Maybe you like driving through fast food joints and cafes. But Boise officials looking to spruce up one of the city’s most important streets say they’ve had enough.

A developer wanting to build a drive-thru on State Street could soon be penalized for trying. Drive-thru welcomes cars. And Boise leaders want to promote other types of transportation on the busy state. More people traveling by bus, on foot or by bicycle would reduce the number of cars on the road, which is good for traffic and the environment.

City officials can’t tell people how to travel, but they can make it harder for developers to receive public money to mess with car culture.

collister intersection after.jpg
A conceptual rendering of what planners envision Collister Drive and State Street could look like as high-density development when a bus rapid transit system is built. PIVOT Architecture

Boise’s urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corp., wants to transform the state from a car-dominated highway into a corridor with multiple ways to get around easily.

At its meeting on Monday, July 11, the agency’s board reviewed staff proposals to incentivize or discourage certain types of development. Included in one proposal was to penalize developers for driving out of state.

Capital City Development Corp. uses the money it collects in property taxes to promote urban renewal. It can bear certain development costs in urban renewal districts. He can use his money to steer developers toward projects that advance city goals. If a developer improves a sidewalk to make it accessible and suitable for pedestrians, and builds streetlights, benches and bike racks, the agency can reimburse these costs. Refunds can range from tens of thousands of dollars for small projects to millions of dollars for large ones.

To measure whether a developer’s project matches the agency’s wishes, the agency rates the project on a dashboard. In this case, a developer’s hopes of being reimbursed would take a hit for building a drive-thru.

Based on the draft State Street District scorecard presented on July 11, the maximum theoretical score would be 417 points. In reality, anything with 140 points or more receives the highest score possible.

A potential development receives eight points if it is a multi-storey building with a mix of uses on different floors, seven if it includes affordable housing, and five if it includes middle-income housing or the workers. There’s also a five-point bonus if there’s a “minority-owned or local business” on offer.

And minus eight points if there is a drive-thru.

Capital City Development Corp. wants “a development that is less car-centric and more compatible with multiple modes of transportation like walking, cycling and bus,” spokesperson Jordyn Neerdaels said in an email. “Something more car-oriented, like a drive-thru, requires curbs and can create car traffic that overflows onto the curb, which is a safety issue because it increases potential conflicts between bikes, pedestrians and cars.”

Deducting points for a drive-thru is nothing new. The scoreboard for the Westside, 30th Street, River Myrtle-Old Boise and Shoreline districts each deducts 10 points for drive-thru.

Nonetheless, commissioner Ryan Erstad, an architect for Rocky Mountain Cos., a Boise developer, questioned whether the point deduction was appropriate.

“We are the carrot and we are not the stick,” Erstad said. “So we should encourage the uses that we want to see. But if it is authorized in the zoning, it should not necessarily be discredited either.

Mayor Lauren McLean, a member of the board of directors of Capital City Development Corp., recommended that staff reconsider the proposed scorecard before making any decisions.

The points system “would make it more likely that we would arrive at investments in proposals that pursue our design goals, our urban goals, our mobility goals, etc,” McLean said. “…I know that the (city) council, the city and the staff of (Capital City Development Corp.) and the city staff are very keen to ensure that public resources are dedicated to developments and projects in a way that furthers our common goals rather than ending up doing the groundwork.

Project manager Alexandra Monjar said the main change to the dashboard was the addition of a section for mobility, which awards points for improving pedestrian signaling and bike storage. The proposed dashboard also expanded the section on connectivity with additional points for multi-use paths, sidewalks and improved crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

This graph shows the mobility part of the dashboard offered by Capital City Development Corp. for developers to receive rebates for projects in the new State Street Urban Renewal District. Capital Development Corporation

Developers seeking reimbursement from the Boise Urban Renewal Agency for projects along State Street may be filed under this heading, which gives preference to transportation amenities other than cars. Capital Development Corporation

These additions reflect the importance of transportation options other than cars, which are central to future plans for the State Street neighborhood.

“Any time you put a score on anything, it can be really difficult,” said the president of Capital City Development Corp. Dana Zuckerman, a real estate developer and land use planner. “(I appreciate) your continued efforts to try to make this as perfect as possible, knowing that it will never be perfect.”

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