Saturday, December 16, 2017
The Atlantic’s CityLab published a nice article on Friday about the growth in Boise, especially how it has crescendoed around a proposed CVS that wants to tear down 20-some affordable housing units, three historic-eligible homes, and build an entire block of surface parking in the urban center.
It is a remarkable story of how this small city is realizing it is growing up, and really fast. It has choices to make, and the clunky CVS proposal here put those choices in stark relief. How many times previously have there been over 500 commenters on one project in Boise? I think never.
I have spent considerable time over my sabbatical advising the community groups—some established, some that seemed to come out of nowhere—to oppose this project. Sometimes I have wondered if this type of civic activism is making the most of my time on sabbatical (and as a professor), but I do believe that helping growing communities learn the tools to make better places is part of what being a professor is all about. Sometimes those lessons coalesce around the strangest of projects—here, a banal chain store—but we seize the opportunities as they are presented to us.
I do hope this is a turning point where Boiseans start to imagine a future beyond what Phoenix, or Las Vegas, or many other Mountain West towns now regret they built for themselves and are trying to undo. By developing late, Boise has a chance to learn from the mistakes of other places. But it has to want the better place, and it will have to fight for it.