Growth Trumps Open Space, Beauty

A recent week making photos in Mexico City made us realize that no matter how many people we attract or how many buildings we erect, Boise is a “small town.”

Regardless of how much furniture you stuff into a small house–it is still a small house. Crowded, but still small with less open space. Same is true for our downtown…no matter how many buildings are erected the streets remain narrow, the sidewalks skimpy. We need to start thinking smaller when it comes to development.

When it was constructed at the at the early part of the last century, Capitol Boulevard was a statement of grandeur. The State Capitol sat at the base of the mountains on the north end and the new Union Pacific Depot dominated the southern vista. Well designed and well laid out–not cramped or pinched. Those early planners would die all over again if they could see what we have done to ourselves.

Our “small town” was smaller, but just as impressive by scale when compared with the grand boulevards of Mexico City, Paris, Washington, D.C., and Buenos Aires. The beginning of the end in Boise came with the old Bank of Idaho building at Capitol and Idaho. It was the tallest building in the state and began the “march to obscurity” for our beloved Statehouse. Even the bank (Key Bank) is dwarfed by today’s skyline.

Oldtimers–visitors and residents alike–recall what a “nice little town” Boise used to be. There were tree-lined streets, a vibrant downtown with hardware, drug, “dime,” department, and shoe stores, parks along the river, and neat residential areas.

Today we have shoehorned an ugly oversized hotel into a small area. The Grove Hotel protrudes into public open space on one side, the sidewalk on both Capitol and Front. They also routinely block our public street. The Hampton Inn is no better.

The CCDC gave away the sidewalk AND parking spots across from City Hall on Idaho street to accommodate a new restaurant. The only scenic views found in Boise’s downtown today are from atop tall buildings. Common sense and a “sense of place” should prevail in future downtown construction.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. G-Man,
    What part of “common sense” or “sense of place” includes rampant greed? Why share beauty and grandure with people if you can’t extract money from them?

    Besides, all those nice things you talk about cost tax payers money. How are politicians going to get elected if they want to cost tax payers money for pretty views? Most Idahoans around these parts think a pretty view is up front parking at Walmart. G-man, come back to America. Try being more American. Sheesh.

  2. Grumpy ole man
    Nov 19, 2007, 4:56 pm

    Amen good Guardian, Amen. Pursuit of the almighty dollar has turned us aside of the simplicity which attracted us here in the first place. Open spaces, green spaces, vistas are what “my” Boise is all about, not how often who can roll over for whom and for how much. Somebody say Amen!

  3. Guardian, you wax nostalgic at “what was”. There is a common factor with both of those beautiful places you captured visually.
    If you look just to the left of the grand monument on La Reforma Blvd., you will notice bumper to bumper traffic that moves at about 6 miles an hour most of the time. That beautiful shot of 9th. of July Blvd. must have been taken around 9 AM on a Sunday morning while the entire country was in church, because the traffic there also “sucks”!
    Team Dave marched in the “talking heads” from Salt Lake and Portland to tout the rail systems that they have developed. Guess what? Their traffic “sucks” too!
    The common factor here? The traffic sucks! As long as team Davey is here, the CCDC will continue to rob the tax base, the buildings will get uglier, and the sidewalks will get more narrow. And let’s not forget the “quaint european atmosphere” that is brought on by the sidewalk dining downtown. I wonder who approved the change from a few bistro tables outside, to fenced off areas that take up 80% of the sidewalk?
    Bottom line, we deserve what we get!

  4. Wow, you’ve obviously been living here too long. You’re spoiled! Sure, there are some amazing cities out there you can compare Boise to, but that’s like looking at your wife and wondering why she isn’t a supermodel.

    Honestly Dave, do you really think you could get a supermodel?? Boise is a wonderful little city with a terrific greenbelt and park system. Appreciate it just a little, eh?

    EDITOR NOTE– One of us is missing the point. I agree on wonderful little city. My point is that Capitol Blvd. has been “intruded upon” as we try to fill every inch with pavement or rooftops and cram big buildings into small spaces. Also, my wife IS a supermodel.

  5. Yeah Cyclops but with a little planning they can hide the traffic better in a city of 20 million than we can in a city of 200,000. And geez Cyclops, the downtown bistro seating is an amenity I enjoy.

  6. Guardian — Downtown Boise has many detractors and you are one of the most vocal. I am biased and won’t carry on a futile argument with you and your bloggers. However, I would like you to consider removing the beautiful photo at the top of your web site. You make some valid observations periodically about funding of infrastructure in Downtown, the lack of some amenities and the poor planning on Capitol, Front and Myrtle. You even make some very informative suggestions about traffic circulation and valley congestion.

    So why is it that one of our most observant and discriminating professional photographers uses a Downtown skyline scene to hype his own web site. Please, please use one that more appropriately describes your vision of the Treasure Valley…maybe of shot of the Capitol Building under construction…

    EDITOR NOTE–Before you go home and kiss your wife, please consider that some folks see the GUARDIAN masthead as a sign of progress and beautiful buildings. Others see it as a sign of what happens when growth and development are allowed to infringe on a lovely natural background and obscure the capitol. The GUARDIAN, while opinionated, is many things to many people–just like the picture.

  7. While I usually find Dave either too negative or too paranoid (sometimes both) he is correct on this one. For the city father’s to have given away the view corridor down Capital Blvd. is criminal.

    Anyone know who was in charge when this was done?

  8. I remember when Baxter’s Foundry and the Yanke Machine Shop were located on the west side of Capitol Boulevard. They weren’t very attractive. The old Dixon’s Seafood building is still there. I can’t remember what else was located on the street. I expect there are pictures somewhere that would identify what was there in the late forties and fifties. I would like it if you were to post comparitive pictures, Guardian.

  9. I enjoy the outside seating as well Sisyphus. If we were in any central or south american city It would be obvious how a business would get such a variance. It’s called La Mordida! Simply put, you pay some official to get what you want. Put someone’s kid through school or some type of “favor”. I am just wondering who got the “mordida” to allow restaurants to take up 80% of the sidewalk? As nice as they are!

  10. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 20, 2007, 4:58 pm

    A wise man (his name was Hawkins and he moved to Colorado) once said: “Bigger isn’t better, better is better.”

  11. Rod,
    I thought Hawkin’s said ( Fill my bank account and I’ll follow you any where.)

  12. It’s a nice pitcher, that’s for sure, but I don’t see no cajones.

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