Many of us are disappointed to hear that Macy's will be closing its downtown Boise store. I haven't been here long enough to remember the earlier retail incarnations that Tim Woodward described in his Idaho Statesman article today. I just know that, whenever I was lured by Macy's One-Day Sales or holiday blow-outs, I always tried the downtown store first to see what they had before even considering a trip to Mallville. Sure, the selection was never as good, but the vibe was friendlier.
Now the big question turns to whether and how downtown Boise can fill the void at 10th & Idaho. In Cynthia Sewell's main Statesman story today, key players including Capital City Development Corporation director Phil Kushlan and downtown revivalist Mark Rivers were fairly downbeat about the possibilities, though they said that this does give Boise an opportunity to re-imagine future uses for the space,since it's unlikely any national retailers will want it. Here are a few possibilities I'd propose:
Make it multi-use. It's unlikely that one tenant will need the 118,000 square feet Macy's occupies. Besides, some of the most compelling spaces in our downtown and those of other cities feature a mix of retail, offices, cultural attractions, and even residential space.
Boise State will continue to grow, and its campus boundaries become more porous every year. Could BSU claim part of the Macy's real estate for a downtown campus, perhaps for its political science or community and regional planning classes?
Central downtown really needs a grocery store and/or a public market. Winco's flagship behemoth is too far east to serve people living and working in the downtown core, especially people who'd like to quickly hit a store on foot at lunchtime or before heading home. Whole Foods' plans for a Boise store have been on the back burner during the downturn - but if it does move forward, perhaps it would consider taking over part of Macy's. (The first Whole Foods I ever visited, while researching for Lonely Planet in the chain's hometown of Austin, Texas, was a multi-level store.)
Perhaps the Boise Co-Op, crammed into its current Fort Street location, might take a look. Or how about a year-round, indoor public market a la Seattle's Pike Place or Vancouver's Granville Island? Yes, parking will always be an issue, but not an insurmountable one, especially for the thousands of people who will be living downtown in another decade or so.
Bowling! Say no more. Macy's basement would be a rocking spot for a bowling alley/nightclub/performance space.
What are your ideas?