Anthony Lyons summed up his goal for the Capital City Development Corporation in four words.
Less planning. More doing.
Not that theres anything wrong with planning, he said. Its an appropriate exercise that the development corporation, Boises urban renewal agency, ought to engage in at a high level, Lyons said.
But the minutiae of planning, zoning and design are better left to city government, he said.
Since taking over as the development corporations executive director in December, Lyons has eliminated three of 14 paid positions and restructured the agencys budget. He said hes almost doubled the amount of money devoted to new economic development projects.
A lot of the money is going to infrastructure upgrades such as water and sewer lines, sidewalks and storm drains in the corporations three Downtown urban renewal districts, Lyons said. Those are worthy projects, he said, but theyre a means to an end. The ultimate goal is economic development, and that means buildings.
We want a city that has lots of cranes, lots of scaffolding, lots of construction signs, he said. Thats the sign of a city thats moving forward.
Lyons focus on getting as much stuff done as possible as quickly as possible is exactly what the people who hired him hoped to see.
David Eberle, a city councilman who sits on the development corporations board of commissioners, said Lyons drive, not to mention his intelligence and enthusiasm, separated him from the pack of about a dozen candidates who applied for the job.
He likes doing things. Hes not terribly interested in sitting in a lot of meetings, Eberle said.
It was 12 years ago that Lyons started down the municipal economic development path. He was 31 years old. He had spent the better part of the past decade in his native New England running a business that sold prepaid phone cards and electronic gift cards. The business was successful enough to support himself and his wife, Lyons said, but it wasnt what he wanted to do long-term.
He landed a job in July 2000 with a nonprofit organization working to restore the economy of Claremont, N.H.
At the time, the city was in bad shape, Lyons said. Most of downtown was vacant. Its bank accounts tallied all of $4,300.
Claremont was, in Lyons words, sort of first in all the bad stuff.
He was hooked.
To this day, he describes the line of work the way an engineer might analyze a new toy: the complexity and how challenging it is to really figure out how to help a city thats in need of something and whats that thing that will really change the dynamic of the city.
During his time in Claremont, he said, the city benefited from $100 million worth of development.
Six years later, after transitioning to a position in city government, Lyons took a job in Gainesville, Fla.
In Florida, he built up a small urban renewal agency with a focus on overcoming urban blight. He oversaw the founding of a research district and construction of a new storm-water park.
When the Boise opportunity came up, Lyons jumped at it. It was a good career move, he said, but that wasnt all. The personal opportunities the city offered recreation, family-friendly lifestyle mirrored the professional potential. Boise, he said, is about to explode in a really kind of cool way.
I frankly fell in love with the city, he said.
Lyons took over the development corporation from former executive director Phil Kushlan, who was as influential as anyone in making Downtown Boise what it is today.
Kushlan, through a combination of guts and perseverance, saw through landmark development such as the Basque block and the 8th Street retail area, Mayor Dave Bieter said.
Those kinds of projects fundamentally changed the nature of downtown, Bieter said. Those are two that come to mind that really show what a downtown urban setting can be like.
Responsibility for shepherding Boise growth now passes to Lyons, whose ability to advocate for a Downtown streetcar and a new minor league baseball stadium, as well as develop a new urban renewal district will largely determine Lyons success, Bieter said.
Ultimately those kind of projects are central to our success, especially Downtown, and CCDC has an important part of those, he said.
Sven Berg: 377-6275