The City of Boise is currently running an innovative program aimed at channeling the ideas of residents into actionable upgrades to neighborhoods. Energize Our Neighborhoods, says its website, “is a collaboration between Boise’s residents, public and private partners, and the City to keep our neighborhoods unique and desirable. It focuses on aligning community resources to improve livability and make measurable change.”
The program’s first target area is the Vista Neighborhood — a central gateway to downtown visibly in need of attention, but also home to CTA architect/project manager Brock Martinson. Already an invested citizen (he previously won BYP’s Young Professional of the Year and IBR’s Accomplished Under 40 awards for his professional and community contributions), Martinson was hand-selected to co-chair the program’s strategic leadership team alongside city councilperson Ben Quintana. They will team with the Ada County Highway District, Boise Police Department, staff from the City’s planning office, and neighborhood leaders in compiling goals and determining available resources to accomplish them.
Energize Our Neighborhoods is attempting a non-traditional approach, Martinson says. Instead of assembling residents to compile lists of things they don’t like, this group wants to focus on positivity and proactivity. “We are asking residents to define what they want the neighborhood to be, and then identifying how to make the right investments to get there.”
The Energize team is working with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to evaluate what a healthy corridor looks like, including transportation routes for buses, bikes, and pedestrians. They’ve launched Boise’s first public pre-K program at Whitney and Hawthorne Elementary Schools. And they’re looking for ways to offer grants and low-interest loans so residents can renovate their properties. They are also partnering with Neighborworks to create affordable housing options.
The plan, Martinson says, is to have the City launch the program, engage the neighborhood, then eventually let residents guide the program to completion themselves. All primary resources will be devoted to a single neighborhood for three to five years (they’re currently nearly two years into work on the Vista Neighborhood), and in five to 10 years, he expects the program to have gained quite a lot of momentum. It’s planned that every neighborhood in the city will eventually get a turn.
Martinson says this program is highly indicative of how CTA as a firm accepts community planning challenges: “This effort isn’t limited to designing spaces, streetscapes, or parks. It focuses on utilizing the community’s input to create a livable, dynamic neighborhood that reflects the character of Vista. It’s very exciting!”
“CTA is a firm of passionate individuals seasoned in pioneering environments. This activity is a further demonstration of our active involvement in helping shape Boise and the Treasure Valley community,” he concludes. “If you’re going to live and work somewhere, you may as well make it the most livable place in the country.”