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Vintage video shows Boise Towne Square at 1988 opening

A vintage video on YouTube shows the opening of Boise Towne Square, circa October 1988.

The video from KIVI Channel 6 might touch off a bit of anxiety by 2020 standards, with throngs of people packed into every inch of the then-new mall. Reporter Steve Costa described the scene, with full parking lots — and even more packed interiors.

“Once inside the mall, you may have noticed the near standing room in hallways and stores,” he said. Costa described something that does seem commonplace in 2020 — limiting the number of people allowed inside

“One store, Petland, had to regulate the flow of people into its shop,” he said.

Mall officials expected a whopping 100,000 people to visit Boise Towne Square during the opening, which compared with Boise’s population of 164,000 people at the time is a startlingly high number.

A shift in retail

The KIVI report indicated the new regional mall was drawing far and wide – including from the established, but smaller, Karcher Mall in Nampa.

An unidentified manager at Karcher said foot traffic dropped, but he hoped it would recover

“(It’s a) brand new big mall in the big city,” the manager said. “Once they’ve seen the mall, I think they’ll shop around closer to home.”

[How strong is Boise Towne Square (and what’s up with the empty Sears)?]

Boise Towne Square cost the Nampa mall not just customers – but tenants. JCPenney closed the Nampa store – as well as a location in Downtown Boise – to move to Boise Towne Square. Sears also closed its downtown store before moving to the mall.

Karcher struggled in ensuing decades, and current owners started work on a revamp of the property – eliminating the indoor mall component.

The Bon Marché held on to both stores in Downtown Boise as well as Karcher Mall – operating all three until the chain merged with Macy’s in the 2000s. Macy’s eventually shut down the Karcher store, the Downtown Boise store, and another store it opened and later closed at the Nampa Gateway.

Changes over the years

Boise Towne Square Mall
Boise Towne Square Mall

Boise Towne Square expanded a number of times since opening 32 years ago. The Bon Marché added a single-story expansion to the south in the 1990s.

A fifth anchor store, Dillard’s, opened a three-story outlet in 1998, along with an expansion of the mall concourse which brought The Gap and other stores to the mall.

In 2006, mall owners reworked the main entrance, with a new Borders bookstore (now home to H&M), Cheesecake Factory and standalone Talbot’s. They also remodeled the food court area, and launched a revamp of many of the interior finishes in the building that wrapped up in 2008.

Boise Towne Square today

Today, the mall remains in the top tier of malls nationally.

Green Street Advisors is a real estate research firm. It studies – and grades – US malls. Boise Towne Square remains strong.

As we reported in February, in a note to BoiseDev, a company representative said Boise Towne Square holds an “A-” classification. That’s the highest rated mall in the state. The A- grade means a mall features a “mix of high-end and national tenants.”

Green Street also notes that A- malls have stable occupancy and “suitable” tenant demand.

The mall currently has a significant vacancy – with the 120,000 square foot former Sears store standing empty. Boise Towne Square also has a variety of empty storefronts – about two dozen spaces are currently empty according to the current lease plan on mall owner Brookfield Properties’ website. The mall has 152 active retailers according to Brookfield.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
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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BoiseDev Project Tracker

  • Boise Towne Square (ongoing)

  • Karcher Mall