The Capital City Development Corporation plans to spend nearly $11-million dollars to revamp two sections of downtown Boise centered on Grove St. in the next two years.
The agency’s capital improvement plan, which outlines spending for the next five years, identifies $9.3 million in funding for Grove St., plus a separate project along 6th St. that will beef up a key Grove St. intersection. Two additional projects will add new public art projects in the area, bringing the total allocated in the next two fiscal years to $10,905,000. The dollars do not include items like staff time, which the agency does not track on a project-by-project basis.
|Fiscal Year 2020||Fiscal Year 2021|
|Old Boise blocks||$50,000||$3,850,000||$3,900,000|
|6th St. project||$1,450,000||$1,450,000|
The projects lie on either side of the Grove Plaza and Basque Block.
The agency said it has no firm plans, and is going through a process it calls “stakeholder engagement” – a series of meeting currently underway with landowners, developers and business owners along the corridor. It also lists the ‘general public,’ though broader outreach on the project will not happen until the next fiscal year which starts in October, according to CCDC project manager Laura Williams.
“Some streets invite special placemaking,” CCDC development director Todd Bunderson said during an August public meeting of the agency’s board. “We think Grove St. is a street like that, there is some money in the budget for a planning effort. We are really in the preliminary portion of that effort where we want to work with the public and landowners.”
The agency asked for payment for documents on the project requested by BoiseDev, citing the staff time needed to pull and redact items. Through a process of negotiation, the agency provided some, but not all, the documents requested without a fee.
Old Boise section
CCDC plans to rework Grove St. from 6th St. all the way to Broadway Ave. The so-called “study area” includes the land immediately adjoining the Basque Block.
Grove St. currently ends at 3rd St. to the east, but the plan includes studying a continuation of potential pedestrian connectivity all the way to Broadway. Williams said the agency hopes to explore allowing some sort of connection through the area behind the Ada County Courthouse and St. Luke’s employee parking garage.
Such a pedestrian path could roughly align with a new bike and walking path through the Dona Larson park complex.
The 2004 Old Boise-Eastside Master Plan, adopted by the City of Boise, says Grove St. should be “the primary pedestrian connection between the Old Boise area, the new development areas to the east and central downtown Boise to the west.”
Area in transition
Portions of this stretch of Grove St. are already in transition. A development group led by Clay Carley plans to build two mixed-use buildings on the block between 5th and 6th St. The projects would add more than 174 new residential units to the block. Carley is also developing a hotel and large 800-space parking garage to the south along Front St.
The 2004 plan outlines a possible “special” treatment of the block near Carley’s apartment projects. The City of Boise’s 2007 Downtown Arts & Culture Plan calls to “extend Basque Block street design and identity east another block.” The south side of the block currently hosts several parking lots owned by the Heath and Artiach families.
“I’ve had six or seven conversations about Grove going east and the prospects of that,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said. “Taking the Basque Block and going forward and that type of thing are important.”
Bieter said the popularity of Boise’s ‘restaurant row’ on 8th Street are important – but Downtown needs more hot spots.
“I think increasing other opportunities would increase the supply of opportunities and take a little heat off 8th,” Bieter said.
The City of Boise’s 2016 Boise Downtown Parks & Public Spaces plan calls for the possible daylighting of the Boise Canal which currently runs underground. CCDC officials said the cost of that type of improvement could be an issue, and again noted they are still in the pre-planning phase and no specific concepts have been laid down. The canal already pops up in CW Moore park and is the water source for the historic waterwheel.
Next year, in a separate project, CCDC will spend $1.45 million on 6th St. as it bisects Grove St.. The project from Main St. to Front St. include a beefed-up intersection of 6th and Grove and an alley revamp.
To the west of The Grove Plaza, the agency also plans to pour money into Grove from 9th St. to Fairview Ave. In this area, Grove runs through the Linen District but the dominant feature remains nearly a dozen surface parking lots.
A project to upgrade infrastructure and streetscapes could help spur development of the parcels close to the core of downtown.
Land of many parking lots
At least two full city blocks in the area are covered entirely by parking lots. They could be key targets for redevelopment, separately from the Grove St. improvements.
The area surrounded by Grove, 10th, Front and 11th Streets – formerly the home of the Boise Farmer’s Market is used for parking primarily by employees of the JR Simplot Company. The Yanke family owns the parcels, which the City of Boise zoned C-5. That zoning allows for a large array of uses, including high-rises and residential units with no density limit.
The block bounded by Grove, 12th, Main and 13th Streets is an employee parking lot owned by Idaho Power. The block also holds a C-5 zoning.
Hendricks Commercial Properties also owns a roughly half-block surface parking lot behind the Owyhee, which it acquired earlier this year.
“We definitely bought them not to keep them as parking lots into the future,” Hendricks CEO Rob Gerbitz told BoiseDev earlier this year. “We’d like to develop them in the future, but that will take us some time to get through and find plans for what to do with them.”
Outreach to come
Like the River-Myrtle portion of the Grove St. corridor, CCDC said its plans will come as part of public outreach.
“CCDC’s role along the corridor is to catalyze development and investment with public infrastructure, placemaking, and by identifying potential sites for redevelopment when appropriate,” a project overview document notes.
One concrete idea is in the budget. CCDC said it will spend $155,000 for what it calls “Treefort Footprint Public Artist Designed Infrastructure.” These projects would sit at 12th & 13th Streets.
Urban renewal in Idaho
When a city creates a new urban renewal area, the property tax collections inside its boundaries freeze at the time of creation. Any increase in property values and the extra tax it generates goes to the urban renewal agency instead of taxing agencies like schools, ACHD and police.
For instance: Say a property is worth $100,000 and pays $1,000 per year in property tax at the time of the urban renewal area. Over time, it increases in value to $150,000 and the owner pays $1,500 in property taxes. Of that $1,500, $1,000 would go to the regular taxing agencies and the extra $500 would go to an agency like CCDC.
The agency can spend the dollars on a variety of projects like infrastructure, streetscapes and property acquisition.