New blog uses imagery to drum up interest in Boise's future

zkyle@idahostatesman.comApril 7, 2014 

A screenshot of the 3-D model of downtown as shown on Boisetopia.com. Blogger Anthony Harding re-engineered a model made by Capital City Development Corp to include buildings built recently as well as buildings in the design review process that aren't yet under construction.

COURTESY OF BOISETOPIA.COM

Anthony Harding doesn’t care if he sounds a little sappy. The Boise State University junior and lifelong Boisean says he cares about his hometown’s future, and he hopes his newly launched website, Boisetopia.com, will help you care about city planning, too.

“I see Boise as a sprouting flower, and it’s fragile,” Harding said. “Some cities just don’t have engaged citizens or people that really care. The nice thing is, Boise already has a strong civic fabric. I want to get it stronger.”

The website is a blog about Boise growth and development. Harding welcomed readers with a post last Wednesday, April 2. He followed up with a longer entry about a Global Insight report that projects Boise’s population by 2042. The report predicts a nearly 80 percent growth to nearly 1.14 million people.

“Our humble mountain town will be larger than Buffalo, New York and roughly the size of Honolulu, Hawaii,” the post says. “I, too, am dreaming of halftime Mai Tais at an Idaho Bills game.”

Harding said the heart of the blog is its 3-D map of Downtown. Harding started with a model created by Capital City Development Corp., the city’s urban-renewal agency. He updated it to include recently completed projects such as the Eighth & Main tower. He’s also tapped design-review plans available through the city to model projects underway or under review, such as JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place) and the neighboring J.R. Simplot Co. headquarters, both of which are under construction.

Harding, a 22-year-old who’s majoring in graphic design, started tinkering with the CCDC model four years ago. He hopes the visual model will engage Boiseans who aren’t developers or policy wonks, making urban-planning topics such as public transportation and dense-population planning concepts promoted by groups like Idaho Smart Growth more accessible.

Scot Oliver, executive director of Idaho Smart Growth, said Harding might be onto something.

"These kinds of visualizations can be contagious," Oliver said. "They help spark the imagination for what urban development could look like."

Harding, who graduated from Borah High School in 2008, said he’ll receive no school credit for the blog. During the summer he works for design consultant Walter Dorwin Teague in Seattle  on a team that designs paint jobs for aircraft.

“I feel there’s a lot of people out there who would be really interested in this stuff if I can just show them the imagery that sucks them into this story,” he said. “It’s about where we’re going and what we can become.”

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