St. Luke’s, City agree on plan for Bannock St., neighborhood association appeals

St. Luke's Bannock St. plaza in 2017. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The East End Neighborhood Association is appealing a decision over the future of Bannock St. through the St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center campus in Boise.

It comes nearly two years after the Boise City Council approved closing nearby Jefferson St. following hours of testimony.

In June, the Boise City development officials OK’ed a design for the plaza between the main hospital building and the Mountain States Tumor Institute.  The area is currently closed to cars – but the city wanted to open up the Bannock connection to traffic of all types after approving the closure of Jefferson St. to the north in 2016. That approval was part of St. Lukes’ master plan to expand the hospital with a large new structure that would extend the hospital building north.

Here’s the plan:

Rendering of a plan to change the Bannock St. plaza near St. Luke’s Health System’s Boise campus.
  • The Bannock St. plaza would be redesigned with an 18-foot wide travel lane that would allow for traffic in both directions.
    • It will feature a “ribbon” design that helps offset the roadway area from the rest of the plaza. The area would not have a curb but instead would be flat.
  • For the first year or so after construction, the area would only be open to bikes and pedestrians, and removable bollards would block access to cars and trucks.
  • Then, a trial would be conducted where the road would be opened up and vehicular traffic would be allowed through in both directions. The City of Boise’s transportation planning division will evaluate the changes – and work with St. Luke’s to come up with recommended changes or adjustments to propose to Boise City Council. That could include keeping the lane open to cars – or returning it to a full-time plaza.
  • St. Luke’s will not be allowed to close Jefferson St. “unless and until” it gives the City of Boise a 28-foot easement down Bannock St.

The compromise comes after an extensive process between the hospital system and city leaders. During a contentious planning meeting in April of 2017 attended by Boise Mayor David Bieter, he was vocal about the need to open the road up to cars after the city approved the Jefferson closure.

“After all the hours of public testimony and outreach and discussion, the only thing that… threw a bone to people… was the ability to go through (Jefferson with cars),” Bieter said in 2017.

Now, with what city officials characterize as a compromise plan in place, the mayor’s spokesperson says his boss is happy with the next steps.

“His comments made it clear he had expectations about this,” City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee said. “Given those comments and the strength with which he made them – and given this process and the approvals, he does feel like yes, it does satisfy that.”

In its appeal, however, the EENA said the “newly designed plaza goes against the Mayor and City Council’s wishes to completely open this section of Bannock to all modes of transportation.”

The appeal says the current design isn’t sufficient and does not satisfy what the neighborhood group had hoped to see.

“Returning Bannock to a full-use street is critical for travel between the East End and downtown. The corridor should have been designed for all modes, with a priority for east-west movement, providing safe north to south movement with clearly defined crossings at intersections including one mid-block crossing between Ave. A and 1st Street. The final design illustrates that St. Luke’s has no intention of following through on its commitment made during that process.”

On the appeal, St. Luke’s doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the neighborhood.

“St. Luke’s leaders are confused by EENA’s claim,” Dave McFadyen, St. Luke’s Boise Administrator said. “Direct feedback from four years of planning sessions, meetings and workshops held with the City Council, key community stakeholders and engaged neighbors, including EENA, informed this design.”

“EENA wants connectivity,” neighborhood rep Brittney Scigliano told BoiseDev. “It has been our understanding that the city wants the same thing and we have supported them in that since the approval of the St. Lukes master plan. The proposed redesign of Bannock St. does not provide that connectivity. It barely gives it to cyclists.”

City of Boise Urban and Regional Planner Andrea Tuning says the City’s goal is to open up the street “to everyone,” including cars. She says a final determination can’t be made “until we see it open and see it functioning and have a chance to see all the movements there.”

If both Bannock and Jefferson Streets were ultimately fully closed to cars, it would create a so-called superblock – with no east-west vehicle passage from Idaho St. to Fort St – about 3/10ths of a mile. Neighbors are concerned it would put added pressure on the intersection of Broadway, Ave. B and Warm Springs.

McFadyen says the proposed design meets the needs of walkers, bicyclists and drivers.

“St. Luke’s has worked hard to be a good neighbor throughout this process,” he said. “In good faith, we’ve listened to community members, and met or exceeded the commitments we’ve made. St. Luke’s intends to do the same where Bannock is concerned.”

“Obviously the conversations that went on with the city, the neighborhood and St. Luke’s  were contentious,” Journee said. “At the end of the day the expansion of St. Luke’s is going to be good for the community and this process has gotten us to a place that the mayor and council are comfortable with going forward.”

The appeal will be heard by the City of Boise Design Review Committee on August 8th. City staff recommended denial of the appeal.