The real work is about to begin in Boises 30th Street area.
Ada County Highway District is taking bids on a project that will extend a single arterial road just east of the Boise River, creating a new through street between Fairview Avenue and State Street.
The district has bought rights-of-way and torn down a house in preparation for the roughly $7 million project. The district will break ground next month and plans to finish by fall 2013.
The city and the urban renewal agency have finished their blueprints for the area.
If youre in our kind of work and youre not excited about an area thats had disinvestment for a while that has a lot of promise and helping it, then youre in the wrong business, said Anthony Lyons, executive director of Boises urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corporation.
A LONG TIME COMING
More than six years ago, Boise began forming a plan to reverse the decline of the neighborhoods and commercial corridors west of Downtown.
In August, members of the City Council approved a master plan for the area. On Dec. 4, they approved guidelines for deploying one of the projects most important tools: urban renewal money.
Unlike the city, the urban renewal agency can buy blighted properties, remove dilapidated buildings, clean up leftover asbestos, petroleum or other contaminants and sell them for someone else to use.
The idea behind the road project is to provide several lanes connecting the residential areas to Quinns Pond, Boise River Park and the soon-to-come Esther Simplot Park west of it. The projects name, 30th Street Extension, is something of a misnomer, since much of the new road will run slightly west of the existing 30th Street.
In fact, a city-sponsored online contest led to plans to call the road Whitewater Park Boulevard.
City and highway district officials anticipate the new road will absorb much of the traffic that now travels on 27th Street between Fairview and State.
To their way of thinking, 27th Street is better suited as a neighborhood street. To that end, ACHD plans to lower the speed limit and convert 27ths four lanes to two travel lanes, a center turn lane, bike lanes and periodic on-street parking.
The citys master plan for redeveloping the 30th Street area envisions a small commercial district surrounding Jerrys Market on the corner of 27th Street and Stewart Avenue. Efforts to contact the owners of Jerrys were unsuccessful.
The urban renewal agency plans to install storm water collection systems and streetscape features such as sidewalks and medians decorated with trees.
Mayor David Bieter toured Oklahoma City in October to examine other ways, such as bonds and levies, to pay for more elaborate improvements.
VICTIM OF PROGRESS
Historically, the 30th Street area was a bustling commercial corridor surrounded by popular middle-class neighborhoods. That was before the Connector opened two decades ago.
When Interstate 184 became the preferred route for traffic between Downtown and West Boise, traffic shifted away from Fairview Avenue and Main Street, and the 30th Street area underwent a massive change.
Businesses lost exposure to commuters. Today, some of the neighborhoods in the area are rundown, despite their proximity to the heart of Boise.
But that proximity is what excites Elaine Clegg. The Boise councilwoman has made it her mission to spearhead an overhaul of the 30th Street area. Theres no reason the neighborhoods and commercial strips cant reinvent themselves, she said. Theyre ideally situated between increasingly popular parks and the Boise River Greenbelt on one side and the allure of Downtown on the other.
Clegg refers to the corner of 30th and Main as the A Corner the commercial lynchpin for redeveloping the 30th Street area. She looks at the buildings and properties all around and sees tracts of stores, office space and condominiums or apartments in their future.
The city owns two parcels nearby, one that occupies seven almost-vacant acres on the southeast corner of the 30th Street-Main Street intersection, the other three-plus acres west of 24th Street between Fairview and the Connector. The city hopes to sell the properties for use in some kind of development, maybe even a baseball, soccer or multipurpose stadium.
As city officials in the mid-2000s began sketching out a vision for the 30th Street areas future, they hosted a series of meetings and outreach events designed to involve merchants and residents in helping mold that future.
They say their outreach bolstered widespread support for the plan, even if people didnt agree with every detail.
This has been a model for how to do this kind of redevelopment on a large scale, city spokesman Adam Park said. There are disinvested areas like this all over the country, but not everyone is doing what weve done over so many years, working with the stakeholders to get this kind of change to happen, get the buy-in and get everyone on board. Were proud of this.
Gentrification is a concern, should the citys push to redevelop the 30th Street area succeed.
Clegg said she doesnt want rising property values and the cost of rent to push working families out of the area and neither do the people who live in the neighborhoods.
Already, there have been some casualties, though theyre due to the highway districts road project, not rent.
Jo Cassin, co-owner of Idaho River Sports on the corner of 31st Street and Pleasanton Avenue, said one home east of her store has been bulldozed and another vacated. Shes sad to see the people who lived in those homes go. She said they kept an eye on the business and generally were good neighbors.
PRESERVING THE PAST
Cassins take on redeveloping the 30th Street area is ambivalent. As a business owner, she loves the idea of more customers coming through her door. As a person, shes worried the larger project will succeed too much and the neighborhoods tradition will be lost.
She hopes for a balance that helps the neighborhoods retain their character while they grow more vibrant.
Overall, it really will be a positive thing for the neighborhood, she said.
To ensure that housing remains affordable, the city can employ a variety of tools, including tax incentives, deed restrictions and low-interest loan grants, Housing and Community Development Manager Jim Birdsall said.
On top of the economic stuff, Boise heard from neighborhood leaders who want arts projects that reflect the areas nature. Their ideas became part of a cultural arts plan that lays out goals and themes to drive public arts projects in the 30th Street area. Possible examples include a decorated roundabout and other features on the 30th Street extension, art and dance workshops in schools or churches and displays marking gateways to neighborhoods.
Creating a place involves so much more than infrastructure, so thats why we felt it was so important to do this cultural arts plan, Clegg said. The place it already exists, it already has a history and if we celebrate that as we redevelop it instead of wiping it away, we create a way for people to be a part of it.
Sven Berg: 377-6275