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The Switchback hopes to bring summer gathering place to Boise’s Barber Valley

Thousands of homes, townhouses and apartments sprung up in Boise’s Barber Valley in recent years, but very few places to grab a meal support all the houses. More than 10,000 people live in the area, but just one traditional restaurant.

One resident hopes to change that – at least in the summer months with The Switchback.

Sensing an opportunity

Courtney Santillan lives in the Mill District in the area some folks know as Harris Ranch. She took a course in entrepreneurship last year, and saw an opportunity.

“There aren’t a lot of places to eat out here,” she said. “I’ve been circulating through the various developments out there trying to find a place for my concept.”

That concept is similar to ideas that popped up in places like Boulder, CO or Salem, OR.

“I want to have backyard games, a firepit, some local events, some wine tastings, things like that,” Santillan said. “But really I want a place you can ride your bike to, you can walk, you can hang out for a while, your kids can play – you can play, you don’t feel rushed.”

But finding that perfect spot wasn’t an easy challenge to overcome.

“I’ve talked to Idaho Power, LeNir, ACHD, basically anyone who owns land.”

After many discussions, and just before she gave up, Santillan approached Harris Ranch Developers LeNir one last time.

“It was one last ditch effort and then I was going to let this go.”

That final approach led to an idea.

“To my surprise they said, ‘what do you think about staring this, launching this temporarily somewhere?'”

“We are anxious to get some restaurants out here,” Harris Ranch developer Doug Fowler told BoiseDev last fall. “We have the rooftops now and we are starting to get some interest. We are trying to build a community here but it doesn’t happen overnight.”

[The future of Boise’s Harris Ranch: park, school, apartments and maybe that elusive restaurant]

Santillan and LeNir agreed on a parcel of land at the eastern-most corner of Warm Springs Ave. and ParkCenter Blvd (the two streets actually intersect twice).

The concept for The Switchback

Santillan’s plan for The Switchback includes a landscaped area anchored by up to four spots to park food trucks. She hopes to convert a vintage camper into a bar selling beer and wine.

Green space would “would create this space with yard games and picnic tables and yard lights. Maybe some music once in a while and some really small events,” she said.

“Someday I’d like to have a building out there where people gather,” she said. In the future, Santillan hopes The Switchback concept could be part of Harris Ranch’s village green, which is planned for development in future years just up the street from the temporary site.

The Switchback logo
Logo for The Switchback

Details to work through

She hopes to get the project up and running this summer, but time and jumping through hoops could make it difficult.

“I’m working to get a beer and wine license, as well as power and water for the trucks. I hoped to launch by May – but at this point it would be late summer at the earliest. Next summer is more likely because of all the steps involved.”

Once off-the ground, the concept would initially be open in the summer months – May through September.

As she works through the process, she hopes neighbors who like the idea who might have plumbing or electrical skills or who might be willing to help the project along might join in.

“I’ll trade for beer!”

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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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