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

Editor’s note: This is part of a six-part series of stories on our interview with Gov. Brad Little. Additional stories will appear all this week.

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.

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“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.

The full audio of the 30-minute interview is available in podcast form for members of BoiseDev FIRST as an exclusive benefit of membership. Listen now or sign up for access. Hear his full thoughts on growth, transportation, climate change, urban renewal and more.

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.”

Gov. Brad Little on Idaho’s growth

This story is part of a special six-part series, outlining how Idaho’s new governor looks at issues related to growth. BoiseDev FIRST members get access to a special podcast containing the full interview with the governor.

Support our journalism: Sign up for BoiseDev FIRST and get a daily newsletter filled with news & scoops.

Don Dayhttp://linkedin.com/in/donday
Don has been covering news in Boise for 20 years. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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