City of Boise plots to make downtown more park-like

Don Day
BoiseDev.com EXCLUSIVE

BOISE - Downtown Boise is known for many things.  Great meals.  A thriving tech scene. The hub of government. The sound of Rocci Johnson's voice.

But it's not really known as a place with a lot of parks.

Outside of the usually bustling (and currently closed) Grove Plaza or the Basque Block,  the downtown core lacks for popular places for the public to gather.

But city planners want to change that.

The Downtown Parks & Public spaces identifies a raft of ideas that could help improve livability downtown - including 11 priority projects and dozens of additional big and little ideas.

The priorities:

  1. A public plaza at River Street near Grand. This area along the Pioneer Pathway could soon be home to a "community pocket park."
  2. Large public park at Main St. & Whitewater Parkway (adjacent to the proposed future CWI campus)
  3. An indoor/outdoor farmer's market and a large public plaza in the area of 11th & Bannock (near Boise Plaza). 
  4. Streetscape improvements along 11th St. to better link the North End and downtown
  5. A linear park from the old Assay Office to City Hall through the alley between Main & Idaho streets through old Boise. Plus, the addition of movable structures and play equipment in Capitol Park across from the Statehouse.
  6. An expansion of the Freak Alley project in other areas around downtown. Plus, a so-called "micro-plaza" in front of the Borah Post Office.
  7. Steetscape improvements along 5th street and Broad to link up the Basque Block with Old Boise & Julia Davis Park.
  8. A revamp of the main library campus and addition of a plaza & play areas.
  9. Enhancing 15th & 16th Streets as bicycle corridors
  10. A pathway from the Lusk St. area to the Boise Depot, Vista Ave. area
  11. Improving connections from Boise State to downtown.

Where the plan really starts to come to life are the dozens of so-called Little Details.  Simple ideas like adding more drinking fountains, putting in movable seating, adding commercial business kiosks on the Greenbelt and adding activities to CW Moore & Capitol Parks.

But even bigger dreams are included - some that would likely take significant tax dollars or private investment.

  • Add riverfront shopping and dining with a "river walk" type concept in the west part of downtown or River St area.  In neighboring Garden City, the Riverside Hotel is already tackling this idea - with an expansion of its popular outdoor Sandbar restaurant & bar, proposed addition of new standup paddleboard ramp and the new Coiled/Telaya Winery.
  • Possibly daylighting the Boise City Canal which runs underground near Grove St.
  • Add a large riverside gathering place near the Boise Library as part of its campus redevelopment.
  • Developing a "greenway" parallel to Main St. & Fairview Ave. as the west side of downtown is redeveloped.

Not mentioned in the report, somewhat surprisingly, is the planned revamp of Boise City Hall Plaza on Capitol Blvd., which would add grass and other features to the area in front of city hall.

All these ideas won't come free. The report identifies a number of sources of tax dollars for the projects, including impact fees, levies, land donations, CCDC's tax increment financing and others. It also notes private investments and public/private partnerships could help make downtown a more park-friendly place.

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By Don Day

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