A 1.3-mile Greenbelt along the Boise River. Two new parks. Equipment for the Boys & Girls Club.
That's some of the fun stuff that Garden City's Urban Renewal Agency has funded with $7 million collected since it got its first check in 1998.
The term "urban renewal" might induce drowsiness, but the effects on one of the Valley's tiniest towns have been energizing.
The agency's largest expenditure - $2 million for a water reservoir on 46th Street - might not excite residents as much as a new park or path, but the water tank will be vital in a major emergency.
"One thing I've learned is you have to plan for emergencies, and it's expensive to plan for," said City Councilwoman Pam Beaumont, who began serving on the renewal agency board 17 years ago.
Work on the reservoir has begun, and the giant tank - 24 feet high and 65 feet across - is expected to be completed by September.
It's the last major project slated for the 17-year-old River Front Urban Renewal District, which is being terminated this year. The agency is ending work in the district nine years before it expires, and turning to a newly created district called River Front East.
NEW LIFE FOR ONCE-BLIGHTED AREAS
Improvements in urban renewal districts are paid for with tax-increment financing - taxes collected on increases in property value within the boundaries of the district. That money can be spent only within the district.
New construction of low- and moderate-income housing in the River Front District, including the Mystic Cove subdivision and Mallard Pointe Senior Apartments on 50th Street just south of the Boise River, helped fill the renewal agency's coffers.
More than $7 million was collected in the city's first urban renewal district. All that money will have been spent by the end of this year.
The area included properties along the river west of Veterans Memorial Parkway and north of Osage (just north of Chinden). It lacked recreational amenities for adults and children; now it boasts the city's largest park.
Riverfront Park, next to the Boys & Girls Club, is the only city site with full accommodations such as picnic tables, playground equipment and restrooms. The price: $933,510.
Many of the homes in the adjacent neighborhoods don't have yards, and the Boys & Girls Club isn't open on weekends.
"The kids need space to play," said Colleen Braga, executive director of the Garden City Boys & Girls Club. "I've come here on the weekends and the park is full, and families are picnicking.
"There's a real sense of pride that I feel from the kids, and their families."
Many of the improvements were more fundamental: streetlights, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and water and sewer lines.
Beaumont believes improvements by the Ada County Highway District and the urban renewal agency along Adams Street have spurred investments by property owners. As proof, she points to newer houses on Adams between 46th and 48th streets.
"When you're seeing that people want to invest to improve properties, that is exciting," Beaumont said.
SHIFTING ATTENTION TO THE EAST
The renewal agency's riverfront focus will continue, but shift to the east side of Veterans Memorial. The new district is north of Chinden and west of the Connector.
A handful of properties on the west side of the parkway will be part of the district, including a mobile home park at the corner of Adams Street being dismantled by its owners as residents move out.
When it happens, development of that high-profile property will put money in the renewal agency's coffers. Continued work in the upscale Waterfront District will be a windfall for the city's second renewal district.
About 100 single-family homes, townhouses and condos have been built, and another 85 are planned, said developer Jim Neill, who lives there.
"There's been good demand and considerable price increases," Neill said. He said condos were priced at $189,000 to $399,000.
"There's some incredible views, once you get to the third and fourth floors. You can see Bogus and all the way into downtown (Boise)," Neill said. "You're right on the river, and you're just five minutes from downtown."
It's also near the new Boise River Park and the future Esther Simplot Park.
Neill said the city's commitment to improving infrastructure in the 36th Street area was critical to the Waterfront District. This summer, the city will finish a $650,000 upgrade to water and sewer lines, and ACHD will improve the curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
Upgrading old sewer and water lines is a priority because old lines are expensive to maintain, Beaumont said.
ARTS & LIBATIONS
There's a renewal of another sort going on in Garden City as well: an influx of artisans, brewers and vintners.
Many are drawn by inexpensive space in a central location close to Downtown Boise, said Garden City Council President Jeff Souza, who sits on the urban renewal agency.
These small businesses are spread throughout the city, many within the new urban renewal area.
Artists, brewers and vintners gathered last May for an event called An Artistic Taste of Garden City. The event raised almost $10,000 for the city library and gave the public a chance to sample and buy wine, beer and art.
The second Taste event is set for May 5 at The Woman of Steel and the Visual Arts Collective, 3460 W. Chinden Blvd.
Beaumont said the city is looking for a way to brand and develop the community of artists and brewers.
"We'd love to have more," she said. "It's good for economic development."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413