Beginning Monday, Sept. 1, drivers will notice something fishy about Eighth Street. That's because the Capital City Development Corporation has approved a reversal in the flow of that road's traffic. On that day, cars will start traveling north on the road instead of south.
According to a CCDC press release, the conversion will "immediately improve overall downtown traffic flow, provide local bicyclists a safer lane option and help relieve potential traffic issues on Main Street when periodic lane closures occur during construction of the Multimodal Transit Center on Grove Plaza."
The conversion is meant to be permanent and was orchestrated to use Eighth Street as a traffic "release valve" to relieve congestion on Main Street during periodic lane and road closures.
CCDC is also touting the conversion as a boon to cyclists. Currently, the bike lane on Eighth Street is the only such lane in the city that runs against the flow of car traffic. The conversion would align auto traffic with a northbound "sharrow" and create a southbound buffered bike lane, permitting two-way bike traffic on the one-way street.
Boise Weekly readers have been hearing about something called PARCS—the Capital City Development Corporation's choice to automate its half-dozen parking garages in downtown Boise—since last July (BW, News, "CCDC's $1.9 Million Parking Garage Gamble," July 24, 2013).
PARCS is the parking access revenue control system that controls access and egress for parking garages and allows CCDC to operate the garages 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
And CCDC officials announced this morning that, as of today, the agency has finished installing its automated-payment system in its six garages, the latest at the Boulevard Garage, underneath the Grove Hotel.
When CCDC commissioners approved the PARCS plan in 2013, they were promised that the automated system would return its $1.9 million investment in three and a half years, through increased revenues (due to the extended hours) and less staffing.
The upgrade was also designed to help motorists determine the best garage to park in, sending out up-to-the-minute data on the number of stalls available at each location.
Some Downtown Boise construction projects are more visible than others—not the least of which is the Eighth and Main Tower, which is set to open Saturday, Feb. 15.
Meanwhile, in a little-reported overhaul, the Capital City Development Corporation's Downtown Public Parking System is getting a significant $1.9 million revamp.
CCDC owns and administers a network of downtown garages with more than 2,500 stalls. In July 2013, Boise Weekly reported how CCDC was preparing to replace many of its traditional toll booths with ATM-like kiosks. The new system is creatively dubbed PARCS, for Parking Access Revenue Control System.
And to date, the revamp is on time and below budget.
On Monday, Feb. 10, the CCDC Board of Commissioners will be briefed on the project. And according to an internal memo, new equipment has been installed in the Eastman Garage, which is now butted against the Eighth and Main Tower.
Engineers are now turning to the city's Grove Street Garage, where they are expected to pour new concrete islands to accommodate new entry and exit columns. Work on the City Centre garage is expected to begin this coming week, with Capitol Terrace to follow.
Once the PARCS system is installed and operating, some men and women who currently work in toll booths will lose their jobs while others will become so-called "parking ambassadors," helping motorists throughout the garages. Staffing will likely drop from 35 full-time employees to approximately 15-20.
Once PARCS is installed, the garages will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, much of the system doesn't open on Sundays. While many motorists choose free on-street parking, CCDC officials told BW that even those drivers who might want to choose a garage can't because they're unusable without an attendant in the booth.
With the grand opening of the 8th and Main Tower now just a few weeks away, new focus is being turned to how people and traffic should be moving through 8th Street, a lifeline in Boise's downtown core.
While nearly every other street is managed and operated by the Ada County Highway District, ever since the mid-1980s, the Capital City Development Corporation has owned and operated 8th Street from Bannock to Main streets. That also means CCDC manages building-face to building-face where multiple spots for outdoor dining and seating exist.
Now that construction fencing surrounding the 8th and Main Tower is coming down, CCDC will consider a number of options for 8th Street. In fact, CCDC has earmarked $100,000 in its 2014 budget for the "8th Street Reconfiguration Project.," including $13,500 for Kittleson and Associates which has identified eight different options. The majority of the budgeted expenses are expected to include engineering, traffic signals, signage, pavement markings and a public outreach campaign concerning the street.
One of the eight options comes from so-called "walkability guru" Jeff Speck who was hired by CCDC in the summer of 2013 to weigh in on what might make Boise more friendly to pedestrians and motorists.
According to an internal CCDC memo, Speck is recommending that 8th Street be turned into two-way traffic, with each lane being shared between bikes and cars, and allowing parallel parking on the east side of the street.
All of the options have been forwarded to the city of Boise and ACHD, "neither of which has identified any additional fatal flaws," according to the memo.
But CCDC officials are reluctant to make a decision on 8th Street before they learn more about Gardner Company's ambitious plans to develop a multi-modal center at the nearby U.S. Bank Plaza.
"It doesn't make sense to implement a change on 8th Street only to potentially have it change again while the [multi-modal center] is being built, with Main Street potentially closed for several months," according to the memo.
That's an 18-percent jump from its Fiscal Year 2013 budget expense of $262 million and a nearly 60-percent jump over Fiscal Year 2012's $16.6 million actual expenses.
In particular, the proposed spending plan would pump more than $1.9 million into CCDC's Central District, incorporating Boise's inner core. Compare that to FY 2013's $283,640 budget and FY 2012's $224,095 budget.
Additionally, $5.2 million is earmarked for CCDC's parking fund in FY 2014. In July, Boise Weekly detailed CCDC's $1.9 million investment to upgrade its downtown parking garages to automation, including ATM-like kiosks, replacing traditional booths. The project, dubbed Parking Access Revenue Control System—or PARCS—is slated to be complete by Spring 2014.
