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Consultants Lay Out A Grand Vision For Expo Idaho's Future

Expo Idaho's welcome sign
Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio
Consultants laid out an ambitious, and expensive, redevelopment plan for the Expo Idaho property in Garden City Thursday that could take decades to finish.

An outside consultant is recommending a complete overhaul of the Expo Idaho property in Garden City that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several decades.

Nicolia Robinson, a volunteer consultant for the Urban Land Institute from Atlanta, gave Ada County Commissioners some advice Thursday.

“Think big,” Robinson said. “This is definitely a generational project.”

Their sprawling plan came at the request of commissioners, who tasked them with analyzing the economic effects of three recommendations developed by the Expo Idaho Citizen’s Advisory Committee in 2020.

Those three scenarios from the advisory committee each outlined potential transformations that could be made at the 247-acre site on West Chinden Boulevard and North Glenwood Street. One emphasized the land’s agricultural heritage; another promoted the expansion of a sports and events complex; the third envisions transforming part of the property into a new town center with business and residential developments.

The Urban Land Institute seized on all three proposals in its recommendations. Costs could range between $155 million and $280 million if all projects are included.

The first major step would move Ladybird Park along Chinden Boulevard to the back of the property next to the Greenbelt and the Boise River. Multipurpose sports fields would be included, as well as a wetland nature area where the unused horse track stands.

In the former park’s place, as well as part of the existing parking lot, would be potential business and housing developments. Two parking garages that could house 400 vehicles each are also included in the plan.

Expo Idaho’s facilities would also be upgraded, including building a new agricultural center. The idea, consultants said, is to host more events at the site and increase the amount of people who regularly visit.

Memorial Stadium, where the Boise Hawks baseball team plays in a new independent league could also be rebuilt on the property.

All of these changes could be paid for through bonding, partnerships or sponsorship agreements, consultants said.

Before construction, though, they said it’s critical to establish a master plan over the next year to guide the project.

David Armitage, another volunteer consultant from Seattle, urged them to put in place an “election-proof” system of governance to protect the initiative over the 10-35 years it could take to fully complete.

“There will be a lot of elections in that period and this project needs stability and security of vision and direction over that entire period,” Armitage said.

Commissioners made no decision on the plan at this time.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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