Beautification project in downtown IF wraps, but city officials say revitalization is just beginning
IDAHO FALLS – Downtown Idaho Falls has seen a flurry of activity lately with the construction of new sidewalks and other improvements.
The West Broadway Street Sidewalk Improvement Project began in May. All curbs, gutters and sidewalks between Memorial Drive and Yellowstone Avenue were demolished and repaved. The city cut down older trees and replaced them with 20 newer, healthier trees. At least 34 new planter boxes were also installed with an auto drip system that waters the plants automatically.
The 45-day beautification project is now complete and the Idaho Falls Chamber, downtown dignitaries, and other distinguished guests decided to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning.
“As we’ve looked forward to what downtown can be, I think this (project) is a good starting point as you look at what concrete and pavement can do to revitalize an area,” Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen said during the ribbon-cutting. The amount of traffic that will see this and will actually want to spend more time in downtown (is something) we’re excited about.”
The improvement project is part of the Downtown Master Plan and was about a year in the making. The total cost was $609,000. Project funding was provided by the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency, Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation and Idaho Falls Power.
“We continue to finish up our corner projects. Hopefully, we’ll have all our corners rescaped by the end of July,” Catherine Smith, Executive Director of the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We’ll move forward with more public art throughout downtown.”
The creation of three new murals in downtown is almost complete. One of those is a butterfly mural on the Snakebite restaurant. A mural on Villa Coffee House entitled “I Love Idaho” is complete, and a third mural entitled “A look back at old town Idaho Falls” is in progress on the Willowtree Art Gallery.
“There’s actually more to be done, even though we’re celebrating some progress today. City planners and IFDDC are exploring (programs) that will allow more creative space to be developed in front of downtown merchants. IFDDC and the city are working on creative parking solutions,” Mayor Rebecca Casper said. “Our goal is to make downtown inviting and make it accessible for everyone.
Another area of concern is parking. Smith says they receive the most complaints about parking and are working to address this.
“We just had 90 spaces added to downtown at The Broadway development. Where we’re at now is looking at what we currently have and learning how we can manage it better,” Smith says.
Smith says parking spaces on the street are intended for customers making stops in downtown businesses. If you’re an employee at a downtown business or are planning on being in downtown all day, Smith urges you to use the off-street parking lots.
“There’s a huge variety of options for off-street parking. Some are off Yellowstone. Others are closer into downtown,” Smith says. “We are a society dedicated to driving our cars and we need to be able to just be more comfortable walking, and that’s one of the positive results of our projects.”
“It’s so exciting to be part of these projects. It really is the culmination of 20 years of really hard work,” Smith says. “It’s been a long time coming and the pieces are just starting to fall together now.”