Boise’s Downtown Ticks Up
The vibe is refreshing. The buildings are restored. The crowd is relaxed. The revitalized community scene on Eighth Street in downtown Boise is part of a conscious revolution that started four decades ago; right about the time Dave Krick parked his black Firebird on the main drag, propping up the hood to display the car’s polished engine.
“I grew up in downtown Boise,” says Krick, an Eighth Street business owner. “I spent most of my weekend nights hanging out in front of where Bittercreek Alehouse is today, but back in the 1980s that area was really struggling. Downtown was dead.”
Raised From the Dead
Downtown today is far from boarded up, and Krick still hangs out on Eighth Street, but with his doors open instead of his hood up. He owns three restaurants on the revived block: Diablo & Sons Saloon, Red Feather Lounge, and Bittercreek Alehouse.
“I was thrilled when Eighth Street was remodeled,” Krick says. “I’ve always loved downtown Boise, but I never considered opening a restaurant here until the remodel.”
It helped that his brother, Dale Krick, is a chef. With Dale mentoring his little brother, Dave learned the restaurant business and became one of the pioneering forces breathing life into once-dead Eighth Street. Other business owners followed suit on the two blocks between Grove Plaza and Bannock Street west of the state’s capitol building. That’s just what the urban renewal district wanted.
Urban Renewal Fairy Tale
“Things are going really well,” says John Brunelle, Capital City Development Corporation executive director. “That’s due to a lot of good planning by people who worked for the city and this agency in the 1980s, 1990s and into this century.”
The restaurant-laden street is pedestrian friendly. One lane of cars is permitted to simulate bustling activity, but a bike lane has just as much prominence and sidewalks feel nearly as wide as the road. There’s plenty of room to mingle at various eateries ranging from fine dining to pub, coffee house to taco shop — without shoving between traffic and patio tables.
“Projects like this take time to come to fruition,” Brunelle says. “They also take confidence from the private sector. When people like Dave Krick know they’re in the right place, we know we’re doing the right things.”
Zions Bank Building Boosts Business
The new Zions Bank Building helped in the revitalization effort. It was built on the site of the historic Eastman Building on Eighth and Main after it burned to the ground in 1987.
“When Eastman’s burned, I sat on my hood and watched it,” Krick says. “After that, it sat vacant forever then it was finally torn down.”
The Zions Bank Building is the tallest in the Gem State at 17 floors and impressively fills the Eastman void. When it opened for business in 2014, everyone noticed.
“In 30 years of agency renewal, property values went up 1,100% along the 10 blocks of the Central District, which includes Eighth Street,” Brunelle says. “We’re attracting businesses and residents who want to be near an exciting place.”
That percentage is a huge boost to Boise’s economy. Urban renewal is spreading through the rest of downtown, where you can see the Zions Bank Building’s lighted roof spike from almost every block. It looks like the city’s glowing exclamation point for progress. Krick lit up the day the spike lit up.
“The day businesses started moving into the Zions Bank Building, our business increased 10%,” Krick says. “By the time it filled, we increased to 15% and it hasn’t stopped. I didn’t think one building would change our business, but it did.”
Krick’s three restaurants share one building on his Firebird corner of Eighth Street, but none are the brewery he hopes to open someday.
“It’s a standing joke among friends of our restaurants that I keep saying the next project is a brewery,” he says. “I went to school in Germany to finish a brewing science degree. They gave me a master brewer diploma. We will open a brewery someday.”
Bet it’s on Eighth Street.