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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Downtown Caldwell Should Use Renewal of Boise As Blueprint

One of the best pieces of information that came out of Mayor Nancolas's meeting on Downtown Caldwell came from Skip Oppenheimer. THE GUARDIAN asked Mr. Oppenheimer how Boise turned around.

Mr. Oppenheimer offer that Boise was known as the "City that destroyed itself". The demolition of old buildings was a stark reality of the new beginnings for Boise. Boise Redevelopment Agency now CCDC (Urban Renewal Agencies) bought up all the old dilapidated buildings tore them down, cleared the land and sold it to developers on the cheap. In addition, some visionary members of the BRA developed a PLAN for downtown Boise and along with Boise City Govt. maintained the political will to stick to the plan come hell or high water.

THE GUARDIAN has to be one of the few people who actually read all the Caldwell redevelopment plans. They all talk about a capital improvement plan and even the Leland Report talks to the city buying and clearing old buildings out and taking the write downs. Mr. Oppenheimer in succinct fashion pulled all of these plans together with his explanation of what happened in Boise. Caldwell will have to destroy downtown in order to save it. Private capital will not invest in downtown without the help of the Urban Renewal Agency help in buying and clearing property in our downtown. The numbers simply will not work to produce a profit for the gamble required of private capital.

Caldwell Urban renewal expenditures of our tax dollars have not been dedicated to buying old buildings and clearing property on the scale necessary to revitalize downtown Caldwell. The property tax dollars generated by urban renewal has gone in a variety of projects that have little to do with downtown renewal. There has been little taxpayer oversight in how Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency has spent our Urban Renewal monies. The decisions on spending that money has been made at poorly advertised "public meetings". Urban renewal generated $6 million dollars last year.

If Team Garret and the Urban Renewal crew want to walk the talk on revitalizing downtown Caldwell, THE GUARDIAN would like to suggest they follow the Boise model. Buy the property, clear it, sell it cheap to a good developer who will invest in our community and HAVE A DEFINED PLAN. Without a plan, it will be a hodge-podge of little to no renewal. The new city hall project will become our version of the Idaho Center.

Thank you Mr. Oppenheimer for your explanation and clarity of what is needed in Caldwell. I would also, like to thank Al Mc Cluskey for his vision in this as well. Al was asked what was needed and he didn't mince words...tear it down and start over. We have a revenue stream with Urban Renewal to do this but all the "bling" projects have got to stop. TVCC is the right idea in the wrong place in downtown. Leave it where it was originally sited in Sky Ranch Business Park.

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