Boise aims for more pedestrian traffic

zkyle@idahostatesman.comMay 29, 2013 

The city wants to encourage more close-to-the-street development like that in the 35-acre Bown Crossing in Southeast Boise, built in 2006 with a pedestrian-oriented design. Bown Crossing was designed by Erstad Architects and built by Bown Crossing LLC.

PROVIDED BY THE CITY OF BOISE

Broaching the topic of setbacks - the distance between buildings and sidewalks - probably won't make anybody the star of the potluck or water cooler.

But Boise planners think setbacks play an important role in making the city accessible to pedestrian traffic. And what's good for walkers is good for the businesses.

The City Council approved an ordinance May 22 reducing the minimum setbacks between businesses and sidewalks. The idea is to encourage businesses to build their structures next to sidewalks instead of parking lots, City Planner Hal Simmons says.

"The city's goal is to create a more walkable commercial environment on some of our boulevards and corridors," Simmons says. "The idea is if you put a building at the sidewalk instead of behind a parking lot, you make it easier for pedestrians, cyclists, and people trying to get to and from the store."

The ordinance allows businesses in neighborhood office zones, such as pharmacies, banks or nursing homes, to build within 10 feet of the sidewalk instead of 15. Businesses in various commercial zones can now build within 10 feet instead of 20.

The setback distance is usually the space between the sidewalk and building and can include landscaping, patio space or additional sidewalk space, Simmons says.

The areas affected most are corridors feeding traffic into Downtown, such as Vista Avenue, West Fairview Avenue, Overland Road, North Orchard Street and State Street, Simmons says.

The city wants to move away from the old planning philosophy that treated corridors like commuter thoroughfares connecting Downtown with suburbs, Simmons says.

"We're trying to put pedestrians on more of an even footing with cars instead of design for just car access alone," he says.

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Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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