Boise’s next big thing: the Boise River area north of Fairview

A whitewater park has already brought a few new businesses to a Boise neighborhood. Planners think the park and other improvements will attract more nearby.

adutton@idahostatesman.comSeptember 17, 2013 

The two owners of Idaho River Sports took a leap of faith nearly 10 years ago. They moved their water-sports business from Hyde Park, where it opened in 1987, to a spot near Quinn’s Pond, just steps from the Boise Greenbelt.

This year, that move really started to pay off. A new whitewater park opened in 2012 — with help from Idaho River Sports — and attracted new customers to the area.

“We’re in a prime spot,” says Stan Kolby, who co-owns the business with Jo Cassin. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The impact of the whitewater park has been “huge,” he says. Equipment rentals are up 60 percent over last year.

Idaho River Sports is among several businesses benefiting from the park and the planned development of areas around 30th Street, which runs along the eastern side of the park. Other businesses have opened or made improvements to capitalize on new interest in a corner of Boise that had languished in recent years.

Victor Myers opened Corridor Paddle and Surf Shop this year just across the river in Garden City. As owner and sole employee, Myers sells and rents surfboards and paddleboards and teaches lessons. He previously worked out of mobile locations and a website.

“This is my first stab at a retail shop,” he says. “I didn’t have super-specific expectations. I kind of [thought], ‘Well, if I can’t make it work here, I’m not going to make it work.’”

One of his students on the whitewater waves this summer is James Neill, who owns property on the Garden City side of the river, which is getting a boost from the Boise project.

The park has “made the whole river much more attractive and interesting and brought people down there,” says Neill. Renovations to the Riverside Hotel and the addition of the Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill to the hotel are signs of positive change, he says. “The river isn’t just something that [the neighborhood] backs up to now. It’s something people want to look at.”

REVIVAL RADIATES AROUND THE RIVER

More developments with potentially significant economic impact are on the horizon. (Scroll to bottom of page for a map of future development projects)

The first phase of the Boise River Park cost about $3.9 million. Planned work includes a $10 million Esther Simplot Park just north of Quinn’s Pond and a $3 million to $5 million project to make the river more accessible for boating. The city of Boise hopes to revive nearby areas in tandem with the river improvements.

“I think we’re just seeing a hint of what it’s going to be like over there,” says John Brunelle, executive director of Capital City Development Corp., which is charged with helping to renew the 30th Street corridor.

Now that the area has an urban-renewal district designation, CCDC is able to use tax-increment financing to make investments in the corridor. That financing lets other taxing districts keep tax revenue they already collect from properties within the district, but lets CCDC collect any new revenue resulting from higher property values.

When the Simplot park is finished and there are permanent restrooms, changing rooms and parking nearby, it will be easier for the whitewater park to accommodate events such as kayaking invitationals, bringing more tourist spending to the Boise area, says Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director.

Brunelle is paying close attention to the parts of Main Street and Fairview Avenue where they meet 30th Street. There, the city and St. Luke’s Health System own large plots of land — blank slates for development.

“Instead of being ways to get in and out of town, those become their own destination,” he says.

A new medical office building is already in development at 30th and Main streets, replacing Latah Motors.

“The building will energize this property and hopefully set a precedent for new development surrounding the 30th Street expansion,” Erstad Architects wrote last month to Boise Planning and Development Services.

The city recently hired Jay Story, a local commercial real estate broker and developer, to run the 30th Street corridor project. The master plan for the project targets four areas near the River Park (see map).

“The end goal is to have that catalyst project that really transforms the area,” Story says.

What kind of project could that be? He’s not sure. That’s something he says he and others will work to find over the next 12 months.

It’s unlikely the neighborhoods will welcome big-box retailers, he says, unless they are “done differently, or something a little more palatable” than usual.

Kolby, of Idaho River Sports, says the 30th Street extension project will bring 12,000 cars by the whitewater park and pond area each day.

That kind of traffic may just be enough to support a new endeavor for Kolby and Cassin: a restaurant behind the store, serving items such as sandwiches, ice cream, desserts and coffee. It will be at least a couple of years before they can open the restaurant, he says.

Meantime, they’ll be out on the water teaching paddleboard yoga or inside the store selling kayaks to Boise River and Quinn’s Pond devotees and newcomers.

Click on the development map below to enlarge it

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448

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