Heading north out of downtown Coeur d’Alene on Fourth Street, the decorative intersections with their streetlights and colored stone walkways disappear, giving way to cracked concrete, chipped curbs and bare sidewalks.
That should change this spring when 10 blocks of the arterial – from Lakeside to Harrison avenues – receive a $3 million face-lift. It’s the latest in a string of street beautification projects in the Lake City that began in the late 1980s with the upgrades of Sherman and Lakeside avenues and stretched more recently to the city’s western entrance, Northwest Boulevard.
Three entities – the city of Coeur d’Alene, the Lake City Development Corp. urban renewal agency and the Idaho Housing Finance Association – will work together to renovate and upgrade the northbound arterial that connects downtown with Interstate 90, and to add work force housing in the city’s Midtown.
“This is about sprucing up the heart of Coeur d’Alene,” City Councilman Mike Kennedy said. “It’s old Coeur d’Alene. It’s sort of Coeur d’Alene’s heritage.”
Coeur d’Alene is committing $1 million to repave, rebuild curbs and sidewalks, add lighting, and upgrade underground utilities, said City Engineer Gordon Dobler. In the core of Midtown, near a popular bar and restaurant called Capone’s, the street will be narrowed, sidewalks will be widened and decorative intersections will be added to slow traffic and encourage walking. Also planned are landscaping, benches and streetlights.
The city expects to begin work next spring, with hopes of finishing by summer, Dobler said.
By the time the project is complete, the Lake City Development Corp. will have contributed more than $2 million to the street rebuilding project, intersection enhancements and to support the work force housing component, said Tony Berns, the agency’s executive director. Property owners will kick in another $250,000 through a levy imposed by a local improvement district, Dobler said.
“I am absolutely for it,” said Tom Capone, owner of Capone’s, which has expanded several times in its 15 years. “It’s progress. We own the real estate so whenever you upgrade the real estate, the building values increase, in theory.”
Some neighbors and property owners, however, have voiced concerns. Some worried about a loss of parking in front of businesses where sidewalks will be widened. Some said their sidewalks are just fine as they are. And several said the property taxes received by the LCDC should cover property owners’ portion of the bill.
The LCDC receives funding through tax-increment financing: As property values in a defined area increase after a certain point in time, a portion of the increased tax revenues flows back to LCDC coffers for public improvement projects.
As a result of public meetings held to address neighborhood concerns, Berns said, the LCDC agreed to pay a portion of the local improvement district bill. Other design adjustments were made to address neighbors’ concerns, he said.
North of Capone’s, at Roosevelt Avenue and Fourth Street, the Idaho Housing Finance Association will build a four-story condominium building with retail shops on the ground floor. The building will offer 20 to 35 one- and two-bedroom units ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet. The retail units and the residences will be offered for sale. Prices for the residential condominiums are expected to range from $135,000 to $225,000, said Douglas Peterson, director of the Housing Co., the finance association’s nonprofit development arm.
The finance association bought the property from the Idaho Youth Ranch, which is moving its thrift store to a larger location several blocks to the north. The store anticipates a grand opening in its new location at the end of January.
The Housing Co.’s mission “is to help out those places where people need housing … we come in and try to get the deal done,” Peterson said. “I see the market in Coeur d’Alene as being pretty good for work force housing.”
Peterson said construction on the condos wouldn’t begin until the Fourth Street upgrade is mostly complete. He anticipates offering the first units for sale by spring 2010.