David Leland Proposes Expanded Vision of Downtown at DBA Annual Meeting


At the Downtown Boise Association Annual Meeting, held this morning at the Boise Centre, keynote speaker David Leland called Boise one of his three favorite cities—the others are Portland, Ore., and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. That means something: Leland has consulted on or developed more than 3,000 urban projects during his more than 50 years as a developer and consultant. His presentation, which drew almost 350 attendees, focused on how cities can achieve success by viewing their downtowns as products. And central to any product is who's consuming it.

"I think downtowns are all about people," he told the audience. 

For Leland, cities seeking to improve their downtowns need to oversee development that supervises construction design and how projects are financed, as well as curate and monitor the market for mixed- and single-use developments. In his general experience, two-thirds of mixed-use projects eventually fail.

"We are over-relying on design alone," he said.

Boise's downtown economic data, he said, was encouraging. Its vacancy rate in 2013 was 12.24 percent, while its 28 business openings outpaced business closures, according to the Downtown Boise Association. But Leland said the changing demographics of people who live and work in downtowns may challenge cities like Boise in the future, as by 2018, up to 25 percent of downtown workers will be over the age of 55.