Beth Ineck doesn’t have anything against Meridian and Boise.
She just doesn’t want people leaving Nampa to spend money in other Treasure Valley cities. Ineck is Nampa’s economic development director. Her job is to bring and keep as many dollars in the city as she can.
The northeast side of town is a key front in this battle. Located just a few miles west of Meridian, Northeast Nampa can realistically attract people from its neighbors to the east — if it has something to offer. It can just as easily lose those customers, though, without the right mix of business and pleasure destinations.
“Historically, we’ve been a really great agricultural, manufacturing community and we definitely want to continue to grow that,” Ineck said. “But we also want to look at a little bit of diversification as we move forward with our local economic development efforts.”
Ineck has allies. Count Tim Savona, general manager of concert and event venue Ford Idaho Center, among them. Savona and Ineck are two of about two dozen stakeholders — business leaders, government officials, residents, etc. — collaborating on the Northeast Nampa Specific Area Plan, essentially a master plan for the area roughly between Idaho Center Boulevard, Nampa Gateway Center and the freeway, and McDermott Road and Cherry Lane.
As a businessman, Savona would like to see a selection of restaurants, bars and other entertainment-geared businesses take root near the Idaho Center, making it a better place to hang out before and after events. As a community member, he thinks a broader application of that principle will serve Northeast Nampa well.
“It’s all about dollars at the end of the day,” Savona said. “Get those entertainment dollars. Get those tax dollars and pump them back into the community here.”
Northeast Nampa has plenty of what urban planners call “nodes” — destinations that give smaller businesses nearby a built-in customer base.
Every day, places such as the Idaho Center, College of Western Idaho’s campus, car dealerships and the Lactalis American Group cheese plant attract a lot of workers, students and customers. What’s lacking are services to flesh out the area and give those people something to do on their way to and from the destination spots. Restaurants, bars, shops, office buildings and hotels are few and far between.
That’s been a drag on Nampa’s economy, Ineck said.
“If you’re coming from Meridian or Boise to go to a concert, you just know that there’s nothing around there,” Ineck said. “So you’re going to eat at home or along the way. You’re not necessarily going to drive all the way into Downtown Nampa for a restaurant.”
It won’t stay this way for long. Already, a variety of projects are underway in Northeast Nampa, many of them south of Interstate 84 near the Nampa Gateway shopping center. They include a Winco west of the mall; a large apartment complex on the southwest corner of Stamm Lane and Happy Valley Road; a nursing facility south of Gateway; and, north of the freeway, a proposed 600-acre multiuse development where the Ridgecrest and Centennial golf courses are located.
City leaders want to foster this growth because it increases the tax base, provides jobs and promotes a healthier overall economy. But they also want to make sure development unfolds in an orderly, efficient way in order to minimize conflicts, such as traffic congestion and land-use disputes, that arise from growth.
That’s the notion behind the Northeast Nampa Specific Area Plan, which envisions this area as a predominantly commercial corridor.
If the plan were adopted as proposed today, most of the land along I-84 would be designated for mixed-use developments that accommodate everything from high-tech industrial uses to tightly grouped office buildings to retail and some high-density residential space. The northeast acreage would be set aside for industrial projects that fit the Lactalis model. The northwest corner would be zoned for mixed-use residential development.
This is the right approach, said Dennis Fulcher, who lives on the corner of Happy Valley Road and Stamm Lane. Plan or no plan, Fulcher said, development is coming to Northeast Nampa.
“It’s an area overall that is really in a state of transition. And I think the key to the whole things is you’ve got to have balance,” Fulcher said. “Everybody has to get on the same page.”
Nelson said that’s exactly what she hopes the area plan achieves.
“We want to have a plan so people know what to expect,” she said.
The goal of the plan, the first of its kind in Nampa, is to express a broad vision for Northeast Nampa. It won’t get into specific uses or designs. As you might expect, the stakeholders involved in developing the plan have a variety of ideas and concerns.
Fulcher is a cheerleader for the development of land south of the freeway, because he considers it marginal farmland. In a perfect world, he said, the flat fields north of I-84 would continue to produce food. On the other hand, you have to consider the landowners’ needs.
“What do you do with the farmers that have had that ground for years and years and years?” Fulcher said. “And these guys have gotten older, and that’s their retirement.”
Like Savona and Ineck, College of Western Idaho leaders would like to see a good mix of commercial storefronts open up near their Nampa campus, which opened in 2009 about a mile north of the Ford Idaho Center. That kind of development would make the campus more appealing to students, spokeswoman Jennifer Couch said.
The college isn’t too worried about housing, Couch said. The supply of apartments west of Idaho Center Boulevard is enough for now, she said.
Jake Parcells, who lives on Cherry Lane just north of the 150-acre CWI campus, said some variety of entertainment options would be nice.
“There’s enough fast-food restaurants along Idaho Center Boulevard,” Parcells said. “I guess I would kind of like to see something like a Chili’s or a nice place where you go in and eat, which we don’t have ... around here now.”
Almost every project raises traffic concerns, so it’s not surprising that a proposed long-term build-up of the entire Northeast Nampa area has people wondering about congestion. Clair Bowman, Nampa’s senior transportation planner, said traffic problems could arise sooner than expected because of the looming 600-acre development on what is now golf course space owned by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Whenever the project gets moving, Bowman said, the city needs to have a plan for handling traffic into, out of and through it.
The Land Group, a consultant working on the project, said there’s been no decision on who the developer will be. He declined to provide specifics about the project.
“My plan is to have something into the city within the next two months,” Land Group principal Doug Russell said in an email.
Northeast Nampa Specific Area Plan
Karla Nelson, Nampa’s community planner, and the planning department started working on the Northeast Nampa plan a year ago. After shelving it briefly for more pressing matters, work resumed last fall. So far, stakeholders have participated in a handful of meetings and other events to talk about traffic, water and sewer issues, and the appropriate amount of housing, Nelson said.
By the end of June, she hopes to present a first draft of the plan to the stakeholder group and at an open house event for the public. After that, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission would review the plan and make a recommendation to the City Council, which would hold a public hearing before voting on whether to approve it.
Nelson hopes to finish this process by the end of summer.