When Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and a flurry of other public officials take the stage for the Thursday, Oct.12 grand re-opening of Broad Street, they will undoubtedly regale audiences with their vision for the revitalized Central Addition neighborhood, now the first so-called "Lasting, Innovative, Vibrant" or "LIV" District, a brand touted since 2014.
LIV is much more than a catchphrase to Boise Environmental Division Senior Manager Haley Falconer and Boise Stormwater Program Coordinator Stephen Hubble. They see a tangible, sustainable evolution and a dramatic change to the downtown footprint.
"Oh yes, it's going to change," said Falconer. "Not just this neighborhood but the way people will move and be connected to the rest of downtown. We're talking about being better connected to the parks, the Greenbelt [and] the Cultural District. People are about to start living right here," she said, pointing to The Fowler, the soon-to-open 159-unit apartment building next door to Boise Brewing and Boise Weekly. "When people live here, that triggers another wave of development and retail."
Hubble said there are several new elements in the Broad Street redesign. Among them are significantly wider sidewalks, more bike racks, custom street lights, public art in place of traditional manhole covers and a double row of trees lining much of the street. As a stormwater specialist, however, Hubble gets more excited about what happens beneath the street.
"We're talking about everything from an expansion of the city geothermal line to so-called Silva Cells to manifest healthier tree growth, to permeable pavement beneath parking spaces" said Hubble. "Wow! I can get pretty excited about this. I know it sounds strange to get excited about drainage and stormwater, but think of it: the Boise River is integral to the city itself, and managing what flows through the multiple collection systems can be a complex animal."
Falconer and Hubble provided a brief primer on some of the biggest changes to Broad Street:
Silva Cells—Made of polypropylene and galvanized steel rods, Silva Cells are installed under the sidewalk. They replace hard-packed dirt, filter pollution and, because they provide additional below-ground space, the cells allow trees to grow larger and healthier.
Permeable pavers—These brick-layered pavers are installed in the asphalt in parking spaces. The pavers help prevent runoff, including oil or tiny metal fragments from car brakes, from draining into the Boise River.
Streetscape design—The narrower pavement and wider sidewalks allow for more planted areas and a first-of-its-kind double row of trees, providing more green space and vegetation than most downtown streets.
Falconer looked down the length of Broad Street and smiled.
"Most downtown projects occur on say, half a block or a limited amount of space," she said. "On Broad Street, we had the opportunity to do something in totality and get better outcomes holistically than [in] smaller, individual projects."
For the record, Boise Weekly has a vested interest in Broad Street: We have been here since 2005. The spate of street closures, deafening noise of construction equipment and the loss of parking spaces has been a challenge, but our Central Addition neighborhood was in decline. In Sept. 2013, The Blue Review printed the eulogy "Central Attrition: Boise Neighborhood Left for Dead," lamenting how only 10 historic homes were left in the once-trendy neighborhood—the remaining few have since been bulldozed or relocated. Since 2012, though, Oregon-based Concordia Law School opened a school on Broad Street; Trader Joe's opened its first Idaho store near the corner of Broad and Front streets; Boise Brewing opened a brew-pub next door to Boise Weekly; a 189-room Marriott Residence Inn went up on the corner of Broad and Capitol Boulevard and, in its most ambitious development to date, California-based Local Construct is nearing completion on with The Fowler, an apartment building on the corner of Broad and Fifth streets, which will include not only apartments but also two levels of parking, a new restaurant (The Wylder) and a coffee shop (Form & Function).
"The Fowler will look great on the outside when it's finished [ETA is before the end of the year]; but there's something unique going on that most people won't see, yet will impact all of us," said Hubble. "What we have designed together is a new way to treat private and public stormwater."
Hubble pointed across the street.
"Take Trader Joe's for example," he said. "Traditionally developers had to find a way to manage and treat their stormwater onsite. They had to find a way to build, under their parking lot, an area to manage and treat their stormwater. That usually means the loss of buildable space."
Hubble pointed to the rooftop of The Fowler.
"What they did here is install pipes coming down from their roof which will send rainfall down to the ground and directly into those Silva Cells all around the new trees which were just planted," said Hubble. "That means all of their runoff goes back into the ground other than seeing something catastrophic or some type of system failure [at the sewers]."
Falconer and Hubble are excited to celebrate the redesigned district during the Thursday, Oct. 12 block party, which will fill Broad Street with food trucks, vendors, live music and speeches from Mayor Bieter and other officials—but they're both more interested in the rebirth of a livable space.
"I think it's hard to imagine, but I'm pretty sure it will transform quickly and, soon enough, it will be hard to remember what it was," said Falconer, flashing a smile at Hubble. "Are we ready? We're more than ready."