The former Bob Rice Ford property, once touted as Where Main Street ends and Ford Country begins, is one of several large commercial properties in the 30th Street area aching for redevelopment.
R. Fred Rice and other family members still own the 10-acre plot, and he wants to see an urban renewal district created to pay for improvements that would encourage development and drive up values.
I would have done it 15 years ago, he said. It will bring buyers down here much faster.
Covering more than 200 acres adjacent to Downtown Boise, the 30th Street area includes homes, stores, other commercial buildings and open spaces. Two top sites for construction of a $25 million multipurpose sports stadium for the Boise Hawks are in the proposed district, at 27th Street and Fairview Avenue and 30th and Main streets.
When the city created its Downtown plan in the early 1990s, officials wrote off the Main/Fairview area, Boise Planning Director Hal Simmons has said. After Mayor David Bieter took office in 2004, planners and leaders decided it deserved a second look. When the Ada County Highway District announced plans to build the 30th Street extension, officials decided to create a vision and a long-term development plan.
In the past five years, city planners have developed a 30th Street master plan with contributions from neighborhood associations, business owners, property owners and residents. In June, the Capital City Development Corp. Boises urban renewal agency and the City Council tentatively approved boundaries for a new district.
This week, CCDC will begin a process that includes figuring out how much tax money will be raised and what types of public projects will spur a private-sector revival of the blighted area. The agency will contact affected property owners soon to tell them about the plans.
A draft plan of improvements could be presented to the City Council in August if the CCDC board approves. A final plan could be submitted by October or November. The district could take effect in 2013 and begin collecting taxes then.
Its laying the foundation to help development happen in that area, said CCDC Executive Director Anthony Lyons.
The area along Main and Fairview is the next and best area for expansion of Downtown because of several large tracks of vacant land, said state Sen. Chuck Winder, who co-chaired a steering committee for the district.
City officials want to see high-density development of housing and businesses, with parking behind or within buildings adjacent to the sidewalks. We see it as an extension of the Downtown, Simmons said.
City goals for the area include maintaining the natural river setting, preserving and revitalizing the neighborhood, and creating jobs and workforce housing.
Simmons said the area should take off with developers for a number of reasons, including the whitewater park that opened in June, the planned Esther Simplot and Bernardine Quinn parks, and the proposed extension of 30th Street to State Street. Theres a whole lot of public effort going into that area, he said.
The city also owns 9-acre and 3-acre parcels along Fairview Avenue.
David Wali is an investor in Riverside Hospitality, the developer of the Riverside Hotel, which is adjacent to the new district. Wali said the area is ripe for development because of the large tracts of available land. But in todays tight lending market, it will take help like the urban renewal district can offer to get things going, he said.
Without some assistance, or unless it was a very high-net-worth individual or investment group, nothing would happen, Wali says. Youre not going to get another Whole Foods to drop in or another mall. Its not going to be like Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue. Youre going to need some assistance to get over the hump.
Wali says the area also is a bit quirky and may need to go after home-grown services and retailers instead of national chains.
Potential public improvement projects in the 30th Street area could include:
- Remediating brownfields like gas or chemical spills from long-gone gas stations and industrial uses.
- Improving the areas stormwater system to meet newer regulations calling for stormwater retention or more stringent treatment.
- Creating parking to serve anticipated development.
- Redesigning or creating streets, sidewalks and pathways that connect neighborhoods with the river, parks, businesses and services.
- Extending utilities along possible new roads.
- Improvements for schools, parks and open spaces.
- Property acquisition and site clearance.
- Development such as building rehabilitation and workforce housing.
When an urban renewal district is formed, the county assessor establishes the current base value for each property in that district. As property values rise with public and private investments and new development, that incremental increase generates additional tax revenue that goes to the urban renewal agency not to schools, the city or other taxing districts to pay for public improvements and other revitalization activities in the district.
Tax values for the district would be frozen for the next 20 years for other taxing entities, including the Boise School District, the Ada County Highway District, the city of Boise and the Mosquito Abatement District. That means that taxpayers throughout those districts would shoulder a bigger portion of the budgets when those districts services or costs increase than they would without the urban renewal district.
Boise Schools Superintendent Don Coberly said the school board hasnt taken a position on the new district because members want more information. CCDC has met with the board and has been asked to make another presentation, he said.
That area of town is in need of investment, and the board has to balance that with the impact on taxpayers and kids, Coberly said.Reporter Cynthia Sewell contributed. Sandra Forester: 377-6464, Twitter: @IDS_Sandra