Looking at Boise, historically, currently, and geospatially.

Boise Rendering, Google Earth 2013

Boise Rendering, Google Earth 2013

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, when you combine pictures from multiple eras focusing on the same thing, the differences (or similarities) can speak volumes for themselves. In this video blog below, I wanted to draw attention to an area that I feel needs some serious TLC on the development side. While there are likely reasons, stories – or even excuses – as to why these areas are undeveloped after so long, it seemed quite logical to use some of the free technological tools at our disposal to make an argument or two. First, is that 30 years is far to long for a parcel in a downtown area to be a dirt plot, and second, the main high-speed entrance to the downtown area should be a welcome sign, not a brown, dusty parking lot. 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

From Ustick to West Valley: A Little Story of Big Oppurtunities

Figure 1- Plat of the Original townsite of Ustick, 1907. Accessed from Ada County Assessors Office, 3/1/14.

Plat of the Original town-site of Ustick, 1907. Accessed from Ada County Assessors Office, 3/1/14

The story of Boise is continuously tied to its agricultural roots. Apart of that story is the growth of city limits following World War II and the inevitable conversion from farmland to residential subdivisions. Before this change, was a story of persuasion.  The persuasion of living the good life.  The area west of Boise, most usually referred to as the West Valley, has a unique story and a story worth noting. West Valley’s history is agricultural in nature, and connecting that past with the future is important to its residents and to Boise. In current times, the West Valley area is known for its contribution to making Boise a sprawling city. This was not always the case. The area now known as west valley, was once a bustling fruit orchard. Harland Ustick,a business man and a doctor, founded what used to be known as the small town of Ustick. Ustick boasted having “the finest orchard in the Boise Valley.”  Through local newspaper advertisements and other means the town of Ustick became a desirable area. The area west of Boise was destined to become what it has turned into in last few decades, and is not so much a story of its change from agricultural to suburbia, but one of the evolving American dream. The plat above shows the original town site of Ustick as it was platted in 1907. In 1907, Ustick was one of the few areas that was actually cultivated in the West Valley area. Over the years, and through much persuasion, this area has transformed into the sprawling west side of Boise.

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In the garden of EPCOT.

Walt Disney - Wikimedia Commons, 02/18/2014

Walt Disney – Wikimedia Commons, 02/18/2014

The Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow (EPCOT) was Walt Disney’s unrealized dream. Sure, there’s a place called EPCOT down there in Orlando located within the vast city-unto-itself of Walt Disney World, but it isn’t Walt’s EPCOT. It aims in the same direction, but misses the mark by several yards. How so? Because Walt’s idea wasn’t a theme-park that resembled a City of Tomorrow, it was a City of Tomorrow that just happened to be planned near his theme parks. It was an actual plan for a technologically forward and green society that could be the model for the rest of the United States. The vision was huge – Walt didn’t do small. Interestingly enough, the idea wasn’t altogether new (then or now). In fact, Disney owes a great deal of his imagined City of Tomorrow to Ebenezer Howard and folks like Le’Corbusier’s Radiant City. We can’t talk about the future without talking about the past, it seems, and these imagineers seem to make that point clear. Lets take a look at some really nifty links, videos and articles that draw a line from the Garden Cities of Howard to the imagined implementations of the Disney age (and beyond), and other designs that have seen a similar influence.

Oh, and, please keep all hands and feet inside the ride at all times – for your safety, of course! Continue reading

All aboard? The future of high speed rail in the US

What is the future for high speed rail in the United States? This is a highly debated issue for our nation as Europe and Eastern Asia are increasing their rail infrastructure in both speed and distances covered. These debates bring up questions pertaining to: Continue reading

Transforming underutilized space through (POP)portunity

Temporary urban developments, or “pop ups” have the potential to revitalize areas and aspects of our communities, through changing the way people use and view the built environment.   Pop ups come in many shapes and sizes ranging from multi-day festivals and street closures, to small-scale art installations.  Pop up developments are also very interesting as they can be officially sponsored by the city or a private business, but are often citizen led initiatives to help transform underutilized or vacant spaces that might be ignored by formal planning and development efforts.  There are so many sites and communities that could potentially benefit from utilizing temporary urbanism, and I like to call these POPortunities.  Since there are so many ways in which pop up development can take shape, I felt the best way for this blog to express these different ideas would be through providing a number of interesting and unique approaches to pop ups.

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Are “smart cities” smarter cities?

A city through the eyes of a smart phone. http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4012/4376801881_f359d4fe3f_o.jpg. Accessed December 1, 2013

A city through the eyes of a smart phone. http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4012/4376801881_f359d4fe3f_o.jpg. Accessed December 1, 2013

Technological advances have given the world smart phones, smart cars, smart watches, and smart TV. The ‘smart’ trend is now reaching beyond personal devices to create the ‘smart city‘. The concept dominating ‘smart city’ discussions is the integration of technology to change the way cities are governed and navigated, thus making administrative processes more transparent, while making urban life more efficient and enjoyable. Cities across the globe have been focusing their efforts on becoming ‘smarter’ by increasing the availability of information, developing technological infrastructure, enhancing social infrastructure, and improving the efficiency of transportation systems. While these are worthy goals, it remains unclear if a ‘smart city’ is truly a smarter city. The Spanish port city of Santander, Spain has implemented technology to experiment with the concept of the ‘smart city’, becoming a living laboratory, hoping to set an example in the use of technological infrastructure and real time data in policy and planning. Continue reading