Eagle Road has become Main Street and Meridian is quickly becoming the new “China” for Boise planners, politicos and purchasers–threatening to either own or control everything from highway dollars to retail market share.
While Boise has been preoccupied filling the former “hole in the ground” with a mirrored skyscraper, Meridian (Idaho’s third largest city) has been annexing hundreds of acres and filling them with big box stores, restaurants, government complexes, and manufacturing facilities—all with free parking.
Since Boise got into the urban renewal business–over several mayor’s administrations–Sears has left downtown, Penney’s is gone, and the Bon Marche has left a vacant building in the core of downtown. We are told Office Depot is the largest retail store in downtown Boise these days.
BoDo developer Mark Rivers seems to have left town to share his “visions” in Eastern cities with public money to spend. He is replaced by the Gardner Company which has presented its own “visions” for downtown. Gardner owns or operates both the new Zions Bank and US Bank tower.
Now the development firm seeks to build a massive underground transit hub beneath 8th and Main–for a populace wedded to the automobile and a city with a nearly dysfunctional bus system.
Public money is at the root. The Feds earmarked $12 million for a transit center that has been scorned at four previously proposed locations and they are pressuring Valley Regional Transit to spend the cash or lose it.
Capital City Development (CCDC), the urban renewal agency, has bought in to the transit vision, but the agency will soon be hamstrung when the downtown district expires in a few years. Currently all taxes on improvements and appreciated value goes to CCDC. When the downtown project expires, the diverted tax money will go back to the city, schools, county, etc. At that time it will be illegal to spend CCDC money within the former district.
Gardner seems to also be threatening the GBAD boys at the Greater Boise Auditorium District. Part of his vision includes convention facilities. GBAD has long sought to expand it’s presence downtown, but if the $1 million annual losses at Nampa’s Idaho Center are any indication, there just isn’t enough convention business to go around.
Admittedly a “growthophobe,” the GUARDIAN harkens back to quotes from sports figures Yogi Berra and Dan Hawkins.
Berra (paraphrased): “Downtown is so crowded nobody goes there anymore.”
Hawkins: “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.”
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