Our View: Cities leaders deserve credit for initiatives

 - Idaho Statesman

Edition Date: 04/03/07

Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd nearly fell off her chair when she saw her photo centered on the front page of the Idaho Statesman.

Could this be Meridian's future?

The photo depicts a quaint European downtown near a Dutch village where her husband grew up. De Weerd fell in love with the pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, vibrant shops, outdoor dining and cozy ambiance.

She brought the picture home in hopes of recreating that scene in downtown Meridian.

"You can really get people excited with visuals,'' she said.

Her strategy is working. The photo has generated so much excitement that proud developers are passing it around.

Meridian leaders and developers are working together in an impressive effort to dress up downtown in a timely fashion.

De Weerd has been using persuasion and her power to get things moving. Land is still inexpensive in Meridian, relative to other parts of Ada County, and city officials have been more than helpful getting their project going, according to Bridge Development's Michael Jobes and John McCarthy.

Two Treasure Valley developers are proposing major projects in downtown Meridian.

Bridge Development is planning to build three upscale restaurants, a hotel and a number of shops and offices that could be open as early as this year. This year.

Jobes and McCarthy have a Boise State-themed sports bar, barbecue restaurant, firefighter-themed restaurant and jazz club already lined up for occupancy.

One of their designs — courtesy of de Weerd — calls for a flowing waterway and fountain and pedestrian sidewalks. The walkways would be lined with shops and outdoor eateries. (See photo.)

Boise real estate developer Oaas Laney this summer will present plans to the Meridian City Council for the Main 5 Building, a six-story, 100,000-square-foot multiuse project that would rise from bare land at Main and Bower streets.

The building — estimated to cost between $10 million and $15 million — would house ground-floor retail and restaurants, two floors of office space and parking, and three floors of a hotel-conference center.

"My voice joins many others in promoting the benefits in considering downtown Meridian,'' de Weerd said.

Another community on a fast track to improvement is Garden City. The City Council last week approved a Work-Live-Create Overlay District for the area bounded by 37th Street on the west, the Boise River on the north and the city limits to the east and south.

This district creates a place where residents can both live and work, thinning traffic and helping the environment.

The idea came from a citizens' committee as it drafted a comprehensive plan. It likely will become reality this year. This year.

City officials hope the district will attract more artisans, bring in small-scale manufacturers and support start-up businesses.

Too often city leaders are too slow and too deliberate to dress up their downtowns. We like the get-it-done-now attitude of these growing communities, both working efficiently to improve their quality of life.