride shuttle is already in place but minimally used at Elder Street near Vista Avenue and Interstate 84. Clark is looking for a west end park-and-ride site.

“We have to rethink how we get downtown,” said Clark. “My big thing is double up. I hear people say ‘I need my car in case my kid gets hurt’ or ‘My boss may send me to a meeting in Meridian.’ Uber takes care of both of those things.”

CCDC buys Idaho Sporting Goods property

Capital City Development Corp. bought the Idaho Sporting Goods building but the tenants will remain indefinitely. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Capital City Development Corp. bought the Idaho Sporting Goods building but the tenants will remain indefinitely. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Capital City Development Corp. has bought the Idaho Sporting Goods building and parking lot at 10th and State streets for $2.1 million for future redevelopment.

The CCDC Board of Commissioners approved the purchase Dec. 20. The sale is expected to close in early January, CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said.

Idaho Sporting Goods, Idaho Sporting Goods Screen Print & Embroidery and Boise Greenbike, the bike sharing program, will remain tenants at least until their leases expire, Brunelle said.

“Leases will all be honored,” he said. “It’s not our intention to clear the building.”

“We’re not closing or anything,” said Pat Brady, who sold the Idaho Sporting Goods business to Dallas-based BSN Sports in 2016 but retained ownership of the property through Idaho Sporting Goods Co.

The two-story, 16,692-square-foot building was built in 1948. Future redevelopment could involve readaptive use of the existing building or demolition. The latter occurred with an earlier CCDC project nearby, where the Watercooler building was demolished to make way for the construction of the Watercooler Apartments.

“What we see is a great location for redevelopment because of the proximity of the central business district, the state Capitol and the YMCA,” Brunelle said.

The Idaho Sporting Goods sale came after a few months of CCDC approaches via brokers to about a half dozen property owners between State and Jefferson streets and Ninth and 12th streets. More than half of the property in that quadrant is being used for surface parking lots, Brunelle noted.

This CCDC purchase is within the Westside urban renewal district, composed of 144 acres mostly between Ninth and 16th and Grove and Washington streets. Surface parking prime for redevelopment dominates on the Westside.

“We’re hopeful to get on more serious conversation started (with another property owner),” Brunelle said.

The Idaho Sporting Goods building is two blocks west of the Capitol.

“This is kind of a rare opportunity,” said CCDC Commissioner David Bieter, who is also Boise’s mayor. “It sets up some interesting possibilities.”

Brunelle said CCDC has no projects in mind and that office, retail and residential are possible. The agency would seek a public/private partnership with a developer, as it did with CCDC-owned properties that became the Watercooler Apartments and The Afton condos.

“By us having a corner property, it sets us up for conversations,” Brunelle said.

CCDC owns five other properties earmarked for redevelopment, but Idaho Sporting Goods is the only one available for new projects. Three already are earmarked for the Ash Street apartments, the second phase of The Afton condos and a proposed hotel/garage on Front Street. The other two are a tiny sliver between 10th and 11th streets and the historic Hayman House, where historic interpretative usage is expected.

The Ada County Assessor assesses the Idaho Sporting Goods property at $1.237 million but Langston & Associates appraised the .39-acre parcel at $2.2 million with the sale at $2.1 million. In Idaho, assessed and appraised values are typically close.

“With commercial properties, it’s common that those don’t necessarily align,” Brunelle said about assessed and appraised values. “We feel good about this price.”

CCDC didn’t give much public notice for Idaho Sporting Goods purchase

The Idaho Sporting Goods building was purchased at a special board meeting of the Capital City Board of Commissioner meeting announced just 24 hours before the meeting.

The meeting was publically posted as “authorizing purchase of property within Westside District,” but the property was not publicly identified until the morning of the 2 p.m. meeting on Dec. 20.

The Idaho Open meeting law requires at least 24 hours notice of a special meeting and specific items to be discussed. CCDC’s last-minute announcement of the minutes and release of the purchase property appears to meet open meeting law requirements, said Betsy Z. Russell, president of the Idaho Press Club.

