Chris O’Reilly and his wife, Kathryn, drove through Boise a couple of years ago on their way home to Marietta, Georgia, from Portland. They fell in love with the area.
The couple, retired schoolteachers, wanted to leave the sprawl of suburban Atlanta. They looked across the country for a suitable community. They considered Kansas City, where they once lived, but found it too congested. They considered Washington state, but found it too expensive.
In the Treasure Valley, they looked at Meridian and Eagle but didn’t like the traffic. They found a three-story townhouse in the Dallas Harris Estates on ParkCenter Boulevard, east of Marianne Williams Park. They moved there in June. There’s less traffic, the Boise River Greenbelt is close, and “with our bicycles, we can go just about anywhere,” said O’Reilly, 67.
Construction in the Barber Valley, including Harris Ranch and Brighton Corp.’s Barber Station development is booming, thanks to people like the O’Reillys. Houses are going up. Apartments too. An Albertsons grocery store. An assisted-living center. Restaurants. Small shops. More houses. In the future, an elementary school.
“There’s a mix of residential product type and a degree of commercial and office development that you’re starting to see fill up out there,” said Cody Riddle, the city of Boise’s planning manager. “There’s still potential for more.”
Dallas Harris’ 1976 plan for development
The Barber Valley Planning Area comprises 1,705 acres southeast of Downtown, bordered by the Boise Foothills, the Boise River, Warm Springs Mesa and State Highway 21. It includes the Harris Ranch and Barber Valley planned communities.
When those two neighborhoods are fully developed, they will have 3,300 homes. Since, 2007, 1,200 single-family homes and 300 multi-family units have been built.
John Mooney, president of the Barber Valley Neighborhood Association, said he bought a home there four years ago specifically because it was a planned community.
“Most all of the development out here in the valley had already been preordained and was already in city ordinance,” Mooney said. “It’s really close to what Dallas Harris envisioned when he sketched it out in the 1970s.”
The Barber Valley once had a mill and a company town, Barberton, with 650 residents and an elementary school, northeast of Barber Dam. The mill, where Marianne Williams Park is located, closed in 1935, and the town followed. The Harris family bought the mill site, which became part of Harris Ranch.
Dallas Harris, the late owner, created a master plan to develop the ranch in 1976. The plan evolved over the years and was last updated in 2006. A city planning document says his vision called for “pedestrian-oriented public streets, plazas, greens, riverfront walks and pathways.”
Population quadruples in 8 years
Home building began in the late 1990s with a small village center at Warm Springs Avenue and Eckert Road. Since the Great Recession ended, the village center has expanded to include a neighborhood market. The Terraces of Boise retirement community has opened. So have new homes for East Junior High School and Riverstone International School.
Subdivisions have been established north and south of Warm Springs Avenue and east toward Spring Creek.
Improvements have begun on Marianne Williams Park, a 72-acre parcel donated in 2005 along the river where the lumber mill once stood. Last year, the Brighton Corp. began opening sections of the Arboretum at Barber Station, an apartment complex across the river from Bown Crossing.
The Barber Valley’s population has quadrupled since 2010, from 1,377 to 5,280, with 1,970 households, according to estimates from the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho, or COMPASS.
Today Brighton, a Boise developer owned by David Turnbull, is building Veranda Senior Living, an 84-unit assisted living center that will also serve residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems. It’s scheduled to open in December on East Barber Valley Drive, just off East ParkCenter Boulevard.
Next to Veranda, Brighton is putting up luxury townhouses in its ongoing Park Place at Barber Station development. They’re across East Barber Valley Drive from homes built in the past few years next to Marianne Williams Park. New three-bedroom homes in Park Place are listed between $313,660 and $398,840.
(Barber Station is 54 acres next to the park and bisected by the East ParkCenter Bridge. While most of the homes in the area are in low- and medium-density zones, Barber Station is designed for high-density housing.)
Albertsons store to come
Boise Dance Alliance opened a new studio on the south side of East Barber Valley Drive, just west of the Veranda development. And Barry Werner, owner of the Tavern at Bown Crossing and the Owyhee Tavern, plans a restaurant at the corner of East Barber Valley and ParkCenter, but hasn’t begun work there yet.
The Boise School District plans to build a $13.8 million elementary school within five years in a pasture now used to graze cattle near Barnside Way, between ParkCenter and Warm Springs Avenue.
Black Rock Homes and Boise Hunter Homes, among others, are building new single-family homes nearby.
Albertsons plans a 35,945-square-foot store at the southwest corner of ParkCenter and East Warm Springs. The company doesn’t have a timetable for building the store, spokesman Dennis McCoy said.
COMPASS, the Treasure Valley’s regional planning agency, predicts the Barber Valley’s population will increase to 6,870 by 2025 and 7,140 in 2030.
Mooney, the neighborhood association president, says he likes the way the development is unfolding so far.
“I hope that what happens is we end up with a Hyde Park or Bown Crossing type of urban cluster that’s attractive as an alternative to going Downtown or to other areas.”