Boise’s next urban renewal district could include the proposed downtown baseball/soccer stadium; the ramshackle Lusk Street area sandwiched between Capitol Boulevard and Ann Morrison Park; the corridor between River Road and the Boise River; and the area between Americana Boulevard and The Connector.
The Capital City Development Corp. is vetting a roughly 120-acre Shoreline District that would slice off sections of the existing River Myrtle-Old Boise and 30th Street (West End) urban renewal district and add roughly equal portions of downtown that have never been in an urban renewal district.
The proposed Shoreline District is roughly Italy-shaped, with the Americana area in northern Italy and the Lusk Street area in the foot of the boot.
CCDC has four urban renewal districts, with the most recent established on the West End in 2012 and the oldest, the Central District, expiring in 2018.
“We saw two catalyst projects along the river,” CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said. “We then explored other parcels along the river with opportunities for development that were not in an (urban renewal) district.”
Brunelle is especially intrigued by the development potential of the Forest River Office Park surface parking lots that front River Street.
He also has an eye on the Lusk Street area, which still bears the ambience of its industrial past. Lusk Street buildings were mostly built in 1948, and the La Pointe Street buildings across from the two-year-old student housing date mostly from 1949 to 1954. The student housing would not be in the new district.
An urban renewal district could provide a funding mechanism to carry out elements of the city of Boise’s 2013 Lusk Street Master Plan, said Jimmy Hallyburton, executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project, which has been located on Lusk Street for seven years.
“It seems for the most part the neighborhood is excited about being part of an urban renewal district,” Hallyburton said. “They see it as something to be very helpful for the neighborhood.”
Hallyburton said an urban renewal district could be the ticket for outfitting the neighborhood with sidewalks, better promoting the access to Ann Morrison Park and possibly burying overhead power lines. These elements are also spelled out in the city’s master plan.
“There are long stretches without sidewalks,” said Hallyburton, adding that the Royal Boulevard and Ann Morrison Drive/University Boulevard crosswalks are among the busiest in Boise. “There are all these gaps on Lusk without sidewalks, and the same on Royal.”
Neither Lusk nor Forest River is in an urban renewal district. The main post office and several 13th Street and Shoreline Drive properties also fall just outside the existing urban renewal districts.
CCDC brought in SB Friedman Development Advisors of Chicago in June to write an eligibility report to determine if all the properties cumulatively meet the standards for urban renewal. These standards include eliminating or preventing blight and revitalizing underused areas.
The report is scheduled to be submitted to the CCDC Commission and Boise City Council in fall. If eligibility is confirmed, CCDC will determine what sort of development projects and infrastructure projects would be included in the 20-year maximum lifespan of the Shoreline District, said Shellan Rodriguez, CCDC’s project manager for property development.
“A district could be in place as early as 2019,” Rodriguez said.
Urban renewal districts establish a base value of all the property in the district. The district is funded by increased taxes generated above the base value, known as a tax increment.
Urban renewal districts rely on public-private partnerships. CCDC, for instance, can build infrastructure for private projects that would be funded from the new taxes generated from private projects.
“This Shoreline District could really produce a series of public improvements from The Connector to the Bench and Lusk district,” Rodriguez said.