Neighborhoods: Windows into Boise. The plan, the progress and the exhibit.

Preliminary brainstorming process on neighborhood capacity.

For the past five months we have delved into three Boise neighborhoods. The City of Boise approached our Community and Regional Planning graduate program with one broad task: help us understand how to increase and build neighborhood capacity. Provided with three different (and surprisingly similar) neighborhoods, we began a process that would be tiring, frustrating and most importantly, rewarding.

For a more comprehensive look at our initial goals and implementation steps, take a look at our blog on the beginning of our neighborhood project.
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Megastructure shmegastructure

“(A Mega-structure is) a large frame in which all the functions of a city or part of a city are housed. It has been made possible by present day technology. In a sense it is a man-made feature of the landscape. It is like the great hill on which Italian towns were built.” Fumihiko Maki (1964, Mega-structure: Investigations in Collective Form, the first published use of the term)

Shmeg: 1. Secretion of the male reproductive organ, a slang for semen (Urban Dictionary), 2. A derivative of the Yiddish word “shmegegge”, meaning baloney; hot air; nonsense (Dictionary.com)

downtown - combined

Boise’s 1963 proposal for a downtown “megastructure” (Atkinson Associates, Comprehensive General Plan – Boise City, Idaho 1985)

I first visited Boise in 1984 when I was a young architecture student, interested to see where my parents had moved after my dad’s retirement from the military. After leaving college, my wife and I (and our two-year old son) decided to relocate from Minneapolis to Boise. The architectural job market was hot, there was a lot of construction (especially around the recently opened Boise Towne Square Mall), and I was able to land a drafting job fairly quickly. I began to hear stories about the strangely deserted downtown, about its failed urban renewal history and its lost Chinatown. But what interested me most was the idea that Boise’s leadership had been pursuing the construction of a massive downtown shopping mall. Further, it seemed the only thing they managed to construct was the connector from the interstate to the central business district, and an oddly shaped single-story convention center with a curiously vacant adjacent plaza. Continue reading

Overlooking the potential effects of national policy.

Warren - Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

Warren – Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

When the history of Idaho is counted and retold, there are some elements that are hardly ever missed. The Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark, Native American tribal affiliations, immigrant settlements – all of these tend to be covered and recalled without much under-representation. Another of these historic staples is Idaho’s mining industry. What do perhaps get overlooked, perhaps if only in the context of building and sustaining communities, are the national policies that affect economic efforts in the states. Idaho is no stranger to this. Limitation Order L-208 in 1942 is an example of how a national policy, and perhaps international war and conflict, can disintegrate a burgeoning town or settlement overnight. We should look at the histories of places like Warren, Idaho if we intend to learn a thing or two about planning for unexpected change in economies and policies. Building resiliency into communities should include not under-estimating the impacts of national interests and policy decisions. Continue reading

The Tribes of Idaho: A Missed Part of Idaho’s Planning Narrative

“I have created you Kootenai people to look after this beautiful land, to honor and guard and celebrate my creation here.”  — Kootenai peoples covenant with their creator, Quilxka Nupica

The Kootenai Valley, which includes Bonners Ferry and much of Boundary County. The land the Kootenia vowed to protect. Accessed from The Spokesman Review

The Kootenai Valley, which includes Bonners Ferry and much of Boundary County. The land the Kootenia vowed to protect. Accessed from The Spokesman Review

In 1974, tribal chair woman, Amy Trice, out of a desperate cry for help, declared war on the United States Government. This has gone down in Idaho’s history books as Idaho’s Forgotten War. Looking at this historically, through a planning lens the main issue is communication between jurisdictions. It seems as though the planning narrative in Idaho has missed the connection of this underrepresented group. In this blog I explore the reasons why tribes in Idaho are ignored, underrepresented, and in this case of the Kootenai, forgotten.

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Garden City Idaho, purposefully not Boise

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Photo of Garden City resident Louie Gee delivering produce. Retrieved from http://www.diggin4treasure.org on 4/4/2014

Unlike any of the cities neighboring Boise Idaho, Garden City was established specifically to NOT be Boise. Most cities are formally incorporated in a routine fashion; sometime after a number of homes are built, a community begins to form, and neighbors reach a point at which they decide to establish their own city. But when the City of Boise passed a law which prohibited gambling, a few of its residents went across the river outside of the city limits, and created their own city with its own laws. In no time at all several nightclubs, pool halls, and restaurants were built and filled with slot machines. These new business were soon very popular and very busy, mostly filled by Boise’s residents.

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The forgotten and discarded Chinese: Idaho’s version

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Throughout planning history it has not been uncommon to “forget” certain groups of people. In fact, throughout the United States’ history this has been recurring, both within the planning profession as well as outside it. Idaho was not left out in exercising this trend. Idaho’s planning history, although short in comparison to other American cities, has experienced its share of ebbs and flows, successes and failures. Embracing diversity and equity planning, especially in regard to the Chinese immigrants of the area, has not been among Idaho’s triumphs. Continue reading

Westward Ho! How Connectedness Facilitated (and Nearly Destroyed) Boise’s Agriculture

State (Valley) St. looking west, Boiseartsandhistory.org, Accessed 3/4/2014

State (Valley) St. looking west, Boiseartsandhistory.org, Accessed 3/4/2014

Boise was settled and developed as an agricultural community. It all started with canals, water and trees of course.

Once early-settlers were able to construct irrigation trenches facilitating orchards and family farms, expansion west of what had been known as Boise’s core, was foreseeable. Next, came the Inter-Urban Railway. With the intention of quick and efficient access to and from agricultural areas the Inter-Urban Railway was crucial in Boise’s expansion west. Just three miles west of the urban center of Boise, Collister Neighborhood was formed as an agriculturally-based community. However, the allure of commerce coupled with this new expansion threatened a vital part of Boise’s cultural foundation: agriculture. Continue reading