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Nampa aims to clean up, update city's north side

Residents look toward
renewal, despite setbacks
NAMPA -- For about 25 years, Nampa's north side slid into decline, changing from acreages with room for farm animals to small lots with single-wide trailers and houses.
     Only a few of the larger lots are left. Several bridges across Indian Creek deteriorated and were taken out.
     Now, city staff members and residents are working on new ways to use urban renewal money to clean up the north side of Idaho's second-largest city and to forge a more-structured plan to spend federal money in the same area.
     Mayor-elect Tom Dale, who served on the North Nampa Housing Services board for five years, knows the difficulties the area faces and is considering ways to help.
     "I know one of the things we want to move forward on is strengthening nuisance-abatement ordinances" to deal with abandoned homes in the area, Dale said.
     It's no easy task.
     In the past few years, many projects -- such as a bridge across Indian Creek at 5th Road North, and curbs, gutters and sidewalks for a 30-block area within the core -- have been stalled or canceled.
     But residents of the north side's revitalization area, the core neighborhood in the city's urban renewal district, say things have gotten better.

If you go
Community Development Block Grant plan
  • A public hearing will begin at 7pm Jan, 7 at City Hall, 411 3rd St. N.
  • Public comment period will be open from Jan, 8 to Feb. 11.

Nampa Urban Renewal Agency
    Nampa Urban Renewal Agancy board will meet at 3pm, Dec 18 at City Hall, 411 3rd St. N. An agenda will be available Friday.
--- Sanda Forester
A good start
     Drive down 11th Avenue North from Franklin Boulevard, and you will see replicas of historic streetlights and trees lining the five-lane road.
     There are a new bridge on 6th Street North, new stoplights at key intersections, and new curbs, gutters and sidewalks in a few areas.
     "Our lighting is a lot better," said Rafael Ortiz, a resident and North Nampa Residents Association board member.
     The Boys and Girls Club of Nampa is serving more than 1,200 kids with after-school and other programs.
     Several neighborhood watch groups have been formed. Crime is down.
     The city donated land for the Hispanic Cultural Center.
     It's a good start to a revitalization effort, but it hasn't gone so far as some would like.
     Get off 11th Avenue on either side around 2nd and 3rd streets, and you will run into dead-end streets, deteriorated buildings and trailers sprinkled among neat homes, and lots of junk corralled by chain-link fences.
     Some blighted houses have been torn down and new homes built. But more than a dozen abandoned, boarded-up buildings remain.
     Sidewalks are broken in many places.
     "There's a lot of things that need to be done on the north side," said Michael Gray, NNRA's president, who has lived in the area for about a dozen years.
     In 1994, the City Council created the North Nampa Urban Renewal Agency to spur economic development and eliminate blight. But it has done more of the former than the latter, pouring the majority of its revenue for its first five years into the Idaho Center, north of Interstate 84, several miles from the core area.
     The agency helped build the Boys and Girls Club of Nampa and a police substation. It has put millions of dollars into infrastructure improvements, such as the current 11th Avenue underpass widening project, the Franklin overpass, and extension of sewer and water lines to the city's northern parts.
     Its vehicle for revitalization, Nampa Neighborhood Housing Services, was dissolved this year because of management and fund-raising concerns, leaving about $372,000 unobligated from this year's budget.
     In its lifetime, NNHS built more than a dozen new homes, rehabilitated about 36 others, tore down more than eight buildings and provided more than 41 loans to people buying homes.
     If the urban renewal district is allowed to expire in 2004, much of the money would return to taxpayers. The owner of a $100,000 home would see a property tax reduction of about $200 a year. The city is limited in its ability to raise taxes because of a 1995 state law that caps increases in city spending at 3 percent annually.
Shirley Dean looks at small building that needs to be removed
Chris Butler / The Idaho Statesman
Shirley Dean, a member of the North Nampa Residents Association, looks over a small structure on 12th Avenue North Monday afternoon in Nampa. Dean said small buildings need to be removed.

     The core area also was targeted in the 1990s as Nampa's Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area so the city could apply for federal grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     The city received about $500,000 to $520,000 a year through the program the past five years. The funds have been used to support the Boys and Girls Club, a homeless shelter, a code- enforcement officer, the Salvation Army, the Valley Crisis Center and the now-defunct Nampa Neighborhood Housing Services.

     The community is working on another five-year plan for the federal grant money. As part of the process, city staff members collected data on the area.
     They found that the core of North Nampa:
  • Has the highest vacancy rate (10.4 percent) and the second-to-the-lowest number of housing units (1,496).
  • Is the city's only area to be classified as low income and has the highest number of people living below poverty (39.98 percent). Its estimated median family income for 2001 is $24,252.

