A new study from the U.S. Census Bureau shows many people have left the suburbs and moved downtown. That’s especially true in the nation’s largest cities like New York or Chicago which added nearly 48,000 people to its downtown between 2000 and 2010. That didn’t happen in Idaho’s largest city. But that's not because Boise didn’t try.
The recent history of downtown Boise living can be summed up by a few names. Patricia Nilsson, Boise’s comprehensive planning manager, lists some of the downtown housing developments that faltered when the Great Recession hit.They include the Aspen Lofts, Royal Plaza, City Side Lofts, The Jefferson, the Crescent Rim development.
Nilsson says encouraging people to live downtown has been a priority for the city at least since the late 1990s. And she says it was beginning to happen by the mid-2000s, but the recession made it too expensive.
“People did want to move into Boise from outlying areas but were unable to sell their homes out there,” she says. “If you look at the outer rings they really took a hit in terms of housing prices.”
Those outer ring communities like Meridian, Eagle and Kuna saw rapid growth during the past 10 years.
Now Nilsson says people have restarted the in-migration to Boise. Take one of the names from the list above: the upscale Jefferson condos. When it opened at the end of 2008 five people had moved into its 43 units. The president of its management company says the next couple of years weren’t much better. But now it’s more than half full.
Southwest Idaho’s community planning association COMPASS, predicts downtown Boise’s population will double by 2020 and double again by 2035. The census considers downtown as within two miles of City Hall – In 2010 3,600 people called downtown Boise... home.
The census report on population change reveals some other things about Idaho. Southern Idaho is one of the youngest areas of the country with an average age just over thirty. Southeast Idaho and northern Utah are the youngest with an average age under 30. The college town of Rexburg has one of the densest populations for a small town in the U.S. -Lewiston is one of the smallest places the census considers a metropolitan area at a little more than 60,000 people. And Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene have some of the lowest percentages of black people of any cities in the nation.