It was all about 16 inches.
One of the longer discussions to mark the June 10 meeting of the Capital City Development Corporation concerned a unique request from the soon-to-be Ruth's Chris steakhouse restaurant, one of the ground floor tenants of the Eighth and Main Tower, which is still under construction.
Ruth's Chris has designs to include sidewalk dining through its alcove facing Eighth Street, but it wants to stretch that dining area onto the sidewalk. The problem is that the Eighth and Main building is 10-feet further east than any of the buildings on the west side of Eighth, effectively leaving less than 4-feet of usable patio space.
"You're the landlords of the busiest stretch of sidewalk in Downtown Boise," CCDC Parking and Facilities Director Max Clark told CCDC commissioners. "And frankly, we don't expect that to change."
But Clark added that, "We're not restaurant people, we're public service people. And if we allow this exception, we could be facing other requests. What we're talking about is a 16-inch difference of opinion and whether we should use a tree grate as walking space."
But Geoff Wardle, Vice President of Development for the Gardner Company, representing Ruth's Chris, reminded the commissioners that his clients have retail dining experience, "And we bring people into town."
Wardle was hoping that commissioners would allow the extension, which would require pedestrians to walk over grates surrounding some of the trees that line the street.
"I don't think this works," said Boise Council Member and CCDC Commissioner Lauren McLean. "We're talking about women in heels walking over these grates."
Ultimately, CCDC commissioners balked at the request and asked Wardle to regroup with Ruth's Chris about keeping its outside dining but not infringing on sidewalk space that would push pedestrians to the grates.
But Wardle and his clients were encouraged to hear that CCDC commissioners were open to the idea of offering valet parking, with two parking spaces designated for the service after 5 p.m.
As Boise's Eighth and Main Tower speeds toward completion, one of its tenants—the upscale Ruth's Chris steakhouse restaurant—wants a couple of accommodations from the city's urban renewal agency.
On Monday, June 10, representatives for the Gardner Company, developer of the under-construction tower, will go before the Capital City Development Corporation with two separate proposals.
First, they want a modification to CCDC's policy regarding the location of sidewalk dining areas on the west side of Eighth Street. Ruth's Chris is proposing a sidewalk dining area occupying the first floor window alcove on Eighth Street. The problem is that the restaurant wants to stretch its dining area onto the public sidewalk. It turns out that the Eighth and Main tower is 10 feet further east than any of the buildings on the west side of the street. That effectively leaves less than four feet of usable patio space.
But CCDC staff are recomending that the request be denied because in "staff's opinion, narrowing the available brick walkway for pedestrians will detract from the funcionality of the sidewalk, decrease safety for pedestrians and make for an uncomfortable dining experience for Ruth's Chris' customers."
Second, the Gardner Company is requesting that Ruth's Chris be allowed to offer free valet parking services for diners. The restaurant wants to offer the valet service between the Eighth and Main building and the National Bank Building to the north, which according to the developer, "would provide ample room for vehicle turn in and out."
CCDC staff is endorsing the request but the Board of Commissioners will have the final say at Monday's meeting.
A visitor to the Capital City Development Corporation might soon think they stepped into an annex of Boise City Hall.
CCDC, Boise's urban renewal agency, has announced that it has offered the position of executive director to John Brunelle, director of the Office of Economic Development for the city of Boise. Brunelle fills the slot that was recently opened when former director Anthony Lyons quit to return to Gainesville, Fla.
Brunelle is scheduled to begin in his new post on Monday, June 17.
When Brunelle attends his first official meeting of the CCDC Board of Commissioners later this month, he'll be in familiar company. Sitting to his right will be his old boss, Mayor Dave Bieter, alongside Boise City Councilman David Eberle. To his left will be Boise City Councilwoman Lauren McClean. Bieter, Eberle and McClean are all members of the CCDC board, which approved Brunelle's hiring.
UPDATE: Jan. 17 10 a.m.
The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency announced early today that Anthony Lyons, who resigned as executive director of the Capital City Development Corporation, would return to his old job as Gainesville's CRA director, on or about Monday, Feb. 18.
Lyons left the Gainesville post in December 2011 to become CCDC's director.
"We have selected the most qualified candidate from a national pool of exceptional applicants," said Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn this morning. "In Anthony, the CRA will have a proven leader who knows Gainesville, and can hit the ground running without missing a beat,”
ORIGINAL STORY Jan. 16
One year ago, Boise Weekly sat down to talk with Anthony Lyons, the newly appointed director of the Capital City Development Corporation (BW, Citizen, "Anthony Lyons," Jan. 4, 2012).
This afternoon, BW spoke with Lyons about leaving.
"Well, it's been an interesting day," he said.
Lyons had just submitted his resignation to CCDC Chairman Phil Reberger, writing that, "The decision was a challenge to make, given my short tenure, great board, organization and city, but is based solely upon family considerations."
Lyons told BW that his family was moving back the Southeast, probably sometime in February.
"Yes, we're going back to Florida," he said.
Lyons told BW that CCDC "has been a great organization over many years and, in particular, over the past year."
"We've had great success in what we did organizationally, with projects, with transparency, with focus and working everything we do into the mission of our agency," he said.
As for his successor, who will be the third CCDC executive director in less than two years, "I'm working on that with the board right now," said Lyons.