The Boise Redevelopment Agency was created in 1965, just after the Idaho Urban Renewal Law was passed. The BRA was formed in order to redevelop downtown Boise back into a thriving central business district. Like many cities across the nation, a significant amount of Boise's residents moved to the suburbs. This flight for the suburbs left downtown businesses without patrons, and many businesses moved out to the suburbs to keep running. The local businessmen became worried, and campaigned to form the BRA. The overarching idea was to build a large enclosed shopping mall in the downtown core that would bring back the suburban shoppers. In order to accomplish this, the BRA acquired land in downtown and started to clear it in preparation for a developer. Many historic buildings were demolished, such as the DeLamar House, the Eastman Building (to a fire in 1987), and Chinatown. This was the dawning of the historic preservation movement in Boise. When the BRA and the developers could not get big anchor stores (like J.C.Penney's) to commit to come downtown, the lots remained empty. The developers could not get large anchor stores to buy into the downtown mall idea because the stores had already decided that it would be more lucrative to be located in the suburbs where all of the shoppers were. Support for urban renewal waned as the years stretched on and on and the public could not see any progress. From 1965 to 1985, downtown Boise experienced very little development. In 1985 the mall concept for downtown was abandoned, and a mall was built in the suburbs (a.k.a. the Boise Towne Square Mall). Other projects were quickly undertaken in the downtown core, such as the building where the current City Hall is located. Other projects included the Grove, the Wells Fargo building, the US Bank building, and the Grove Hotel. By the 1990s, the BRA had changed its name to the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC). With this change came an emphasis on creating a downtown environment, with lovely trees, street benches, and bicycle racks. Today the CCDC is responsible for encouraging downtown development, as well as creating a unique streetscape.
Boise's Chinatown was razed during the urban renewal era. Photo from the Bill Simons Collection.