College of Western Idaho Board of Directors President Mary Niland has told Boise Weekly that a driving force behind its purchase of 10 acres in Boise's West End neighborhood—what Boise city officials have described as "part of downtown"—is bringing classes closer to CWI students.
"We've got people going back and forth [between CWI facilities in Boise and Nampa]," she said. "We're doing it to make it more accessible."
Niland said that a steering committee is currently being formed that will address community concerns and determine what classes and facilities would be most appropriate for a location. Following the completion of that task—and she couldn't say when that might be—CWI will put forth a bond initiative to bolster fundraising efforts on the part of the college to fund the expansion.
The community college has purchased the parcel of land at 3150 W. Main St., the former location of Bob Rice Ford, but there are no plans yet to develop the land. Instead, CWI is forming a steering committee to meet with community and other stakeholders to better define what use will be made of the newly acquired land.
Buying the land will allow the college to relieve pressure from its growing student body population. Since opening its doors in 2009, CWI's enrollment has increased rapidly, and during the upcoming fall semester, 10,217 students taking classes for credit and an additional 10,480 non-credit students have enrolled in classes at CWI's Nampa and Boise campuses.
"We've grown a lot faster than we'd anticipated," said CWI representative Jennifer Couch.
Many of CWI's facilities are currently leased or shared, but college officials have been on the search for land where they can build permanent facilities, creating "long-term sustainability" and improving student access.
City officials have also lauded the purchase. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter described it in a news release as bringing "an extraordinary and transformative energy to downtown's West End." City spokesman Vince Timboli added that any CWI facilities that could be built on the land could generate economic activity along one of the city's urban growth corridors and drawing students, faculty and staff to the downtown core.
"This is a project that will really be an anchor for that West End neighborhood. We believe that [West] End is part of downtown. It will be a catalyst for more development," he said.