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The Changing Face of Hyde Park

An iconic Boise neighborhood morphs into a shopping complex

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Tim Barnford opened his Hyde Park coffee shop in 1987, years before Starbucks started spreading out of Seattle, years even before the simple cup of coffee morphed into a cornucopia of exotic variations.

"I still have the first espresso machine I brought into this place," he said. "It's in my garage, at home, and it still works fine. It just got to be too small."

Barnford hesitated before explaining why he hasn't gotten rid of the machine.

"I don't know, really," he said, "but I think it's something about hanging on to stuff that brought us to where we are.

"It's the opposite of what they're planning to do here. To this whole place," he added, waving his hand across the view from the patio of his shop. "I still can hardly believe what's happening."

Barnford built his patio about 20 years ago, and the view of 13th Street as it runs through Hyde Park hasn't changed much since then. The neighborhood remains one of the few quaint reserves left in the city and serves as a reminder that—not so long ago—Boise was a town of quaint reserves, congregated around clusters of mom-and-pop stores that provided everything from groceries to ice cream sundaes to shoe repair.

"It's like there are two kinds of people," Barnford told Boise Weekly. "People who would like to see things stay the way they are—I guess that's me—and then there are these guys who can't wait to get hold of something and exploit it. You know, suck everything out of it until nothing's left of what used to be here."

Little of what Hyde Park used to be will remain if plans move forward to enclose four square blocks of the North End neighborhood as an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex.

As the project description states on the website of Palo Alto, Calif.-based developer Birdwell/Caar Meta-Designs: "Coming Soon: Hyde Park Commons—where neighbors come to see neighbors."