Every year, it seems, lawmakers from around the state convene at the Statehouse and take an annual run at dismantling urban renewal.
Perhaps these naysayers should take a side trip sometime this winter and take a good look at Boises 30th Street neighborhood.
There, they will see a neighborhood tailor-made for the kind of targeted revitalization that comes with urban renewal. Bypassed two decades ago by the Connector, the 30th Street region has missed out on the Downtown renaissance that has unfolded a couple of miles to the east.
Now, the 30th Street region needs a nudge and an infusion of capital. To be sure, considerable public money is already earmarked for the region. The Ada County Highway District will spend $7 million on a new arterial that will be the neighborhoods centerpiece, and the thoroughfare will connect with Boises new whitewater park and the soon-to-be-built Esther Simplot Park.
Urban renewal provides one additional tool that can pull the project together. It allows Boises urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp., to buy, clean up and sell neglected properties.
Ultimately, commercial revitalization will be crucial to the areas success. The new parks and the adjacent Greenbelt will bring in pedestrians and cyclists and the new thoroughfare will accommodate people who simply want to get into the area by car. But a strong and complementary retail corridor is needed to drive commerce and create jobs.
Statehouse critics see urban renewal as a power grab and a money grab one that siphons away precious tax dollars from city and county coffers. Look at 30th Street and you see something different: an area ripe for reinvestment, where local governments and local residents have spent a painstakingly long time coming up with a plan. Here, urban renewal provides a linchpin.