A long talked about new urban renewal district could soon roll into Boise.
On Tuesday, Boise City Council got a progress report on an effort to launch urban renewal on State Street after years of discussions. City officials and Boise’s urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corporation, have said for years the district is the key to upgrading State Street with the infrastructure and mixed-use development necessary to support public transportation.
The proposed district, which could go up for a final vote in October, would stretch six miles along the heavily trafficked road from 27th Street near downtown to Horseshoe Bend Road near the City of Eagle. CCDC’s Director of Parking Mobility Matt Edmond told city council Tuesday the bulk of the investments from the district will go toward transportation upgrades, but landscaping, bringing in local businesses with mixed-use developments and affordable housing are also priorities.
“A lot of folks would ask, why urban renewal?” he said. “It will deliver private development with significant public benefit the private sector would not deliver on its own.”
A market analysis of the proposed district estimates 1,100 single family homes, 2,600 multi-family units, 362,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office space and potentially a small hotel will come to the district in the next twenty years.
An overcrowded main artery into Boise
State Street is the major thoroughfare connecting Northwest Boise and western Ada County to downtown Boise. The road has buckled under the growing pressure of daily commuters and lacks basic pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. In recent years, the City of Boise and multiple other agencies have been planning changes to the corridor once it became clear it cannot be widened any further to accommodate the added growth.
Instead, Boise is looking toward bus rapid transit to help bring more people through the area without relying on cars. If adopted, this urban renewal district would provide some of the funding necessary to get State Street ready for the city’s vision of buses traveling down the outer lanes along with drivers turning into businesses and neighborhoods while the middle lanes are reserved for through traffic.
The district plans around four major “nodes” where public transportation stops and mixed-use development are planned to be clustered around major intersections. This includes the ITD campus, which will likely be redeveloped in the coming years, the intersection with Collister Drive, the intersection with Pierce Park Lane, and the intersection of Glenwood and State Street.
Edmond said CCDC heard significant support from residents to use the district to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in the area, connections to local streets and businesses and to develop more affordable housing. But, there were concerns from residents about the district.
Edmond said CCDC heard concerns about displacing existing affordable housing in the area with redevelopment, traffic cutting through residential neighborhoods and impacts to revenue for police, fire and other taxing districts. Density is another tension point, although he said there residents are more open to it near the intersections with the transit stops.
“I think ‘what is a tall building’ is somewhat up for debate,” Edmond told council. “I wouldn’t say four stories is a tall building, but others would.”
What about mobile home parks?
City Council Member Holli Woodings and City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez asked Edmond about the mobile home parks along State Street and how the district could protect the residents there from displacement. Edmond said there aren’t any plans to actively preserve the parks, but a district could mitigate the impacts of development that is coming regardless.
“The property owner, should they decide to sell it to a developer, they decide (if the mobile park stays or goes),” Edmond said. “What we can do is incent them to try to replace that affordable housing and potentially fund any relocation. If we carve it out of the district the one thing we can’t do is excise the adjacency. Just because there’s a line there that excludes this mobile home park that doesn’t make it any less attractive to a developer.”
Sanchez said she was particularly moved by a woman in Garden City who recently took to social media to raise money to relocate her mobile home because her park was sold. She admired the mobile home owner, but Sanchez said the city should use its urban renewal and other policies to protect the lowest-income residents who live in this area so that doesn’t happen in Boise.
“As innovative as we are, can we also find a way to partner with those folks in our community who do want to have affordable housing?” Sanchez said. “Maybe it isn’t preserving the mobile home park, but maybe it is finding a way to create housing that may temporarily displace folks but ultimately keep them in the neighborhood.”