Downtown Has Moved To Eagle & Fairview

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.”

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Meridian IS the new downtown…and has slowly reached that crowning. Overheard in a downtown Boise coffee shop: “Want to meet for a drink and something to eat after work?” “Nahhh…we don’t come downtown anymore but how about we head over to Meridian with the family?” And that coming from someone who lives in SE Boise!!! GBAD and local hotels AGAIN have fallen asleep (or complacent)…local “big bucks” from Meridian are in initial planning stages of building an event/convention center. Airport to Meridian is only 20 minutes! And there is SO MUCH more to do…restaurants, retail, entertainment, etc. Mayor Tammy gets it! Traffic? Yep…but that why Meridian is so going to be the place to be (and be seen?)…people from parts drive there and spend time…and $$$! New Hawk stadium on the horizon?? Watch for new hotel development as well. Trolley to Meridian from Boise…could be one heck of a party back and forth. And since Meridian is the “hub” now…maybe a new Valley Transit Center in Meridian. Makes a lot of sense.

  2. As soon as Meridian builds a “convention center” and starts taking the hotel tax for themselves Boise is going to be relegated to just the bars and pubs it is today.

    If you count the number of hotel rooms outside Boise there are more outside downtown than there are downtown. Why have a meeting there when you can do everything you can elsewhere.

    Problem is those Boise taxpayers are going to end up footing the bill to maintain the Team Dave failed vision.

  3. … The Feds earmarked $12 million for a transit center…

    Is our pork so much sweeter than everybody else’s pork? How many thousands of such expenditures are there nationwide, fought for by our esteemed “representatives”? Is it any wonder that we (we!) are $14 trillion in debt, and climbing by billions a day? Sickening!!

  4. Not far-fetched. Meridian is the family-friendly place to be. The momentum has indeed shifted away from the North End. And Boise’s leadership is uninspiring. Go West, Young Man.

  5. Meridian, land of the national chain stores and restaurants.

  6. Nay.
    Downtown is Downtown. It has the excitement of Downtown. Lunch time, evening time, night time.
    Meridian is park, walk. Drive, park, walk, drive. Boring.

    Maybe in 30 years- but that will just be 30 more years of traffic built up on Eagle Rd.

    Look at the # of acres of farmland WITHIN the Meridian City Limits.

  7. Meridian coppers will give a traffic ticket to there own mother with far less consideration for anyone else. Other than the over-policing of the often bumper to bumper traffic, Meridian is the place to be hands down over money grubbing TeamDave.

  8. loser emeritus
    Dec 9, 2013, 6:58 am

    Well as an employee of VRT, I hope the bus system continues to operate.

  9. Clancy…you are correct with your reference to national “box” stores and restaurants…BUT, sadly, that is what families lean towards. And if an “all-purpose sports complex” goes up in Meridian…the outdoor skating rink…Big Als…etc, etc…well there is NOTHING for a young family downtown Boise but the old, beat-up pubs. Sad.

  10. Ugh, I avoid Eagle and Fairview like the plague it is. The traffic is absurd–I don’t expect the old, two-lane Eagle Road with easy 45mph traffic anymore, but all the extra lanes and traffic lights have turned it in to road rage central.

    I’ll take downtown and the mall area any day over Meridian.

  11. Ivan,
    The zoo.
    More than 1 park.
    The river.
    The many events that happen in the parks.
    The YMCA/Fort Boise Rec.

    If a young family can’t find things to do in DT, they are looking.

  12. Easterner, Ask a young kid:’Want to take a bike ride on the Greenbelt?” Or, “Lets go to the zoo!” Or, “How about we hike along the River?” THEN ask, “Want to go to Big Al’s?” “Eat at Ling and Louies’?” Meridian will win out 7 out of 10 times…along with: “I want a Kids Meal at Micky Dee’s!” Its called marketing and Meridian is REALLY good at it. Trust me, I have bailed on family outings because it involved the drive to and from Meridian, the traffic, the atmosphere, etc. Give me a hike in the Foothills any day/time. Just wish there was a little more draw for downtown…Having 4 boys all playing sports…I cringe when I have to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods…and I have to go lots.

  13. I have talked with many people from outside this area about Boise downtown. They are all amazed who active and clean our downtown is. Yes the big chain shopping has left downtown but we are left with something more local and unique. Put this together with the additional downtown living opportunities and Downtown is transforming into vibrant neighborhood instead of business district.

    EDITOR NOTE–Amen Clancy! You are spot on about being a vibrant neighborhood. It doesn’t need more towers, traffic, development incentives, etc. As several have pointed out, downtown appeals for its casual atmosphere rather than great shopping opportunities. Also, with some exceptions, it is an adult playground.

  14. love downtown, avoid Meridian like the plague, terrible traffic by Idaho standards.

  15. Rod in SE Boise
    Dec 9, 2013, 4:54 pm

    Things all started to go downhill years ago when the decision was made to build the mall out where it is instead of in what was then called the “dustbowl”, the urban renewal district, downtown. And that decision was made by the CEOs of Sears and Penneys, who wanted the mall built “out there” and not downtown. They are the culprits – you can blame everything that has gone wrong in the last 40 years on them.

  16. There’s work, there’s home and the challenge is to figure out where the “other place” is for people to spend time and money. The choices for the “other place” are plentiful in this valley and where people spend their time and discretionary money is the challenge. This year’s hot item is next years dud.