“The more troublesome thing here is that the agency appears to be skating very close to the line with the most minimal possible compliance with the notice provisions of the Open Meeting Law,” Russell said. “They could do better.”

CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said real estate matters are discussed in executive session and details do not need to be revealed in advance.

“It’s just our choice,” Brunelle said. “That’s not required. We just adhere to the statutes and rules.”



CCDC monthly garage prices will go up a pretty penny

A monthly pass in the Capitol & Myrtle garage will increase to $140 in February. Photo by Teya Vitu.
A monthly pass in the Capitol & Myrtle garage will increase to $140 in February. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Monthly parking in the eight Capital City Development Corp. garages in downtown Boise will range from $100 to $220 in 2018 depending on how close drivers want to get to the tallest towers.

CCDC is building a price structure based on supply and demand revolving around how people are willing to pay, said Max Clark, CCDC parking and facilities director.

Monthly rates will increase $20 to $50, depending on the garage, starting Feb. 1 or when the new public/private garage at 11th and Front streets opens. The highest monthly rate, $220, will be for reserved parking in the Capitol & Main garage.

The CCDC Commission unanimously approved the 16- to 30-percent increases Nov. 13 for the new three-tier price structure.

The free first hour will remain at CCDC garages. The hourly rate will increase from $2.50 to $3 with the $12 daily maximum increasing to $15, Clark said.

Until Jan. 1, 2016, all CCDC garages had the same $100 monthly charge. When rates were last increased at that time, CCDC charged a premium $135 for the two Ninth Street garages and $120 for the other four garages.

The 2018 rates will have three tiers to give drivers more options on how much they are willing to pay, Clark said.

The new rates reflect supply and demand based on an August parking survey by CCDC that drew 748 respondents. CCDC weighed how much people on waiting lists for monthly passes were willing to pay vs. the level at which existing pass holders would start relinquishing passes.

“The increase of three garages is a great move to free up parking for people willing to pay,” said CCDC Commissioner Dana Zuckerman, adding that people unwilling to pay $175 on Ninth Street will have a $100 monthly option at 11th and Front. “It’s really $2 per parking day. If that is too taxing, the alternatives are there for those people.”

About 550 people are on the waiting list for monthly passes for the six existing CCDC garages. There are 246 on the waiting list for the 89 spaces CCDC owns in The Fowler apartment garage, which is due to open at Fifth and Broad streets later this year. Another 250 are on the waiting list for the 250 spaces CCDC is buying for $5.2 million in the 829-space Pioneer Crossing garage at 11th and Front, now under construction by Gardner Co.

The 11th and Front garage will have 600 spaces available for monthly passes at first, but any passes after the first 250 will eventually have to be relinquished as Gardner needs more space when a future office building is built.

Clark said 400 people are paying the $12 daily rate; many are awaiting a monthly pass.

CCDC now has 1,744 monthly pass holders for 1,695 designated monthly parking spots, but only 70 to 75 percent of monthly parking spots are used during a typical weekday daytime. About 50 of the monthly passes are rarely used, Clark said.

CCDC’s six garages have 2,567 parking spaces.

The Car Park, which operates 30 surface lots or garages with about 5,000 spaces in downtown Boise, has no plans to increase rates in response to CCDC’s move, owner Jeff Wolfe said.

“I don’t think it will have a big impact at all,” Wolfe said. “On an annual basis, we typically review rates. Certain lots have gone up much quicker than other lots. Some increase a lot, some I leave alone.”

New Capital City Development Corp. parking rates, effective Feb. 1

First hour: remains free

Hourly rate after one hour: increases from $2.50 to $3

Capitol & Main increases from $135 to $175 per month

Ninth & Main increases from $135 to $175 per month

Ninth & Front increases from $120 to $140 per month

10th & Front increases from $120 to $140 per month

Capitol & Myrtle increases from $120 to $140 per month

Capitol & Front increases from $120 to $140 per month

Fifth & Broad, the new garage at The Fowler Apartments, $175 per month

11th and Front, the new garage at Pioneer Crossing, $100 per month

Parking rate increase draws muted reaction

About a dozen people monitored garage parking rate deliberations by the Capital City Development Corp.’s  Board of Commissions but only three spoke in the public comment session.

