The City of Meridian could have a new urban renewal district by the end of the year.
City Council read an ordinance that approved two spots of downtown Meridian for areas of study. The first is known as the Idaho Block, which is just over an acre. The city will annex and add the land to the 16 acre Union District. The second is the urban renewal district called Northern Gateway, which will take 77 of the existing 150 acres out of the old district.
Economic Development Administrator Victoria Cleary says the Meridian Development Corporation and the city are working on this project because the old district has just not performed as they expected.
“Unfortunately, MDC wasn’t able to accomplish all that they want to accomplish and all the projects that were included in the original plan,” she said. “They kind of suffered from the ’08-’09 recession, which kind of hampered new private investments downtown.”
Cleary said COVID added new uncertainty.
“Uuntil recently, 2020, there were just so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-related changes in the real estate market,” she said. “So there seem to be other opportunities, there are certainly more public infrastructure improvements that can be done. And so, the creation of a new district will allow for that.”
The original district that is mostly small infill sites will expire in 2026. But Cleary says the city is ‘hopeful’ this new district will be more workable for developers.
“With development costs increasing so rapidly, and it’s making it difficult for smaller projects to pencil out and a lot of those downtown parcels are very small parcels,” Cleary said. “So we’re hopeful that there can maybe be some partial consolidation done and that developers will then find it more feasible to make some private investments in the area.”
Cleary noted that the increased interest in building downtown will benefit the Northern Gateway district.
“We’ve already had some (developers) reach out to us. Just about the area in general. But the plans will not be approved until December. We’re seeing a lot of interest in downtown. Certainly at the Old Town Lofts projects on their street-level retail, commercial that they’ll have in that project. And I know that Galena Opportunity Fund has also talked to potential users.”
Cleary said any inquires about the new district will have to wait until the city approves the district.
The final steps for these districts will take place in city council later this year in either November or December. If approved, there will be three urban renewal districts downtown — the Original District, the Union District, and the Northern Gateway.