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Southern Idaho Downtowns Focus on Infrastructure Improvements

Downtowns in Twin Falls, Rupert undergo significant improvements

By Kevin Litwin on September 6, 2018

Twin Falls, ID
Twin Falls / Jeff Adkins

To get a feel for communities in the Magic Valley, many people visit the downtown districts. The biggest headline grabber of late has been Twin Falls, whose recently revamped downtown is buzzing more than ever with new amenities.

“In 2018, we had a lot of good news downtown, with all of our major infrastructure projects finally being completed,†says Nathan Murray, Twin Falls director of economic development and urban renewal. “That especially goes for Main Avenue, with several blocks of upgrades to sidewalks, gutters, lighting, underground utilities, streetscaping and more.â€

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Another key improvement to downtown Twin Falls is the opening of a Downtown Commons 1/4-acre park on Main Avenue at Hansen Street. The gathering spot includes a splash pad, a sculpture, a walkway and concert stage.

“Downtown plans are also in the design stage to construct a $7 million, four-story building in the district to accommodate businesses and some residential,†Murray says. “All of these projects are signaling to developers that downtown Twin Falls is a thriving place for investment.â€

In addition, a three-story Twin Falls City Hall has opened in a former vacant Banner Furniture store following a $5 million renovation.

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“These many infrastructure improvements won Twin Falls the Association of Idaho Cities City Achievement Award for public works in the transportation category,†Murray says. “There are more planned projects in the works, and it’s exciting that all this activity is attracting more private sector investment and new businesses.â€

Raise a Glass

One of those new businesses is Koto Brewing Company, which opened in late 2018 and is owned by Shane Cook, who also owns Twin Falls Sandwich Company. Both businesses are on Main Avenue housed in old-time buildings that were completely remodeled to transform them back to their glory days.

“I’ve always liked the older feel and the historic architecture found in the downtown area, and I like that downtown has become an eclectic mix of store owners, office employees, restaurant owners and residents,†Cook says. “It’s fun to see all the growth that’s happening throughout the district.â€

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At Koto Brewing, Cook says the new venture features several craft beers, pub food, Sunday brunch and a full dinner menu with items such as locally raised beef and fresh seafood.

“I really like doing business in downtown Twin Falls, then I enjoy going outdoors to take in the scenery of this entire region,†he says. “I go kayaking about four times a week along the Snake River, which is only 10 minutes from where I live.â€

Other Downtown Successes

Besides Twin Falls, other cities and towns throughout the Magic Valley have also enhanced their own downtown areas. The downtowns of Gooding and Shoshone are known for their history and continue to make periodic improvements to showcase that, and the same goes for Oakley with its downtown graced with a circa 1907 Howells Opera House that hosts live theater and music performances.

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In early 2018, the City of Rupert began a $2.7 million construction project to renovate its high-traffic Rupert Square. Highlights include improving the historic central plaza, building new gazebo stairs, adding a memorial gate, upgrading a large central fountain, perimeter tree planting, electrical upgrades, updated signage and sidewalk replacements for D, F and 6th streets.

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Operation Facelift, an area program sponsored by the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, or SIEDO, is absorbing some of the cost for the Rupert project.

“SIEDO helps provide seed money that goes toward many efforts to help communities throughout the Magic Valley, in an effort to encourage sprucing up throughout the region,†says Connie Stopher, SIEDO executive director. “We have also recently awarded seed money to Glenns Ferry, Heyburn, Gooding and Jerome, with the goal of enhancing all communities to further grow economic development throughout Southern Idaho.â€

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