  •      "Most people work," said Shirley Dean, a NNRA board member who moved to the area in 1964. "They just don't make a lot."
  • Has the highest percentage of Hispanics in the city (48.6 percent).
  • Has a large portion of homes built in the 1950s and 1960s. The age of housing ranges from 19 to 45 years old.
     More specific Census 2000 information will be available early next year.
     In August, NNRA created "A Picture of North Nampa," which will be included in the plan. It names the accomplishments in the neighborhood, what should be preserved and what could be improved.
     Residents see several positives: affordable housing, good neighbors, natural features such as Lakeview Park, and landmarks such as historic homes, the Mona Lisa Restaurant that was a blacksmith shop, and El Charro, an authentic Mexican restaurant opened by prominent Nampans Tony and Maria Rodriguez more than 45 years ago and now run by their children.
     Improvements they want include removal of boarded-up houses and deteriorated trailers, installation of decent sidewalks, improved public transportation, more shopping and restaurants, a Home Depot or Lowe's store, and a bank.
     Ortiz said more adult education classes should be offered through a partnership with the Nampa School District to give low-wage- earners skills and knowledge to take them to the next level.
     Adults could also use a soccer field and more basketball courts, he said.
     "It helps in keeping them away from trouble," Ortiz said. "These guys work and then they have nowhere to go but the bars."
     NNRA members also have suggestions for the city:
     "Change the zoning so they could not put single-wide mobile homes on the lots," Dean said.
     Residents want the city to look at zoning and abatement ordinances, as well, and develop a condemnation procedure, so homeowners couldn't just board up their homes and walk away.
     "You don't want to trample on property rights," Gray said, "but if your property is diminishing the value of your neighbor's property -- your neighbor has rights too."
     Residents will be asking the Urban Renewal Agency for money that was set aside to print and distribute a neighborhood newsletter and trying to work out a deal with the agency and the city to continue tearing down abandoned houses.
     "We just need to make sure whatever is done is done fairly," Gray said.
     The city also will be asking for urban renewal funds but hasn't solidified any plans.

     To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Sandra Forester at 377-6464 or sforester@idahostatesman.com

What is North Nampa?
     That depends on whom you ask.
     To the North Nampa Urban Renewal Agency, the area extends from the railroad tracks across the city north to Cherry Lane, beyond Star Road in the east and as far west as Midland Boulevard.
     The North Nampa revitalization area, for Community Development Block Grant purposes, starts at the railroad tracks and extends in the west to just beyond Broadmore Country Club and the treatment plant, runs along Interstate 84 to the north, and juts out to the east around Sugar Beet Lake, before zigzagging on to Kings Road, out to Barger Street, on to Grant Street out to 29th Street North and on to Sugar Avenue.
     Within that area, the North Nampa Residents Association covers a portion, which is bounded by the railroad tracks to the south, Nampa Boulevard on the west, Franklin Boulevard and the Boise Main Line on the east, and Interstate 84 and Garrity Boulevard to the north.

Nampa's roots are in its northern neighborhoods
     Nampa had its beginning on what now is its north side, when Alexander Duffes built the city's first home on 1st Street North in 1885.
     It's still there, across the street from its original location.
     Duffes homesteaded 160 acres straddling the tracks, for which he paid $200, and platted the town.
     In the early days, most residents lived along Indian Creek, which meanders between the tracks and 4th Street.
     Indian Creek and Mason Creek, flowing through Lakeview Park, provided the area's only water until wells were drilled and the Phyllis Canal was finished about five years later.
     A business district developed on Front Street along the south side of the tracks. Nampa's first industry was Crescent Brewing Co., which started making beer in 1907 on the north side. The brewery was torn down in the 1960s, but its offices and the grand home of its owners still stand on 1st Street across from Duffes' house.
Lockman House
Chris Butler / The Idaho Statesman
The Lockman house was built in 1906, along with the Crescent Brewing Co., for its owner, Jacob Lockman. Wynette Lockman, the last descendant of the family, occupied it until she died in the mid-1990s. New owners are renovating the home, north side resident Shirley Dean said.

Why are Nampa's streets catawampus?
     Duffes had platted a town near Toronto, Canada, before coming to Idaho. He made the streets run true north and south at varying angles to the railroad tracks. One day a woman with two children attempted to drive her horse and buggy across the tracks, and the buggy's wheels stuck. A train hit the buggy, killing all three people in it. Duffes took responsibility for the accident; years later, he laid out Nampa streets to run parallel and at right angles to the railroad tracks.

What is the Nampa Urban Renewal Agency?
     The Nampa Urban Renewal Agency was created in 1994 and will expire in 2004, unless it is extended by the City Council.
     The agency's projected $5,363,728 revenue for fiscal year 2002 would be added to the $183,476 in interest the agency has made this year from investments and reserved funds and the $6,014,508 carryover from the current year, for a total operating budget of $11,561,712.
     Of that total, $5 million is to be paid out in 2002 as Nampa's share of the 11th Avenue underpass upgrade. An additional $4.1 million is earmarked for the agency's existing debt service.
     NURA's objectives: The urban renewal plan is a proposal for public facilities to provide an improved environment for new commercial developments; to eliminate unsafe conditions; to assist property owners, particularly residential, to rehabilitate and improve their properties in accordance with a program of voluntary or compulsory repair and rehabilitation of buildings in the Project Area; to otherwise prevent and reverse blight and deterioration in the area.

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Statesman Note: article retyped in HTML for better readability.
Dec 11, 2001 - Front Page

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