  17. This is a good summary and maybe many others like me didn’t know about the district’s expiration and the money deals. So, we thank you, Dave, for your research. I remember Sears and Penneys, even the Montgomery Ward order store. I miss our beautiful department stores downtown. The Mode had a lovely tea room that has never been replaced in our affections.

  18. The number one reason no one goes downtown. Parking and if you can get it for free in the “next town over” the so-be-it. Let’s also not forget Jack’s Urban Mega Palace paid for by the taxpayers.

    EDITOR NOTE–To our knowledge the Simplot JUMP project doesn’t have any public money at all. It is being build with money J.R. left for that specific purpose as part of a foundation, according to company sources. Taxes will go to CCDC, but that’s just because of the location.

  19. Meridian the new downtown? Ha! box-stores, shopping malls and tax payer subsidized parking does not a downtown make. Areas inhospitable to anything other than personal vehicles.

    *Suburbia costs all of us in national health, arable land use and personal welbeing.

  20. I’m always late, so no one will see this. But…

    Downtown Boise has the grid and the tree lined streets with detached sidewalks. You cannot duplicate that in Meridian. A downtown grid is the very opposite of suburbia.

    Yet, the downtown grid is slowly disappearing into super blocks. Historic preservationists focus their efforts on single entity buildings without looking at the big picture that’s the historic grid which ties together those old buildings with easy walkability.

    Preservationists always lament the loss of old Boise old buildings, but what about the loss of the grid at The Grove? Now St Lukes, having already confiscated Bannock, wants to do the same with Jefferson. JUMP will forever disconnect North 10th from South 10th and make Broad St. a dead end before it needs to be.

    Bodo is the last time streets were opened instead of closed. Bodo has been successful, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

    Guardian, you want a quainter downtown? Demand that the street grid be preserved and closed streets reopened. Don’t let Gardner forever ruin the Grove St. corridor with a building. When people come to their senses, they’ll want a continuous Grove St back.

  21. Tucker Anderson
    Dec 12, 2013, 9:58 am

    Broad Street actually has some potential for a great development corridor and compliment BODO. JUMP could act as an anchor at one end while there could be opportunity for an anchor at the other end besides Winco (a suburban store in an urban environment).

    This street right now seems to becoming offices, but desperately needs some future mixed use office/retail development to help support the street life and create a walk-able section of downtown. This location could then support some downtown residences

  22. Is this a story? Eagle Rd & Fairview are a traffic nightmare and there is nothing to do out there except drive, park, walk, eat, drive, park, shop. Meridian, by design, is the suburbs with strip malls. Dave, your complaining about all things Boise are tiresome.

    EDITOR NOTE–Agree Eagle and Fairview is busiest intersection in the state. Also in past 40 years I have watched downtown Boise become a great attraction for “adult entertainment,” (expensive food and lots of booze joints) while legacy retailers have fled to the burbs. Meanwhile Meridian has grown from about 2,000 residents to 64,000!
    You see complaining, I see reality.

  23. Much ado about nothing.

    Meridian may be popular for those certain families who enjoy commuting, strip malls, big box retail and all of the other crap that is found in every other city in the nation… but there are plenty of people in the area who absolutely cannot stand that crap and who refuse to even go out there.

    I for one am glad downtown Boise isn’t like Meridian or Eagle. The moment it becomes that is the moment I move away from here.

  24. Clancy, downtown Boise is clean thanks to ACHD – ACHD sweeps the streets in downtown Boise far more often than anywhere else. I still won’t go there – parking is a pain and expensive and the parking garages are nasty.
    Katherine, I agree with you. sure miss The Mode. I might put up with the parking issues and go downtown if Team Dave brings back The Mode and Macy’s and maybe add a Nordstroms

  25. what fun it would be…meet your friends downtown for some Christmas shopping, do a little ice skating, grab a cocktail and maybe dinner…and head home (with no traffic)…I don’t feel the coziness for a young family downtown. Maybe I am missing something…
    Anyway-MERRY HOLIDAYS everyone.

  26. I am old enough to remember when you went “downtown” it meant putting on your finest clothes, lunch at Woolworth’s, or a nice cafeteria, shopping was done at Sears, Penny’s, or other retailer. It was an all day deal but a fun trip none the less. Then the shopping mall concept came in with one stop shopping and free parking. The malls were open air and the next generation was “inside” and out of the elements. Now we are back to stores that are back outside and we no longer walk store to store but drive right up to the front door.

    Sear’s and Penny’s closed downtown stores that were very profitable in favor of the Mall Concept. Now we do a lot of shopping online and can save both time and money. The brick and mortar stores are in a struggle to meet this new competition model and shoppers are armed with prices down to the penny when they actually do go to real stores.

    Same goes for Movie Theatres, online streaming and big screen TV’s make for a nice evening to nowhere right at home in a big recliner and a bowl of popcorn.

    I wish the new mall owners well but for me it will be a trip to take a look but as for shopping, time will tell. The older I get the less I like crowds of people, incompetent sales people who have no knowledge of the products or in the case of a sale… we just sold the last one. Online puts the buyer in charge and comparison shopping is a snap. The product is shipped to your front door in a couple of days and if you don’t like it you get free returns in the case of Amazon and other like minded cyber-stores.

  27. And I am sure flyhead is being a good Idahoan and declaring online purchases and sending in the state required use tax when filing annual Idaho taxes.

  28. I went to that California monstrosity last week…. the turf farm was a much better use of the land…. IMHO

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: