This special Deep Dive series looks at the process and development of up to four new urban renewal districts in Boise under the direction of the Capital City Development Corporation. Each day will bring into focus the idea and work being done.

The Capital City Development Corporation’s first urban renewal district in the downtown core expires this year – and the agency and City of Boise are looking to add up to four new areas to the portfolio.

If all four work through the process and are approved by Boise’s city council – land under CCDC’s purview could stretch far beyond Downtown Boise – reaching from nearly Horseshoe Bend Rd in the west to the Memory Rd./Isaac’s Canyon interchange in the east.

Four districts, four motives

Each of the four proposed URDs are designed to serve different needs – and expand urban renewal beyond areas generally considered urban.

An area along State St. is designed to help foster a transit corridor. On Boise’s Bench, CCDC could help promote infill development. A much-discussed district along the Boise River originally would have helped support a stadium, but now could be used to upgrade infrastructure. And a giant area east of the airport could help spur industrial development.

The agency is preparing to terminate the Central District in September, and will wrap up work on two other areas – the River/Myrtle/Old Boise district in 2024 and Westside in 2025.

“It’s a manageable situation,” CCDC Finance and Administration Director Ross Borden said. “Looking out ahead, just wait a few years until River-Myrtle and the Westside sunset. That’s when it gets real.”

Borden said the end of existing districts means the agency’s budget will need support from new areas to continue in its current form.

“Hopefully those will get spun up quickly and it will be a manageable situation as well,” he said.

Industrial to Boise’s south?

The agency is moving forward to quickly implement a new district that would be the largest in the city and dwarf the other areas centered around the Downtown Boise core.

When folks think of urban renewal – they may have a picture of the work done in the Downtown area, but this time the City and CCDC hope to use the tool to promote industrial development in an area from the Boise Airport to Micron.

The planned Gateway East area contains about 3,254 acres, or roughly 5.1 square miles – which by comparison is slightly smaller than the City of Star in Ada County’s northwest corner.

The city’s economic director Nic Miller said the city’s low vacancy rate for industrial supply is serving as an impetus to get this district off the ground quickly.

“Commercial brokers will tell you spec product and more industrial growth is what we need,” Miller said. “It’s a way we can bring our tools as a City, as an urban renewal agency to bare in an area that could use some infrastructure to make it go.”

The City and CCDC say they are looking at the urban renewal statute beyond its namesake term.

“It’s administrated by ‘urban renewal’ – but it’s all economic development.” CCDC project manager Matt Edmond said.

“I look at it in terms of Chobani in terms of rural areas where urban renewal districts have been successful,” CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said, pointing to the Twin Falls Urban Renewal District and its assistance to bring the yogurt maker to the Magic Valley.

The City of Boise owns several parcels in the area, as well as the Orchard Cutoff rail line. The city has been eyeing a rail depot on a plot of land it owns along the rail line near the airport.

SB Friedman graphic shows the major uses in the area

“There is some potential there for catalytic development… and this is the one tool we have for urban renewal in the state – not only the city’s properties but some others nearby,” Brunelle said.

In addition, the work to help develop industrial infrastructure, the agency hopes to spruce up the eastern gateway to the City for travelers entering the area from car along Interstate 84.

Beyond industrial and open land, the area also includes the largely vacant Boise Factory Outlet Mall, which has just five outlet stores remaining, as well as the Blue Valley Mobile Home Park which has been at the center of scrutiny over a proposed truck depot in the area.

During a public meeting Monday, Boise’s mayor noted that the idea to use urban renewal has been working its way through the process for a long time.

“We’ve been working on this for the better part of a dozen years,” Bieter said. “Both the timing and this activity are really important. Without a district, you are going to see a kind of one-off development of this district. You won’t see the connectivity and the maximizing of the resources here.”

Now, CCDC and the city are hoping to fast-track the process. CCDC voted to accept a recommendation from consultant SB Friedman which studied the area for adherence to Idaho’s urban renewal statutes. That firm found that the area was a so-called “economic liability and that 101 of the 330 parcels being proposed have no development on them.

Next, the plan moves to Boise City Council where the city can choose to accept the findings of the consultant.  The idea would then move through the City of Boise’s planning and zoning process for approval and public input.

CCDC’s board chairperson Dana Zuckerman says she feels the time is right.

“It’s also time to look at industrial usage,” she said. “It was exciting when Winco came in and created new jobs, and we hope to do that ten times over.”

Header photo: Courtesy SB Friedman.

Disclosure: The author’s family owns several large tracts of land to the east of the proposed urban renewal district. He does not have a direct interest in the business.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an outdated map from July. In addition, it included incorrect information on the process forward.