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According to the Idaho Statesman, local real estate developer Josh Evarts is trying to bring mixed-use buildings, apartments and coffee shops to downtown Meridian, one of the fastest growing cities in the state. A recent re-routing of the streets was designed to make the urban core a destination as opposed as a place to drive through. Evarts has lived in Meridian for over 20 years and made a living in software and defense contracting before deciding to go into real estate development. “I had to get up to speed and learn about old buildings — preserving them, restoring them — and how those can play a key role in downtown,” Evarts said. “That drove a love to buy other buildings and got me plugged into our urban renewal district.”

Encouraging people to live near where their work is why so many cities, including Boise, are pushing mixed-use development, with buildings offering commercial and residential space. As Evarts walks down Main Street, he passes only commercial buildings, many of them with storefronts that have changed over in the last year. He stops in for a coffee at Deja Brew Laugh a Latte, 112 E. Idaho Ave., leaving his cigar on a bench outside.

The city’s 2015 request for proposals generated some excitement among business owners who leaped to invest there. Some, though, say they moved too soon.
“There was a lot of talk of bringing more of a downtown Boise feel, which didn’t end up happening as quickly as we were hoping or expecting,” said Stephanie Billinger, manager of Blue Sky Bagel at 3161 E. Fairview Ave. Last year, Blue Sky tried opening a second location downtown at 126 E. Idaho Ave.

“It was super not busy,” she said. On a given day, just a few area office workers stopped in for lunch. No one else would go out of their way to stop by that location. “You try to avoid downtown if you don’t have to be there,” she said. Blue Sky closed after just 10 months. “We probably tried to hang on longer than it was worth it,” Billinger said.

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