In today’s real estate market, everywhere you look, it’s all about “lifestyle.”
That’s never truer than when you start to consider moving Downtown.
“Many of us never analyze what we want from our lives, but just accept that certain ideas — like owning a large home, having lots of stuff, spending hours per day of windshield time — are what should govern our choice of where and how to live,” said Jeff Kuhns, who lives in east Downtown at The Jefferson. “An urban lifestyle won’t fit everyone, but based on individual values, it can be the right choice for many.”
He and his wife, Becky Mills, are retired, and they have lived there for two years now.
“We determined we wanted to live where we could walk or bike to most of what we wanted to do,” Kuhns said. “Living Downtown provides that. We’re minutes from the Greenbelt, minutes from the Foothills, we can easily walk to campus, or Downtown restaurants or other activities. Last evening, for example, we walked to see a play at BCT (Boise Contemporary Theater).”
Karen Warner and her husband, Mark, live in the Tower Plaza condo in the Chase Bank building. They used to live in the Highlands with a 3-car garage full of tools and yard equipment. They, too, love being able to walk to multiple restaurants or ride their bikes to Boise State games, or enjoy the nightlife the city has to offer. After four years, Mark still has not missed all that stuff in the garage.
“We have barely stepped foot in Home Depot or Lowe’s since we moved, and that was a once or twice a month trip if not more often,” Karen Warner said. “You spend a lot of money on that stuff. You don’t realize it. But we haven’t had any need for it.”
And there have been other positives.
“It certainly frees up time to travel and do other things with your weekend,” she said. “Living in a condo gives us options with what we want to do with our weekends instead of what the house or yard might need.”
“It’s been quite easy to get used to,” said Dale Babbitt. He and his wife live up on the 16th floor of the Aspen Lofts. This is their first condominium experience, and part of the reason was to leave all those landscaping chores behind. “It has a high degree of security, it’s got convenience, especially to the Downtown area, and there are a lot of things within walking distance. We probably drive half of what we used to because of access to a lot of things Downtown. We can walk to restaurants or grocery stores.”
Trader Joe’s is practically out their front door, and they find WinCo and the Boise Co-op an easy walk, too.
“Surprisingly, we adjusted to it pretty rapidly,” Babbitt said. “We found it pretty easy to make contact with other residents in the building. It had a very friendly atmosphere. We weren’t sure about living in a condo before, but it was a chance we wanted to take, and it’s been very positive.”
“I really don’t go anywhere other than Downtown,” said Tami Chafin. She lives in the Aspen Lofts and is also the president of the Downtown Boise Neighborhood Association. “You tend to have friends Downtown, or your friends like to come Downtown, so you don’t go out to their house as much as you used to. All I have to do is take the elevator downstairs. I don’t need to leave in my car very often.”
Graham Seymour rents a home near 14th and River streets. His car hasn’t been driven in nearly eight weeks.
“I am really able to do just about everything I need with walking or Uber,” he said.
While about 70 percent of Downtown residents are of the baby boomer generation, Seymour is among “the elusive young professional” demographic that makes up the other 30 percent, consisting mostly of millennials. He is what is probably most easily described as a former marketing consultant who helps find software developers for a modern-day, high-end freelancer network. He works with a fully remote startup company — Toptal — that has been called one of the largest and fastest growing software companies in the U.S. without offices. Everybody works remotely.
He’s been in Boise about three or four years, and one day he just decided it was time to move Downtown.
“I get claustrophobic in the suburbs,” he said.
For the baby boomers who move Downtown, that change in lifestyle may initially feel a bit claustrophobic. But many also find it very freeing.
“There is something about downsizing and living in a smaller footprint that is satisfying — getting rid of the extra stuff you don’t use,” Warner said. “A good feeling comes from that.”
It’s not without its challenges, though.
“You can’t be a packrat,” she said. “You have to be more careful about what you buy and where it’s going to go. You can’t just keep a bunch of stuff.”
“It’s not a life for a hoarder,” Chafin said. “I tend to shop differently. I don’t buy in bulk as much as I used to. You don’t have to buy as much as when you have a home. It was a pretty easy adjustment for me.”
It was an easy adjustment for Seymour, too. He’s lived in places like Missouri, Canada, Israel, the Bay Area and Austin, Texas, and he likes what he sees in Downtown Boise.
