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Courtesy of Johnson Nathan Strohe Architects

New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 25, 2016

Today in New West news: Bozeman City Commission reserves “final call” on Black-Olive project, new transit center opens in Boise, architect Charles Hummel passes away at 91, and feeding Colorado’s future water needs.

In early August, we reported on an audacious proposal from Montana developer Andy Holloran, comprising several residential and commercial properties aimed at “transforming” the city’s skyline. The proposal coincides with an increasingly intense debate about the future of Bozeman—whether to go dense or continue sprawling. Opponents of density say projects like Holloran’s would compromise Bozeman’s “scenic,” small-town value. Density proponents, meanwhile, counter that sprawl is more destructive, on the whole.

At the heart of Holloran’s proposals is a large development on the corner of Olive Street and Black Avenue, colloquially known as the Black-Olive project, which borders an old neighborhood known as the South Black Historic District. In addition to the aforementioned density criticisms, some residents and area landlords question Holloran’s pricing metrics. To wit: it would cost $1,200 to $1,500 a month, on average, according to Holloran’s preliminary findings.

Conversation continues, although last night, an important milestone was reached. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Commission voted unanimously to “make a final call” on whether Black-Olive complies with city building ordinances:

On one count, though, everyone seems to agree — that Black-Olive deserves a robust conversation as it moves forward through the city’s review process.

“We think the topic of growth, what downtown wants to be, density versus sprawl, is a vibrant topic of discussion,” Holloran said Monday.

“We do look forward to talking about the merits of the project,” he said.

“This is a community issue we need to discuss,” said Black Street resident Brian Segal. Three of his neighbors, he said, have already sold their homes as a result of the proposal.

“I would encourage you to not rush into a bad decision,” he told commissioners.

The Black Olive application, filed Oct. 5, is first off to the city’s Development Review Committee, where staff from city departments like water and parks will check it against their respective portions of the city development code in a Nov. 2 meeting. It will then head before the Design Review Board, a committee of architects and others tasked with considering its aesthetics Nov. 9.

Had the commission not voted to oversee the project, it would have ultimately ended up in the hands of the city’s brand new planning director, Marty Matsen, whose first day on the job was Monday. Instead, the city’s five elected commissioners will make the final call in a public meeting, held in December at the earliest.

Commissioners stressed Monday that they’ll be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in reviewing the project, meaning their legal responsibility is to consider solely how Holloran’s proposal fits into the city’s existing development rules, instead of changing the rules midcourse to reach their desired outcome.

“That is a confusion sometimes,” said Commissioner Jeff Krauss. “People think we can write law while we’re hearing an application — and we can’t do that.”

“The rights of everybody concerned need to be protected,” he said.

Over in Boise, according to the Idaho Statesman, Valley Regional Transit has started operating buses out of its Main Street Station transit center—first proposed a decade ago and beset by numerous hindrances and frustrations:

Here’s how the station works: Instead of loading and unloading passengers on Downtown streets, as Valley Regional Transit has traditionally done, buses use the underground bays. They approach the station traveling eastbound on Main Street, then turn south — against the flow of regular traffic — on a bus-only lane on Capitol Boulevard. About a half-block south of Main, the buses make a right turn into the station’s entrance and head down a concrete ramp.

They enter the station and park in the bus bays. A few minutes later, they depart again, heading up a ramp on the station’s north end that parallels Main Street.

A special traffic light greets drivers on Main Street at Capitol. This light doesn’t have the traditional green-yellow-red progression. A white horizontal bar means “Stop.” A vertical bar — also white — means “Go.” This appears when all other traffic on Main and Capitol is stopped so that the buses can advance eastward through the intersection. A white triangle carries the same meaning as a yellow light.

The idea behind using these specialized symbols is to avoid confusing drivers in the other lanes on Main Street.

Although there are still a few kinks to work out, per the Statesman, VRT “expects to add more routes to the hub as passengers get used to using it.”

Keeping with Boise, according to the Idaho Statesman, architect Charles F. Hummel has passed away at the age of 91. Hummel was the grandson of early Idaho architect (and the younger Charles’ namesake) Charles Hummel, who worked with John E. Tourtellotte to design numerous buildings, including the Idaho State Capitol. Charles Hummel the younger built on his grandfather’s reputation, designing numerous buildings around the city, effectively shaping its destiny through the second half of the 20th century and beyond:

Architecture is “our third skin, public buildings reflect something about us,” he said in [an interview with the Ada County Chronicle]. “If they’re in a city or town, they have to be part of the urban fabric. They can’t work against it. They have to be in the context of their place.”

Anyone who’s lived in the Treasure Valley will recognize items on Hummel’s resume. He was proudest of his design of the James A. McClure Federal Building, said Boise architect Ty Morrison, past president of the Idaho chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Hummel also designed the Joe R. Williams building, a state office building across State Street from the Capitol known informally as the Hall of Mirrors. He shared in the design of the Boise Centre on the Grove.

The list goes on: the Boise State University Library and Student Union, Bishop Kelly High School, Caldwell’s Our Lady of the Valley Church. He played a role in a number of historic renovations such as the O’Farrell Cabin, St. John’s Cathedral and St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral.

Finally, with Colorado’s population projected to keep mushrooming through the 21st century, state agencies are drafting the state’s water future, and even more people are weighing in, according to the Denver Business Journal:

Local planners are at the forefront in addressing Colorado’s water future. The state water plan, championed by the governor and legislature, has set a goal that by 2025 75% of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning.

Colorado’s water plan recognizes the impact that land use has on water resources. Government agencies, universities, and non-profit groups are stepping up and providing training and other resources to assist jurisdictions in adopting sustainable water uses. The good news is that local governments will have a broad range of tools at their disposal to do so.

However, successfully integrating land and water uses requires fundamental changes in how jurisdictions approach planning. First, it requires embracing uncertainty. Planners have typically focused on identifying and realizing a desired future for their communities. The reality is that we live in a world where a range of unpredictable futures may lie ahead. Drought and other climatic events may affect future water supplies, while global economic factors could impact Colorado’s future growth and water demands.

In this context, communities must ensure that their plans and policies are responsive to anticipated and unanticipated contingencies. “What if…” should be a planner’s mantra going forward. This has profound implications for planning around water. Consider the following:

1. Water and wastewater infrastructure investments typically extend over a 30-year lifespan but often reflect key assumptions made at a project’s initial conception. Will those assumptions hold over three decades, particularly as they relate to infrastructure payment and usage, in a more uncertain future?

2. Projected water shortages mean that more water may need to be set aside as a “non-rainy day” reserve. What is the right balance to strike between water allocated to meet existing needs and future growth?

3. Much of Coloradans’ water comes from headwaters on national forests that are at risk of wildfire. These lands require significant investments to reduce this risk but shrinking budgets barely keep up with putting out major fires, let alone restoring forests. What should communities do to protect their source water?

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