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Big upgrades will change face of Downtown McCall (using a tool much of Idaho can’t)

Regence Blue Shield Idaho
Future in Focus: McCall

A big transformation kicked off its most visible phase in Downtown McCall this summer. A multi-year project will dramatically revamp the streets in the city’s downtown core.

The projects will pump millions of dollars into improvements, funded by a local option tax McCall residents passed in 2015.

The projects will roll out during the summer months of the next four to five years, and bring a dramatic new look to the popular summer destination.

Courtesy City of McCall

“The first glimpse of Payette Lake when entering Downtown McCall leaves a lasting impression on anyone who has visited,” McCall notes on its website. “The Downtown Project aims to increase the energy of the area and create a vibrant and attractive destination for both residents and visitors.”

Features include new pavement, widened sidewalks, public art, trees, upgraded pedestrian crossings and more. Workers will install bike lanes on Idaho Highway 55, reconfigure parking, adjust lane configurations and add a pedestrian signal. Utility work will include removing powerlines, as well as water, sewer and stormwater upgrades.

2nd & Lenora - after
2nd & Lenora - before
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Tamarack Resort
Regence Blue Shield Idaho

Before and after imagery courtesy City of McCall, via Horrocks Engineers

Here are specifics of the plan:

2nd Street from Lake St. to Lenora

Right now, 2nd Street is an under-improved segment of road, with diagonal parking spaces and limited sidewalks.

“The center of downtown and therefore calls for a unique design. Including special pavement treatments and rolled curbs will create an area for public gathering events,” the city says of this area.

The finished design will add street trees along both sides of 2nd. New, continuous, wide sidewalks will provide room for outdoor dining, street furniture, and a public art installation. Historic street lamps with timber poles and cross beams will also dot the street.

The intersection of 2nd Street and Lenora will include bulbed-out sidewalks and upgraded pedestrian crossings.

The design includes some parallel parking to replace a few of the current diagonal spaces.

This part of the project will wrap up this summer.

Downtown McCall Idaho
Rendering of 2nd St. and Lenora St., via Horrocks Engineers

Lenora St. from 1st St. to 3rd St.

While the upgrades won’t be as extensive as 2nd Street., Lenora St. will also see updates. It links Highway 55 and the Railroad Ave. area to the envisioned improved downtown area.

“These typical streets with low speeds, short blocks, and relatively low traffic volumes provide important pedestrian connections to the downtown, parking and the lakefront,” the city wrote on its project site.

The design shows improved sidewalks, parallel parking and landscape strips. The lanes will feature ‘sharrow’ markings for shared use for vehicles and bikes. Sidewalks will be 15 feet wide, allowing for businesses to interface with the street and for future outdoor dining.

Courtesy City of McCall

One photo featured by the City of McCall shows a crosswalk ending in a raised gutter followed by a raised sidewalk with no ADA access behind a utility pole. The new design should make it easier for folks to get around – both in the summer and winter seasons.

Park St., 1st St.

Park St. defines the project area’s southern border, while 1st St. sits along the west. Right now, the streets have almost now sidewalk, except for a couple of patchy areas.

Like 2nd, Park and 1st will feature shared vehicle and bike lanes, continuous sidewalks and street trees. Park St. will wrap next year, while 1st could come online in 2022.

Veterans Alley

The city will also revamp Veterans Alley between 1st St. through 3rd St. Overhead power poles will come down, with power lines moving into underground trenches. Crews will fully pave the alley as well as make improvements to water, sewer and stormwater utilities.

The alley will connect to Veterans Park at the corner of 2nd and Park.

This part of the project is slated for 2021.

A lot from LOT

The project is funded through several sources, including the local option tax.

The tax adds a penny to each dollar spent – except on groceries and auto purchases. McCall has authority to levy a local option tax unlike most of the rest of the state, with authority granted to resort areas of the state by the legislature.

[Gov. Little interview: on that local option tax talk]

The City of McCall initially estimated the tax would add about $800,000 in funding to the budget, but so far collections are ahead of estimates. The city also extended its 3% lodging tax assessed on folks staying in motel and hotels to short term rental facilities in the city.

Right now, fourteen cities in Idaho charge local sales taxes. A resort city is defined as an area with fewer than 10,000 residents that caters “to recreational needs and meeting needs of people traveling to that destination city for an extended period of time.”

The LOT for McCall is limited to ten years and would need to be reauthorized after it expires. The dollars will also fund improvements around the city, including projects on Deinhard Ln., Commerce St. and more.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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