New real estate development is bringing new life to Downtown Boise. That's good, but it also underscores Downtown's limitations.
The soon-to-open 8th & Main building has filled the infamous hole with attractive office space. Jack's Urban Meeting Place, a creativity center, is going up. Simplot Co.'s headquarters will follow.
Whole Foods has become a mealtime mecca on Downtown's eastern edge. The Trader Joe's store and accompanying retail spaces under construction at Capitol and Front streets will fill the gap between BoDo and the new Concordia University Law School.
Downtown is "starting to see gathering strength on the retail side," says George Iliff, managing owner of Colliers International in Boise, the commercial real-estate firm. Iliff says clothing shops are doing well, and he expects more restaurants.
But the undeveloped space owned by the Greater Boise Auditorium District west of JUMP remains an eyesore. And Iliff cites another problem: freeway-style traffic on Myrtle and Front streets. Five lanes in each direction discourage access from the heart of Downtown to the cultural district, including the main Boise library, on the south end of 8th Street. One solution: Knock some lanes out and invite pedestrians and bicyclists in.
Boise is lucky to have a vibrant Downtown. With the economy rebounding, Downtown seems likely to keep gathering strength. But it will need sustained attention.