Two spoke in opposition and Chase Erkins, chairman-elect of the Boise Young Professionals, supported the new parking rates.

“I think right now our rates are sufficiently low (compared to other cities),” Erkins said. “If we don’t do something to make it hurt a little bit, public transit will never take off.”

Dale Reese, president of Idaho Scientific, pays for parking for its seven employees.

“We do have concerns about future parking availability,” Reese said. “We also have concerns about the cost of the operation of the business. Price increases will make it harder for us to continue to grow downtown.”

Linda Cockerham of Select Commercial Property Services said her office moved out of downtown in May. The company had monthly parking passes in a CCDC garage.

“One of our biggest concerns is we would go out to a meeting and come back and have no place to park,” Cockerham said. “It hurts bad enough when you pay so much and have no parking space.”

The Idaho Business Review also stopped by a couple downtown businesses.

David Graves owns Alexander Davis Men’s Clothing and pays for parking for his five employees in a non-CCDC garage.

“It’s a multi-faceted, complex problem that’s going to do nothing but grow in downtown Boise,” Graves said. “To expect a customer to do park & ride is not feasible. It needs to be about accessibility and affordability.”

Dan Balluff, president of the Downtown Boise Association board of directors, owns City Peanut Shop. He said he heard little comment about parking rates from downtown merchants in the weeks leading up to the CCDC decision.

“I’m kind of ambivalent,” Balluff said. “It is one of those things that is inevitable.”


New parking revenue will go to alternative transport, garage maintenance

The new parking rates will increase Capital City Development Corp. revenue by an estimated $1.2 million to $1.9 million a year.The additional revenue will be split between maintenance/operations and funding transportation options.

About $600,000 will be set aside for transportation demand management strategies such as park & ride, shuttles, care sharing, carpools and designated garage parking for bicycles and motorcycles, said Max Clark, CCDC parking and facilities director.

Max Clark
Max Clark

Higher parking rates, in part, are designed to encourage drivers to consider options other than bringing a single-occupied vehicle downtown, such as the 15 to 20 people using the existing park & ride lot on Elder Street near Interstate 84 and Vista Avenue, Clark said. He is looking for a second park & ride lot on the West End.

Clark expects to implement carpools, car sharing and bike and motorcycle parking in 2018.

About $500,000 in new revenue will go toward new concrete in the 10th and Front garage, $150,000 for a new elevator and $125,000 for new electronic signage for the rebranded ParkBOI collaboration between CCDC garages and the city’s parking meters. The signage will inform drivers how many spaces are open in the garage, Clark said.

Downtown Boise parking is heading toward steep price increases

Monthly parking passes in the Ninth and Main garage could increase from $135 to $175. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Monthly parking passes in the Ninth and Main garage, shown here, could increase from $135 to $175. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Parking rates in downtown Boise garages operated by Capital City Development Corp. could go up by nearly 30 percent starting in February.

CCDC on Oct. 9 first announced the proposed rate increase for all classes of parking in its eight garages. The CCDC Board of Commissioners on Nov. 13 will host public comment on the rate increases before deciding the matter.

The largest proposed monthly increases are from $135 to $175 in the Capitol & Main (former Capitol Terrace) and Ninth & Main (former Eastman) garages. Reserved parking in Capital & Main could go from $170 to $220, according to Max Clark, CCDC’s parking and facilities director.

The first hour parking would remain free but the rate for subsequent hourly parking would go from $2.50 per hour to $3 per hour and the daily maximum would go from $12 to $15.

New rates were based on results of a parking survey CCDC conducted Aug. 12-20 that drew 748 respondents. The sweet spot was determined based on how many monthly pass holders would drop out at various suggested increases and how much waiting-list customers were willing to pay for a pass, said Matt Edmond, a CCDC project manager.

“We’re trying to up with a pricing strategy that balances availability, affordability and convenience,” Edmond said.

CCDC garages have about 1,700 month pass holders and about 550 people on waiting lists for a monthly pass, Edmond said.

Monthly rates were last increased in January 2016 but not since 2008 before then. The hourly rates were last increased in 2008, Clark said.

The monthly rates in the Ninth & Front, Capitol & Myrtle and Capitol & Front garages are proposed to go up from $120 to $140.

The monthly rate for the public parking spaces at the new The Fowler apartments at Fifth and Broad streets is proposed at $175, and a $100 monthly fee is in the works for the public spaces in the new Pioneer Crossing garage at 11th and Front streets. Both are set to open in the coming months.

The increased revenue will be used for park and ride lots, preferential carpool parking, more motorcycle and bicycle parking and public transit, Edmond said.

The complete proposed parking rate structure can be found on CCDC’s website.


Brick surfaces will upgrade Freak Alley and Union Block alley

New murals are going up in Freak Alley, which will also get a new brick pavement next year. Photo by Teya Vitu.
New murals are going up in Freak Alley, which will also get a new brick pavement next year. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Freak Alley has emerged has a major attraction for visitors and locals alike, despite the dumpsters, puddles and uneven pavement.

Across the way, the alley behind the historic Union Block building has more puddles and dumpsters. It has no murals to entice a crowd.

Both alleys will get an overhaul next year to become pedestrian-friendly and even outdoor-dining friendly. They serve as a first project for the city of Boise’s Parks and Public Places master plan that the City Council approved in February.

Freak Alley, despite its poor pavement, has become a popular tourist attraction. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Freak Alley, despite its poor pavement, has become a popular tourist attraction. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“They are not particularly pleasant places to be,” said Matt Edmond, project manager for capital improvements at the Capital City Development Corp., which is undertaking the alley improvements. “They are primarily used for deliveries and smoke breaks. We want to get a surface in there more conducive for people to get through.”

Or, as Anne Wescott, of the Union Block’s property management firm Parklane Management Company, puts it:

“We think the alley was pretty offensive-looking and smelly.”

The master plan outlines the next generation of downtown parks and public spaces that seeks to create smaller public places and appealing pedestrian/bicycle corridors. Often, these will be improvements of existing streetscape features, said Leon Letson, associate planner at the city’s Planning & Development Services.

The master plan is a city document, but the projects will often be carried out by outside agencies and the private sector, Letson said.

“Partnerships are essential,” he said.

The alleys between Idaho and Bannock streets are a collaboration between the Capital City Development Corp. and the owners of the Union Block, Fidelity Building, Key Bank Building and Idaho Building, represented by Parklane Management Company.

CCDC, the city’s urban redevelopment agency, plans to replace the alley asphalt between Capitol Boulevard and Ninth Street with paver bricks in the middle and concrete along the edges. The work is expected to start next year after the city replaces the sewer line in the alley in spring, said Matt Edmond, CCDC’s project manager for capital improvements. The dumpsters will be removed and replaced with a large compactor in the Idaho Street garage, Wescott said.

The objective is to have the new surface in place by September 2018, when CCDC’s 30-year-old Central District urban renewal district expires,  Edmond said.

Overhead lighting will also be installed, he said.

“Hopefully, this will create more public space available for people,” Edmond said. “Alleys have the potential to increase public space in the downtown grid by 20 percent.”

Across Eight Street from Freak Alley, the Union Block Alley is much less appealing with puddles and grease barrels and no art. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Across Eight Street from Freak Alley, the Union Block Alley is much less appealing with puddles and grease barrels and no art. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Edmond estimates the cost of the Freak Alley and Union Block alley work at about $500,000.

The Freak Alley improvements emerged after the Union Block partners approached CCDC for alley improvements.

“There are three different owners and all are on board,” Wescott said. “In larger cities, you will see alleys that are active.”

