BOISE - Freak Alley has emerged has a major attraction for visitors and locals alike, despite the dumpsters, puddles and uneven pavement.
Across the way, the alley behind the historic Union Block building has more puddles and dumpsters. It has no murals to entice a crowd.
Both alleys will get an overhaul next year to become pedestrian-friendly and even outdoor-dining friendly. They serve as a first project for the city of Boise’s Parks and Public Places master plan that the City Council approved in February.
“They are not particularly pleasant places to be,” said Matt Edmond, project manager for capital improvements at the Capital City Development Corp., which is undertaking the alley improvements. “They are primarily used for deliveries and smoke breaks. We want to get a surface in there more conducive for people to get through.”
Or, as Anne Wescott, of the Union Block’s property management firm Parklane Management Company, puts it:
“We think the alley was pretty offensive-looking and smelly.”
The master plan outlines the next generation of downtown parks and public spaces that seeks to create smaller public places and appealing pedestrian/bicycle corridors. Often, these will be improvements of existing streetscape features, said Leon Letson, associate planner at the city’s Planning & Development Services.
The master plan is a city document, but the projects will often be carried out by outside agencies and the private sector, Letson said.
“Partnerships are essential,” he said.
The alleys between Idaho and Bannock streets are a collaboration between the Capital City Development Corp. and the owners of the Union Block, Fidelity Building, Key Bank Building and Idaho Building, represented by Parklane Management Company.
CCDC, the city’s urban redevelopment agency, plans to replace the alley asphalt between Capitol Boulevard and Ninth Street with paver bricks in the middle and concrete along the edges. The work is expected to start next year after the city replaces the sewer line in the alley in spring, said Matt Edmond, CCDC’s project manager for capital improvements. The dumpsters will be removed and replaced with a large compactor in the Idaho Street garage, Wescott said.
The objective is to have the new surface in place by September 2018, when CCDC’s 30-year-old Central District urban renewal district expires, Edmond said.
Overhead lighting will also be installed, he said.
“Hopefully, this will create more public space available for people,” Edmond said. “Alleys have the potential to increase public space in the downtown grid by 20 percent.”
Read more about the alley work online at Idaho Business Review.