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Talk about a Money pit

Web site takes a grassroots approach to creating hole dialogue

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Each year as we compile Boise Weekly's Best of Boise issue, members of the diligent editorial staff rack their brains and wait for a moment when, in a catatonic state, a muse inspires one of them with the idea for the year's best use of Boise's quasi-permanent hole on the corner of Eighth and Main streets, where the fabled Boise Tower is still rumored to one day stand tall. In a stroke of pure genius, for 2004's edition of Best of Boise, we proposed using the hole as the world's largest fondue pot, daydreaming about the afternoon when we could dip into a giant scalding puddle of cheese and then lick it from our fingers and toes one by one. In our latest edition of Best of Boise, we took a more realistic approach--albeit one that requires a great deal of persistence and patience--suggesting that we all throw in a spoonful of dirt or a handful of rocks each time we pass the pit.

But the question really is: With what would you, dear readers and noble citizens of Boise, fill the hole? A double-decker Saphora with a doggy playground on the roof? A giant pit of plastic balls where you're never too tall to submerge yourself in childish fun? Perhaps a simple grassy knoll from which to watch passing politicians?

Two Boise natives have not only asked the question, they've given Boise residents a forum in which to voice their own opinions. One day, while hanging out downtown, grassroots marketing associates Tac Anderson and John Hardesty began conjuring their own ideas about how to deal with the exposed rebar and surrounding painted plywood.

"We both love downtown and feel that someone should do something with the space," Anderson says, echoing the comments often heard around town about a long-promised project that many Boise residents fear has been abandoned.

"However, there's really no place for people to voice concerns about the space," adds Hardesty. "We asked ourselves: 'How can the community come together and have an outlet about the hole?'"

The answer was www.theboisehole.com. Donated by Neoreef, and completed on November 16, the Web site offers a forum for visitors to post their own ideas about how to mend the eyesore resulting from the financial and bureaucratic difficulties of the Boise Tower Project.

Some of the suggestions visitors have posted on the message board include converting the space into a hot tub, a skatepark and a memorial area for veterans. More comical suggestions include filling the space with PETA supporters and just plain old dirt, because dirt is better than nothing at all.

While not all of the proposed hole fillers are serious, the Web site has generated a community discussion and some public record of residents' frustration over the stalled project.

"It's a bit tongue in cheek," admits Anderson, "but at the same time, we want people to have a voice. We'd like it to serve as a place where people feel like they can be a part of the process."

Jason Crawforth, owner of Pie Hole pizzeria, one of the Web site's sponsor businesses, half-seriously suggests filling the hole with "all the bureaucratic documents, press releases and legal briefings associated with the 'project'."

A third-generation Boisean and owner of two downtown businesses, Pie Hole and the creperie Square, Crawforth targets the looming concern most residents have about the pit.

"Obviously money is the critical issue and both sides have some potential liabilities at play, otherwise this issue would have been cleaned up long ago," comments Crawforth. "My fear is that we will still have this hole three to five years from now."

However, none involved with theboisehole.com express negativity about the tower's original plans. Crawforth points out consumer demand exists for downtown spaces that combine living, retail and athletic facilities, as promised by the Boise Tower Project, and Anderson reiterates that the goal of theboisehole.com is not to attack the Boise Tower, but to create a community dialogue about the hole.

"We're trying to build a tool to get the ball rolling," says Hardesty, "but it has to be the community that pushes it from there."

Crawforth says that ultimately, he'd like to see the Web site function as a grassroots effort "to raise awareness to our local government."

"I believe the Web site is a starting point," he says. "You have to start somewhere and hopefully it will lead into other productive efforts that generate public discussion."

Log on to www.theboisehole.com to read postings by community members or to post your own suggestion about how Boise should fill its community hole.