Wescott’s husband, Ken Howell, owns the Union Block and Idaho Building. He proposes installing steps from the alley down into the Union Block basement, she said.

Wescott said the building owners intend to move deliveries out of the alley and onto Capitol Boulevard and Eighth Street. She envisions outdoor dining there.

ACHD has already done three downtown Boise alley improvements

Ada County Highway District installed pavers in the alley between Third and Fourth streets in 2014 to make the alley north of Main Street for pedestrian friendly. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Ada County Highway District installed pavers in the alley between Third and Fourth streets in 2014 to make the alley north of Main Street for pedestrian friendly. Photo by Teya Vitu.

As the high-profile Freak Alley gets a street makeover next year, the  Ada County High District has already given similar paver-and-concrete treatments to three downtown alleys.

ACHD in August 2014 installed permeable pavers that can drain storm water into the ground in the alley north of Main Street running west from the historic U.S. Assay Office at Third Street to Fourth Street. The alley north of Main Street between 13th and 14th Streets got the same paver treatment, ACHD spokeswoman Nicole DuBois said.

The cost for each was $86,000, DuBois said. The Capital City Development Corp. will ultimately spend about $650,000 to $700,000 on the three blocks of alley linking the Assay Office to City Hall from Third to Sixth streets, said Matt Edmond, CCDC’s project manager for public improvements.

The alley north of Idaho Street between Fifth and Sixth street received permeable pavers in July 2015 at a cost of $88,000, DuBois said.

The 5th & Idaho Apartments that started construction in June will extend the alley improvements started by ACHD between Third and Fourth streets.

The project will have a pedestrian passage way through the property between Idaho and Main streets that crosses the alley, said Clay Carley, who is majority owner along with Tom Gibson.  Dean Papé and Peter Oliver are the 5th & Idaho developers.

“The idea is to get any waste receptacles out of the alley. We’re tucking it into the building,” Carley said. “There is potential retail use in the alley for a great little shop.”

Other small public place improvement are in the works

The city of Boise’s Parks and Public Places master plan is all about getting to the “low-lying fruit” first, associate planner Leon Letson said.

Along with the Freak Alley and Union Block Alley improvements, these include improvements to Eighth Street in the Cultural District south of Front Street.

“We need some more round-the-clock active use,” Letson said.

Another thought is to improve the grounds around the historic 1907 Hayman House at Ash and River Street. A three-story, 31-unit workforce apartment structure is proposed next door on the same Nevada-shaped parcel.

Letson also looks at the plaza in front of the Wells Fargo building next to The Grove Plaza. People don’t typically linger there.

“It hangs out in no-man’s land,” he said. “How could we partner with the property owner to bring something together?”

There could also be improvements to the Boise River Greenbelt and new lighting off the Ninth Street Bridge, he said.

These are all projects that seek to increase connectivity across downtown. Letson said several could be addressed in the next six to 12 months.

The role of alleys has changed over centuries, even recent decades

Alleys date back to the middle ages, even the Greek and Roman days. In earlier times, they were used for the disposal of human and animal waste and the delivery of raw materials and finished goods,  according to TranSystems, a Kansas City, Mo., architecture, engineering, and planning services provider to the transportation industry.

More recently, alleys hid things like garages, garbage cans, transformers, electric meters, and telephone equipment, according to Canin Associates, an Orlando, Fla., urban planning, landscape architecture and architecture firm.

“Over time, and well into the last quarter of the last century, (alleys) came to either have the reputation of a wallflower at a junior high sock hop, more or less overlooked, or the tough kid in the neighborhood, a place where more bad things happened than good,” TranSystems wrote in “Transportation and the History of Alleys.”

Canin wrote in “A Short History of Alleys: “In the 21st century, Americans are once again embracing the benefits of urban life, including walkability and compact mixed-use development. Along with this ‘new urbanism,’ we find ourselves once again embracing the alley as playing a critical role in the function of our cities and community development.  Alleys are now a common feature in the design and redesign of our communities.”