State of Downtown: Boise needs more urban housing

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by Matt Standal

KREM.com

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 16 at 6:40 AM

BOISE -- More than 28 major building projects are under development in downtown Boise, but city leaders are pushing for more housing in the future.

That's according to the State of Downtown Boise, a new report released Tuesday by the Downtown Boise Association.

See the DBA 2013 Annual Report here

The aforementioned projects range from commercial and retail space, to new office and residential buildings popping up around town.

That includes notable developments like Simplot's J.U.M.P project, the 8th and Main building, additions to the Boise Center on the Grove, and a multi-modal travel plaza planned for the heart of downtown.

Check out KTVB's Development Map here.

According to Boise's Mayor David Bieter -- along with a handful of other economic authorities -- the outlook is good.

But what does all that activity mean for the long term health of the city -- and where do we go from here?

LELAND: BOISE RIPE FOR GROWTH

Urban strategist David Leland says downtown Boise is ripe for growth, and that growth hinges on creating housing for downtown residents.

Leland is recognized as one of the country's foremost urban developers and an authority on downtowns. An architect with over 40 years of experience, he's consulted on more than 200 civic projects and helped build thousands of buildings across the United States.

He also wildly favors downtown Boise, saying it trails only Portland, Ore. and his home city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in a factor he calls liveability.

"That's not hype," Leland said. "I mean, I've worked for a lot of cities, and a lot of developers and this is one of my favorite places."

Leland is famous for conducting liveabilty research and helping cities grow. He looks at factors like jobs, income, affordable housing, culture, and safety.

He also looks at how people in downtowns spend money and support businesses.

DOWNTOWN RESIDENTS WILL SPEND MONEY

"A downtown resident can support up to 10 square-feet of commercial space," Leland says. "A worker that commutes downtown can only support about 2.5 square-feet."

The verdict: Boise's urban core is healthy, with an extremely low vacancy rate and plenty of demand for more office space and housing.

Leland says that means more people living in downtown Boise should bring more economic wealth to the city.

That's good news for Karen Sander, executive director of the Downtown Boise Association.

Both Sander and Leland agree that creating liveable spaces in downtown Boise should be a major priority for the city.

"Something I think is really important for Boise that we haven't seen in a few years is downtown residential," Sander said. "I think that's a critical piece to the vibrancy of downtown."

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