Later this month, the Driggs City Council will consider a land swap in the downtown core in order to build public parking where the old lumber yard now stands.
Scott Burnside, the owner of Basin Lumber Company, is working with the city and the Driggs Urban Renewal Agency to exchange existing city parking behind the Colter Building fronting West Little with a slightly larger lot just north of the See N Save thrift store.
According to the Downtown Core Framework Plan, commissioned in 2007 and updated in 2016, the core of Driggs should have a public parking lot in each of its four quadrants. That plan has only partially been realized with the Colter parking lot in the northwest block, the transit center park-and-ride in the southwest block, and the lot behind the Blackhawk Building in the southeast block.
“They aren’t fully fleshed out,” said DURA board chair Erica Rice of the parking lots.
The downtown master plan outlines parking in each block that is convenient for workers and visitors but tucked out of sight, saving valuable street frontage for commercial ventures.
DURA is a public entity that receives the taxes generated by increasing property values in its districts then uses those funds to improve amenities in the district.
“We help facilitate infrastructure projects,” Rice explained. “Our goal is to help the city or private developers make downtown better.”
The Hillman family donated the land for the northwest block parking lot to the city in 1995 with a condition that it remained a parking lot until 2025, but the city has received the family’s consent to lift that deed restriction. In the proposed land swap, the city is offering 9,700 sq. ft. of the parking lot in exchange for almost 13,000 sq. ft. of the lumber yard, including a new alley onto a relocated Front Street. The parking lot currently has 104 public parking spaces not including street parking and the city expects to increase the number of spaces slightly.
If the city council determines that the swap is fair and equitable, Burnside plans to build a three-story mixed use building on the east side of the See N Save building with commercial spaces on the ground and second floor as well as 12 residential units. The development proposal includes 18 off-street residential spaces available for public use during the day. Construction could begin as early as this November.
The developer would be responsible for the demolition and removal of the existing structures there. The total estimated cost of the new parking lot is around $500,000. DURA has agreed to pay $340,000 for the project over the next two years, and the city hopes to make up the rest of the cost with an Idaho Rural Community Block Grant. The city will loan DURA $225,000 to fund initial construction.
The original urban renewal district, which encompasses most of the downtown core and Broulim’s, was established in 2004 and is nearing the end of its 24-year lifespan. The agency’s objective is to not have any money left in its coffers, while also not over-committing itself on expensive projects. Rice said that because sunset is approaching for the district, DURA is “trying to make the district as bright and shiny and exciting as possible,” and encouraging new commercial development on West Little fits with that goal. DURA also has some funding set aside that residents and business owners can request for small public beautification projects in the district.
The city council will hold a public hearing on the land swap on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. Comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org until 5 p.m. on Sept. 11.