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When I get grumpy about Downtown Boise, I simply recall Seattle

A bird's-eye view of the Broadway Bridge demolition

Construction on the Broadway Bridge in Downtown Boise is expected until last until early fall. Crews are working around the clock, which officials say will cut construction costs by $3.5 million and speed up the time to complete the project from 1
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Construction on the Broadway Bridge in Downtown Boise is expected until last until early fall. Crews are working around the clock, which officials say will cut construction costs by $3.5 million and speed up the time to complete the project from 1

When I moved to Boise from Seattle some 30 years ago, another professor told me that I’d love it in the spring time because the hills “burst into green, like the hills of Ireland.”

In June of my first year, I asked her when the hills would burst into green.

“Oh. You missed it.”

This happened for several years. Because I was used to the green of Seattle, I thought Boise’s hills were just plain brown all year. I figured the other professor was teasing me.

But recently, I found myself raving to my brother (who still lives in Seattle) about how the hills around Boise had burst into green and reminded me of northern Scotland.

What a little time on the ground will do.

I’m curious about the notion of noticing. When we’re new to a place, a person, or an idea, we tend to notice the “big” things. But when we’re familiar with something, we notice nuances, especially changes in a situation. Often, then, when something changes, we may resist and wish for the “way it was.” I have to catch myself when this happens and analyze what’s going on.

During the past weekend, several friends complained about Downtown Boise. Construction has blocked off or closed streets altogether. New parking meters seem to be pushing people away from the center out to malls where access is easier. Cranes have been more common than the Idaho mountain bluebird. At the same time, Boise is back in the news as a great place to live.

But rather than being giddy with the possibilities, I find I’m grumbling at the nuances of change — dust, longer commute, redirected routes.

Why am I not reacting like a newcomer, happy to see the vibrancy and growth and pleased that restaurants are bustling on a Sunday night?

Instead, my first response is to behave like a curmudgeon, complaining that drivers seem more frustrated and honk more often.

That’s when I had to stop, recalibrate and put it all into perspective. I can’t stop change, which will have its growth pains. I can’t bring back my old commute time (seven minutes), so I have to get used to my new longer commute (11 minutes). All it takes is one visit or memory of living in Seattle to put it all into place.

The busyness and congestion actually have a wonderful benefit. It’s a great incentive for me to walk more.

So build away, Downtown Boise.

The renovation is expected to be complete by the summer of 2017. Until then pedestrians will need to walk around the construction in the main plaza.

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University, nnapier@boisestate.edu. nnapier@boisestate.edu. This column appears in the June 15-July 19, 2016 edition of the Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on commercial construction. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).

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