Growing Garden City

Garden City, Idaho has a dynamic history. At different moments over the last 150 years, the town has been known for its agriculture, its gambling establishments, and its seedier adult shops. 

Just 11,000 people live in this four-square-mile town. Garden City is known for having some of the poorest neighborhoods in the Treasure Valley. The median income in the southeast part is below the federal poverty line. Mobile homes have been prevalent here for decades. But nearby, high-end homes – both new and established – serve as a stark contrast.

One area that continues to grow with new development is the Waterfront District on the banks of the Boise River. New, modern homes represent a much needed increase in city's tax base. But experts say it's inevitable that as the District grows, residents of nearby mobile homes will be pushed out. And finding similarly-priced housing won't be easy. 

Garden City's 'hip factor' is also changing. In recent years, there's a fresh, creative energy that's arrived in Garden City. For some Boise artists, this less expensive industrial area is the perfect place to create their art. City officials want to see more of this, and have established a special zoning district to encourage people to live, work and create in Garden City.

All of these topics and more are part of our "Growing Garden City" series.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

An old school bus, painted blue, pulls up alongside a wooden fence around a sprawling mobile home park in Garden City. It’s the Garden City library’s Bells For Books bus. All day in the summer and in afternoons during the school year, it goes to some of the Treasure Valley’s poorest neighborhoods. The idea is that even though this town, almost entirely surrounded by Boise, is only four miles long it has a lot of kids who can’t get to the library.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The neighborhood known as the Waterfront District is a game changer for Garden City. It was the first high-end housing built in the historically poor, southeast section of town. It’s the development that kicked off, what many people believe is inevitable gentrification.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

On May 14, Boise State Public Radio hosted a Community Conversation on the issue of affordable housing in the Treasure Valley. The goal was to examine how new riverfront development in Garden City could affect this important part of the region’s housing stock. The event was part of the KBSX series called “Growing Garden City."

Census

You can’t understand Garden City, Idaho without understanding that compared to the cities surrounding it, it's a place of poverty and wealth and not much in between. That was the theme of one of the stories in our recent series, Growing Garden City.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

There’s an increasing number of musicians, visual artists and artisans who have chosen to set up shop in Garden City. Many of these artists are from Boise or other parts of the Treasure Valley. The trend has been led by a few visionaries who recognize two things about the town: the cheap real estate, and plenty of space to practice their passion.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Garden City has long been known for mobile home parks and poverty. But with more than three miles of underused riverfront property, developers have become interested in Garden City's poorest area. High-end houses are now being built next to mobile homes.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Garden City is well known for being one of the poorest towns in the Treasure Valley, but it also has some of the richest neighborhoods in the area.

The Idaho Statesman

Hay fields, vegetable gardens, and slot machines: There are several milestones that mark the timeline of tiny Garden City. This four mile burg, surrounded by much larger cities like Boise, has had a stop-and-start history.

The early history of Garden City is hard to come by. We do know the land caught the eye of the U.S. Army in 1863; Idaho historian Susan Stacy says that’s when soldiers came to the Treasure Valley to build Fort Boise. And with the Army came hungry horses.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Housing development on Garden City’s riverfront has picked up as the economy has improved.  The momentum is good for local tax rolls, but it also threatens adjacent areas that are home to low-cost housing. Experts say simply replacing that housing stock won't be easy, and that many residents could be displaced with few other housing options.