BOISE — For the first time, urban renewal in Boise is leaving the confines of downtown and headed for the outskirts of the city.
Boise’s urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corporation, is proposing to designate more than 3,000 acres in southeast Boise near the airport and the interstate as its newest urban renewal district beginning in early 2019. If approved, the Gateway East district would redirect tax revenue collected from new development in the area toward infrastructure improvements and projects officials hope will spur industrial development in the area.
On Thursday evening, officials held an open house about the district to gather public input at the Comfort Suites on South Vista Avenue. Although most of the area is industrial, empty range land, or commercial, several residents of the Blue Valley mobile home park on South Eisenman Road came to the open house with concerns that the creation of the district would draw so much industry to their area that it would degrade their quality of life.
The area has been eyed by city officials as far back as 2001 as an area ripe for urban renewal. According to Boise’s Director of Economic Development Nic Miller, the area’s location near Interstate 84, the airport and Micron Technologies means it has a lot of potential as an industrial center, but it has not had the investment necessary to lure businesses.
“Our goals in forming the urban renewal district are to mitigate some of those public infrastructure needs to help the area to reach its potential and create more jobs, diversify our economy and take an area of town that is mostly sagebrush and see it come into more value for the community,” he said.
If adopted, the urban renewal district would be in place for two decades and could fund a variety of improvements, including expanding sewer lines, expanding the road network in the area and upgrading broadband. Although there are no concrete plans on the table yet for what improvements could be made, Miller said the goal is to use this as a way to create a new employment center for the city that can attract light industrial uses.
This area has been a focus of city deliberations and local media reports this summer after trucking company R+L Carriers proposed a 100-bay terminal right next door to Blue Valley. After the residents heard about the project, they mobilized to try and get the city to turn down the project. Two testy Design Review Committee hearings later and the city approved the project, but required a sound barrier and some other mitigation to help shield residents from impacts.
Residents of the park were not satisfied with the changes made by Design Review and appealed the decision to Planning & Zoning Commission, which will take up the issue on Oct. 8.
Noise complaints, truck traffic on Eisenman Road and possible health impacts were all worries Blue Valley residents had about the trucking terminal, but they also feared that increased industrialization of the area would make the park undesirable, and the park owners would sell leaving the mobile home owners with few options. After viewing the materials at Thursday’s open house, Lynda Puccinelli was unconvinced that the district would preserve their neighborhood.
“Because they are so aware of us now they are talking a good game, but there’s no guarantees that they will follow through on what they say they’re going to do,” Puccinelli said.
When asked about Blue Valley, Miller said the city officials are considering the neighborhood when planning projects for the area, but they has not settled on if it would be doing improvements specifically for the park.
“What I think where we’re at with the urban renewal district is what it does is it gives us a tool if there are potential things we need to mitigate out there,” he said. “We as a city don’t have a lot of those tools to mitigate any problems from development, especially when you have a residential area that is surrounded by land that is zoned industrial.”
The Gateway East District has been deemed eligible for urban renewal by outside Chicago-based consultant SB Friedman Development Associates and the report has been accepted by both CCDC’s Board of Directors and Boise’s City Council. CCDC will hold another open house on Sept. 26 to gather more input and there will be an official public hearing on the district at Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 5. Finally, city council will have a public hearing on it Nov. 13.
When the district came before Boise City Council earlier this summer, Mayor Dave Bieter said he was hopeful that by investing in the area, it could be a boost to the city’s economy.
“If we’re going to have the kind of economy we’re going to want to have, we need a range of jobs in a range of fields,” he said at the Aug. 28 meeting. “We’ll see what the public has to say, but I think it make sense from a lot of angles.”