The Union Block alley between Eighth Street and Capitol Boulevard is an odorous blight on the downtown Boise landscape. However, plans to transform the dumpster-lined access road into an attractive pedestrian walkway mean that's about the change.
"The whole project actually started with our property management company just wanting to move the dumpsters out to clean up the alley a bit," said Parklane Management Company representative Anne Wescott. "That idea ended up snowballing into a much bigger and wonderful project."
The Union Alley beautification is part of a venture to improve both the function and aesthetics of alleys in downtown Boise. Power lines will move underground, and decorative pavers will replace pothole-pitted asphalt. Property owners CCDC and Park Lane Management are also coordinating to update garbage management; dumpsters and bins of restaurant waste will be replaced with a trash compactor, two recycling compactors and a cardboard bailer to be stored in the Union Block parking garage.
"Buying these compactors is not cheap," Wescott said. "They're around $30,000, but in five years we will be making money off the new trash and recycling system because we'll have cut out a lot of expenses."
A pipeline to transport waste to a single collection well will eliminate barrels of discarded restaurant grease, making it easier to recycle, and restored sandstone facades and large window wells will enhance the new public and commercial space.
"I imagine a staircase leading down to an area where nighttime people are grabbing a bite or sitting down and hanging out," said Wescott.
Some restaurants may add back patios or takeout windows that open onto the alley, while the lot behind Saint Lawrence Gridiron will become a pocket park. Historic signage on the building walls will be restored alongside new art installations, and the space will be illuminated with overhead festival lighting. Construction should be completed by fall 2018.
"I've worked in the public sector all my career and this was an unusual moment where we were on the same page as the city, and longtime downtown developers," said Wescott. "I thought, 'We need to seize this moment.'"