Boise's 30th Street: a case study for urban renewal

A draft of our lead editorial for Wednesday.

Every year, it seems, lawmakers from around the state convene at the Statehouse and take an annual run at dismantling urban renewal.

Perhaps these naysayers should take a side trip sometime this winter and take a good look at Boise’s 30th Street neighborhood.

There, they will see a neighborhood tailor-made for the kind of targeted revitalization that comes with urban renewal. Bypassed two decades ago by the Connector, the 30th Street region has missed out on the Downtown renaissance that has unfolded a couple of miles to the east.

Now, the 30th Street region needs a nudge — and an infusion of capital. To be sure, considerable public money is already earmarked for the region. The Ada County Highway District will spend $7 million on a new arterial that will be the neighborhood’s centerpiece, and the thoroughfare will connect with Boise’s new whitewater park and the soon-to-be-built Esther Simplot Park.

Urban renewal provides one additional tool that can pull the project together. It allows Boise’s urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp., to buy, clean up and sell neglected properties.

Ultimately, commercial revitalization will be crucial to the area’s success. The new parks and the adjacent Greenbelt will bring in pedestrians and cyclists — and the new thoroughfare will accommodate people who simply want to get into the area by car. But a strong and complementary retail corridor is needed to drive commerce and create jobs.

Statehouse critics see urban renewal as a power grab and a money grab — one that siphons away precious tax dollars from city and county coffers. Look at 30th Street and you see something different: an area ripe for reinvestment, where local governments and local residents have spent a painstakingly long time coming up with a plan. Here, urban renewal provides a linchpin.

Private Sector investment is the key

the new 30th street extension is a cool addition to the area, so is the water park, E.S. Park, etc. That said, the ocean of asphalt between to main and Fairview will take vision from the private sector when the demand is there. The River St. area is running at high vacancy and the medical arts complex died with the r.e. bubble. Pedestrians, cyclists and wave surfers rarely lease $20 a foot space. Getting the Nations economy going is the key to creating demand...not another government social engineering program.

30th URD, not a social engineering program

Urban renewal in the Fairview/Main corridor is not a social engineering program. It's an attempt to correct mistakes of the past and to temporarily put a halt to tax revenue being drained out of the area to subsidize suburban growth. It slays me when legislators talk about it as a tax diversion. Tax revenue has already been diverted for decades for use in the suburbs. This has been repeatedly proven by me and a slew of others for years now.

And what's up with the 30th Street moniker? It's Fairview and Main, of which 30th street is only a small part.

Besides completion of Phase II of the whitewater park, one of the things needed first is the completion of the greenbelt on the south side from Americana to Main Street. This issue alone is glaring evidence of money going to the suburbs instead of downtown. Look at the 3 miles of new greenbelt and paths at Marianne Williams Park. Look at the greenbelt extension on the south side from western edge of Garden City to Eagle Road and they are going to build a new footbridge at the head of Eagle Island so Riverside Village doesn't have to be bothered by pesky bicyclists.

Proven

"Proven by me"... When did that happen Enceph?

The point you are making that tax dollars goes elsewhere is how it is suppose to happen. That is the tide of where people WANT to go. URDs FORCE people to go against the trend by way of subsidies.

IF Fairview/Main is an attractive location (which it is) for development, then private landowners will invest and they will be rewarded for their risk. And they will pay property taxes under the SAME system as all other property owners.

URDs are unnecessary.

Private investment will not touch Fairview Main

This has been hashed out before. The free market cannot and will not invest in the Fairview/Main area because there is no free market. Since those lots were carved up in the 30s and 40s many things have changed. Planning and zoning codes have changed which now prohibit almost all re-development of small lots. Federal storm water regulations have to be addressed by any new developers. They aren't going to do it when there's plenty of cheap land in large parcels in Meridian and Nampa serviced by taxpayer subsidized road construction.

Less than 10% of the a*sessed value of Ada County is under a URD. The base a*sessment still goes into the general coffers. If your argument is that you're paying extra, then let's see the math. It amounts to a few pennies or dollars per year per resident at most.

A URD is necessary to buy the smaller lots and reassemble them into something that's useful for modern developments.

Really Statesman? I can't spell the word as*sess? Really?

P & Z

Then change the planning & zoning.
A MUCH simpler solution.

Cheap land in Meridian/Nampa.

Well, then you want to subsidize DT business development to compete with those places in Meridian/2C, effectively you are subsidizing to create COMMUTERS. THAT philosophy creates the traffic congestion we have today.

LET business go west to where the people live= less traffic.

Eventually the land becomes so cheap in DT (due to less demand) it will become feasible for a developer to buy the lots, piece em together and build it at a profit. It's all a matter of cycles and balances- until government agencies interfere.

A URD is not necessary.

Downtown renaissance that has unfolded

What renaissance is that?

The closing of Macy's?
The repeated opening and closing of restaurants?
The hole in the ground for the last 10 years?
Or the parking fiasco?

Whatever real DT development there has been would have likely happened regardless of CCDC.

***
How is it, KR you agree with tax shuffling for URDs, but not for property tax relief/school M&O/income tax shifting?

You people refuse to listen

Tax shuffling?

How is it not tax shuffling for local government to spend very little in the greater downtown area and lots of money year after year after year on suburban roads and schools? I don't drive on Ten Mile Road and I don't want to pay for ACHD widening it. Ditto that for Ustick, Victory, Overland, Chinden, McMillian, Maple Grove, Five Mile, Franklin, Cloverdale, Linder, Locust Grove, Pine and East Parkcenter.

Parking fiasco? What parking fiasco?

Macy's closing? So what? It's a crappy old building.

Restaurants closing? So what? There's lots of restaurants downtown. Odds are some won't make it.

8th and Main? That's a unique case and perhaps you haven't heard, there's a multi million dollar high rise going in right now.

shuffling

First, YOU PEOPLE?

***
It wouldn't be tax shuffling IF ACHD charges appropriate impact fees- the developement in West Ada should pay for adequate roads. But instead we have parts of Chinden & Hwy 44 at 2 lanes- the same they have been forever. Dispite all the houses. Still have inadequate interchanges so everyone piles onto/from the one interchange for 4 miles. All the development in West Ada and the primary roads have not changed much. That's for new money.

Part II of the story is, Enceph, you benefit from the roads like Ustick & Victory so there some reason to you helping to maintain them. Unless you are advocating 100% toll roads your point is moot.

Yes, I've heard. If you didn't READ it, KR wrote the "renaissance" passed Fairview/Main- that is past tense. What happened in the past ten years?

Urban renewal districts

and the tax increment financing mechanisms that make it possible have revitalized downtowns and adjoining blighted areas across the nation and even in places like Idaho Falls and Boise. Obviously, they need oversight by local boards or city councils to ensure they are not overly ambitious and deliver on what they promise. Everyone benefits from a revitalized urban core, not just those inside the districts. The 30th/Main/Fairview area has long needed this shot in the arm and I'm thankful for the visionaries who can see its potential. Let's work together to make it happen.