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Without a stadium, Lusk/Shoreline nears approval with focus on Boise River & housing

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The City of Boise city council voted to move forward the plan for a new urban renewal district centered on the Boise River earlier this week.

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The Shoreline District includes the Lusk area on the south side, plus a portion of land that would have included a stadium on the north. The stadium project was canceled on Shoreline Drive, and developers are hoping to revive it elsewhere.

In August, BoiseDev took an in-depth look at the project.

During discussion on the project, the council focused on two main portions of the project: affordable housing and the river.

‘Activating’ the Boise River

The Boise River is one of the City of Trees’ most celebrated assets. In many places, the river hides behind a large canopy of trees and brush, with very little active use. In nearby Garden City, the river is seeing an increase in commercial activity.

A new look for Shoreline Park

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The CCDC Shoreline plan includes a number of concepts and plans to help connect the city with the river, including a revamp of Shoreline Park. The pocket park is near the old Kmart/HP/St. Luke’s (depending on your age) building on River St.

A rendering of a future Shoreline Park. Via CTA Architects

“I’m really excited to see what this can catalyze for our city’s relationship with the river,” Boise City Council President Lauren McLean said. “This is a great opportunity to use our river and see more life along our river and our Greenbelt.”

The Shoreline revamp is envisioned to include a new pedestrian bridge to Ann Morrison Park, an area for river floaters to exit, open lawn space and more.

“The Shoreline Park redevelopment is intended to become a new neighborhood center as a riverfront urban plaza and public space,” CCDC wrote in its presentation to council. “Shoreline Park will serve as central gathering space for new residents, as well as become a destination for everyone, with potential shopping and dining amenities and services.”

Shoreline Park improvements are currently slated for the second five years of the twenty-year district lifespan.

Proposed Shoreline Park plan.Via CTA Architects

Expanding the Greenbelt in the Lusk area

Another project expected in sometime after 2023 is a new public park in the area of Lusk and the Greenbelt.

This concept could include a new 11th St. pedestrian bridge, separated paths for walkers and cyclists, new river access points, seating and support for the development of patios near the river.

“As currently designed, the Greenbelt offers a relaxed way to navigate through the area, however, there are few strong visual connections or access points to the Lusk District’s amenities,” the CCDC report says. “In addition, the neighborhood currently does not open its doors to the Greenbelt or river. Future redevelopment could reverse this trend with food and beverage or other retailers creating active spaces for people to utilize the urban amenities of the Lusk District while enjoying the peacefulness of the Boise River.”

Rendering of proposed enhancements to the Lusk District Greenbelt area. Via CTA Architects
Cross section of potential patio dining facing the Boise River Greenbelt and the river. Via CTA Architects

Protecting and adding affordable housing

The Shoreline & Lusk areas are home to workforce and affordable housing, and several city councilors said they hope this will be protected and enhanced.

“When I read about urban renewal, I also read about gentrification,” councilor Lisa Sánchez said. “My only concern is about the people who live there now. Are they going to be eventually displaced or are their lives going to be improved?”

CCDC program manager Shellan Rodriguez said her agency and its consultants put a particular focus toward housing.

“We want to incentivize a diversity of housing options that can look many different ways,” she said.

Representatives with consultant SB Friedman said there are five areas that could hold additional housing and could support 1,225 additional housing units over the 20-year life of the district.

Reworking the firefighter property

Another idea is to take the property CCDC refers to as the “Fireman’s Training Site” and revamp it to include potential affordable housing, plus added public gathering space.  The Boise Fire Department now uses a new training center in west Boise.

Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan tells BoiseDev his team still actively uses the site as its operations center – and any redevelopment of the property could only come after the city finds a new home for those facilities.

“The site presents a strong opportunity to develop housing… to supply mixed-income housing in the Shoreline District,” the CCDC consultant report said. “Any development should be oriented to the Greenbelt, meaning a new building could create a shared public and private space where it fronts the pathways with potential to offer small-scale retail services such as a coffee shop that are (sic) an amenity to new residents and passers-by.”

“As we’ve looked at how to encourage compact growth in our downtown core, this tool is important to our ability to do that,” McLean said. “I appreciate the fact that a mix of housing types is part of this plan. We’ve worked hard to bring more housing downtown and this supports that.”

CCDC in its report says it hopes to accomplish this goal by providing “support of affordable housing development by assisting with eligible costs such as resident relocation, impact fees, financing, public improvements, and utility improvements as per existing Idaho state statutes.”

The district will undergo two additional readings in the next two weeks – with hopes of starting on January 1, 2019.

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