“I’ve been fortunate to live in a few small towns, a few larger cities, and it’s kind of a fusion of both,” he said. “While we have a lot of the amenities of a larger city, it still has the small town feeling in the sense that it is very easy to strike up conversations with people. It’s very easy to get around and make connections.”
But remember that your lifestyle needs to fit urban living going in. Downtown is not going to adjust itself to you.
“Obviously, there are some adjustments,” Babbitt said. “We’re still a society that drives a lot, so you should check to see how your car functions with it, if you have gated parking or secure parking. … You need to get as much knowledge as you can, and you need to understand how the homeowners association works and what impact it might or might not have on you, rules and regs and things like that. But it’s been very positive for us. We’re not disappointed at all.”
“Everyone has different drivers and goals,” Kuhns said. “If you like the convenience of not having outdoor maintenance, of being able to leave for extended periods of time without worrying about your property, of being able to walk or bike to many other locations, of being in an area with a sense of energy and vitality, then living Downtown may be for you.”
Seymour suggests a contemporary approach.
“Find an AirBnB or something other than a hotel to stay in in the Downtown area, walk around,” he said. “It seems there are a lot of excellent rentals that never touch the market, that never touch Craigs-list, that only have signs out or word of mouth. So getting boots on the ground and exploring and figuring out what’s available beyond what’s online makes sense. Come walk around, experience it for yourself.
“Every single neighborhood has its own sort of microcosmic feel, its own microcosmic culture, and that’s something that no magazine, paper, website or pictures will convey properly. It’s worth it to explore this by yourself, then back it up with research later.”
Comparing the Downtown experience from five years ago to what it is going to look like five years from now is almost unimaginable.
But there is little doubt that it is going to get a lot more interesting.
“It’s the people, it’s the cost of living and, if we’re going to stick to the rule of three, the third piece is that it is very much a city in flux and a city that is experiencing growth,” Seymour said. “The identity is changing, and the citizens and the businesses and the government are all trying to figure out just what that means, seeing a lot of growth and a lot of construction, and overall that’s really exciting. I love being around growth, and I think that pumps in a certain sort of energy that’s great.
“I’m hard-pressed to imagine being anywhere else for the time being.”
Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and print journalist who has been working in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.
Is Downtown living right for you?
Condo or apartment living in an urban setting can be a perfect lifestyle choice for some people. For others, not so much. From homeowners’ associations to parking and garage challenges, there are many things to consider. See Dusty Parnell’s story here at http://www.idahostatesman.com/living/treasure/article62848727.html to read about some things you should consider before making the big move.
Read Dusty Parnell’s story about how Downtown residences could double by 2020: http://www.idahostatesman.com/living/treasure/article62846462.html
The Aspen Lofts condos in this story
The condo on the cover is #1401 in the Aspen Lofts on Front Street across from the Boise Centre. It’s listed for $2.2 million. There also are more photos of this condo featured with this article as well as photos from #1503, which is listed for $1.15 million. To learn more about these properties, contact Melissa Galli or Brooke Seidl from Galli+Seidl Real Estate (Keller Williams) through GalliSeidl.com.
Watch a video about urban living that features these two Aspen Lofts condos here: https://vimeo.com/135663541
Read more about Downtown Boise’s growth spurt, plus watch a cool video
Downtown Boise’s growth is unprecedented by Sven Berg: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/community/our-community-blog/article61063027.html
Urban Land Institute Idaho: idaho.uli.org
Downtown Boise Neighborhood Association: downtownboiseliving.org
Urban Concepts — Bryant Forrester: boisecondosandlofts.com/index.cfm
The One Nineteen: onenineteenboise.com
The Afton: theafton.com
The Fowler: localconstruct.com/developments/The_Fowler
The Jefferson: thejeffersonboise.com
CitySide Lofts: citysidelofts-boise.com
The 951: 951front.com
Buy a brick
Want to make a mark on Downtown Boise? The Grove Plaza: Brick by Brick Program is a chance to buy a personalized engraved brick to help support this year’s renovation of the Downtown plaza. The 4-x 8-inch bricks are $60; $100 for a premium brick. Deadline is Thursday, March 31. Details: BrickOrder.com/GrovePlaza.