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Boise’s mayor outlines priorities on future use of urban renewal

In a February letter obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean outlined her approach to two proposed urban renewal districts.

As we’ve reported in recent years, the urban renewal agency for Boise has looked to add several new urban renewal areas. The expansions started after the agency’s original district in Downtown Boise terminated in 2018. It launched a new district around the Shoreline area of the Boise River as well as in the desert south of town – both at the beginning of 2019.

Two more districts, championed by former Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, wound their way through the process. One would sit along State St. and support an envisioned ‘premium transit corridor’ connecting Downtown Boise with the western part of the valley.

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The other would wind along the major streets of the Boise Bench.

Full steam on State

Rendering of what the area of State & Collister could look like in the future. Via City of Boise

McLean’s letter, addressed to CCDC board chair Dana Zuckerman, said that the city supports the current project. It outlines a public engagement timeline and possible launch at the begining of 2022.

“As you know, a great deal of planning work has already been completed for the State Street Corridor, and Council adopted the resolution finding eligibility,” McLean wrote. “Given the timelines necessary to complete (upcoming) tasks, particularly the public engagement, we understand that the process will extend through calendar year 2021, with a new district in place potentially by January 1, 2022.”

[CCDC takes next step in looking at potential urban renewal for transit along State St.]

Concerns about Bench urban renewal

McLean’s letter strikes a markedly different tone on a new area proposed on the Boise Bench. That idea would string urban renewal districts along the major roads of the area, including Vista Ave., Overland Rd., Latah St., Orchard St, and an area surrounding the oil and gas tank farm.

Together, the study area encompasses more than 1,190 total acres of land.

[CCDC moves forward with Bench urban renewal area; Mayor raises questions on further expansion]

Last summer, a forum hosted independently of CCDC and the city attracted several hundred folks. It elicited sometimes-heated discussion and concern about the district and process. McLean, who then was running for mayor and serving as Boise City Council president, attended the meeting.

Now, as mayor, she’s asking for additional study and engagement. She also now serves on the CCDC board of commissioners after appointing herself earlier this year. She said the Central Bench “would benefit” from urban renewal, but…

“We remain concerned that the proposed district as drawn may not be viable without the wholesale redevelopment of parcels collectively known as the ‘tank farm,'” she wrote. “While the City’s adopted planning for this area supports the relocation and redevelopment of the tank farm, such a project is complex with many interdependencies that are largely out of the city’s sphere of control or influence.”

Will it work without the tanks?

Last fall, in a BoiseDev exclusive, we outlined a complicated idea to move the current oil and gas storage tanks that take up a significant chunk of land in the area of Curtis St. and Emerald St. Developer Ball Ventures Ahlquist envisioned a plan where the tanks would move to property near the Boise Airport. The firm could then clean up the ground and build a new mixed-use project.

[Could Boise tank farm transform to mixed-use neighborhood? City, Ahlquist, fuel consultant look at ideas]

But McLean wants to ensure any Bench urban renewal project would pencil out even if the tank farm isn’t revamped.

“We therefore think that it is imperative to understand if the proposed URD as drawn would be vilable if the tank farm did not redevelop early – or even at all – after the formation of a new district,” she wrote.

The mayor also echoed last summer’s forum in asking for more input for residents in the process.

“It is clear that the residents of the adjacent neighborhoods are not yet supportive and require more opportunities for engagement concerning the potential benefits and implications of a new URD.”

CCDC engaged firm SB Friedman to put together a series of projections for how the four subareas set forth in planning for the Bench could pull in additional dollars.


The analysis from SB Friedman looked at each of the four sub-areas. It calculated how property values – and with them tax increment – could rise for a period of 20 years, starting in 2021. They also calculated a base inflation rate of 2%

Tank farm subarea

For the tank farm area, SB Friedman figures the total taxable property value sits at just under $400-million.

At buildout, by 2041, the firm projects urban renewal efforts and/or organic growth could generate:

  • 200 units of multifamily housing
  • 50 townhomes
  • 100 single family homes
  • 50,000 square feet of retail
  • 100,000 square feet of medical office space
  • 60,000 square feet of professional office space

If the projections hold true, this area could generate $30.3 million in total tax increment (this also assumes inflation and replacement) With $3.6 set aside for CCDC operations, a total of $26.6 million could flow in over 20 years for improvements.

Overland subarea

The Overland Rd. subarea runs primarily from Philippi St. to near Vista Ave. and includes the commercial corridor along the road. It includes the large Hillcrest Shopping Center property.

Now, the total value of the parcels stands at $124 million. SBF projects over the next two years:

  • 25 townhomes
  • 10 single-family homes
  • 50,000 square feet of retail
  • 50,000 square feet of medical office
  • 40,000 square feet of professional office

All together, the parcels could generate $30.3 million in incremental tax revenue. After CCDC uses 12% for operations, that would bring in $26.6 million over the life of the district.

Vista subarea

Betty the Washer Woman sits atop the sign for Cucina di Paolo along Vista Ave. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The Vista Ave. area runs north-south along the main connection from the Boise Airport to downtown. It includes a large undeveloped piece of property owned by the Simunich family along Victory Rd. which was used as a farm until recently.

(Disclosure: My family owns and operates the Vista Village Shopping Center which is in the Bench study area. I do not own a stake in this business, but members of my immediate family do).

At the moment, the land is valued at $162 million. Here are the development projections in this area:

  • 200 mutlifamily homes
  • 150 townhomes
  • 100 single-family homes
  • 150,000 square feet of retail
  • A 250 room hotel

Projections show redevelopment would generate $22.5 million in revenue over twenty years. After CCDC’s operations cut, that amounts to $19.9 million in revenue.

Latah subarea

The Latah area also runs north-south, primarily through residential neighborhoods from Americana Blvd. to Overland Rd.

Right now, the total taxable value sits at $89 million. Here’s what the consultants project could be built over two decades:

  • 200 multifamily homes
  • 50 townhomes
  • 20 single-family residential homes

Over the time horizon, the area could generate $11.4 million in tax increment revenue. After CCDC’s operations amount, that would bring a total of $10 million for improvements.

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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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