Saturday, April 3, 2010

BSU students take fresh looks at downtown

Anyone who loves downtown Boise ought to have a look at the Statesman today. Page 1 of the print edition has two very cool stories that - combined with news of the first drop in Idaho's unemployment rate in 32 months - show Boise's brightest days may yet be ahead of us.

First of all comes the news that BoDo developer Mark Rivers has toured the old Macy's building and is at least thinking of a purchase. Kathleen Kreller's story notes that others are looking at the property, too. Let's hope that something can come together in "the big old barn" (Rivers' words) while the market is still down. The costs of the cavernous building - and of neglecting it - are only certain to rise in the future; on the flipside, the psychological and financial rewards of investing in such an iconic property could ripple valleywide.

Bethann Stewart covered the first-ever spring break innovate@boisestate conference, showing how five teams of students envisioned infill projects for downtown parcels. The first-place team proposed something called Zenabuki Village along Broadway between Front and Myrtle streets, described as "a mixed-use housing and retail development of condos and apartments where students, young professionals and other community members would interact."

Whole Foods Market has plans to build on this parcel (if we can't interest them in the old Macy's instead), and the students made the grocer the anchor tenant of their proposal. But they also envisioned a skywalk to the Boise State campus and a living center where at-risk teens could mix with college students to see the benefits of higher education.

The second-place team envisions an "Urban-Outdoor Nirvana" at Myrtle and 11th streets, including a transportation center with Zipcar and bike rentals; a concert venue; a children's museum; citywide volunteer center; and more. Read the whole story here, and see the proposals on display at the BSU Undergraduate Research and Scholarship conference, set for from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, April 12, in the Student Union Building. And bravo to BSU for an activity that shows how in-person higher ed can remain relevant in the Internet era.

P.S. If these stories set your heart and mind racing, please consider joining us for Jane's Walk 2010 on May 1 in downtown Boise. See the link for more details and sign up soon; the event will be limited to the first 15 people.

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