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Gov. Little interview: urban renewal could use key changes; urges caution

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Urban renewal is a perennial hot topic in Idaho. Since the first urban renewal area was established in Downtown Boise in 1986 to now – cities across the state have begun using the tool and its financing methods to pay for plazas, infrastructure, business attraction and more.

During his interview with BoiseDev this week, Gov. Brad Little noted it is often a big topic at the Statehouse, too.

“There’s usually an urban renewal bill every year and the anti-urban renewal people show up and the people that have used for urban renewal show up,” he said.

He thinks “urban renewal” could start with a branding change.

“I’m in the camp that we ought to change the name of urban renewal to what it is and that’s for economic development. Then really keep urban renewal for quote a ‘blighted area ‘which is what the intent of it it was to begin with.”

The Capital City Development Corporation, Boise’s urban renewal agency, has made a similar point with the establishment of its new Gateway East urban renewal area. It says it is using the tool more for economic development than traditional urban renewal.

Urban renewal areas have proliferated across Idaho, including in Garden City, Meridian, Nampa, Twin Falls, Kootenai County, Chubbuck, Driggs, McCall and many more. The State of Idaho registry has more than 80 areas on its list – though it hasn’t been updated since 2017.

Without naming names, he said not every urban renewal district is created equally.

“I think some areas don’t use it within the intent of the law. I think some people do.”

He said the people who work on urban renewal should be careful to follow Idaho’s laws, statutes and legislative intent.

“People on urban renewal boards just need to be cognizant that what they do passes what would be called the political smell test,” he said. “If they’re doing what they said they were going to do (that’s OK). But everybody that has a do with urban renewal needs to be careful.”

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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