By Cameron Rasmusson
Workshopping the future of the University of Idaho extension property began in earnest this week, with contracted designers taking feedback to shape the project’s scope.
At a series of meetings Monday and Tuesday, design team Studio Cascade outlined three potential scenarios for residents to consider and invited residents to share their opinions.
“We know this is a great opportunity, we know the community loves (the property) and views it as a precious resource, and that’s really guiding a lot (of what we’re doing here),” said Ryan Hughes of Studio Cascade.
In the first scenario, the property will be designed primarily for recreation, emphasizing “sports, trails and perhaps community gardening.” This would be the ideal arrangement for activities like cyclocross, cross-country skiing and wildlife viewing, while still leaving room for a development like a recreation center.
The second scenario envisions sustainable ecological development. The plan would preserve the local habitat and shoreline while maintaining the property’s suitability for trails, wildlife viewing and community gardening. It would also support appropriately-scaled commercial and residential development and emphasize outdoor education.
Predominantly urban development is the focus of the third scenario. A variety of residential and business suite of developments could include multi-story housing, offices and single-family or cottage housing. The site would be built out to emphasize walkability and still leave room for recreational facilities. Since this design is crafted with an eye toward a revenue-neutral or revenue-positive balance, improvements and amenities could potentially be rolled out more quickly.
Between two days of open-house presentations and formal workshopping, residents offered several suggestions like limiting the density of development on the property and exploring the possibility of a recreation center. Those who missed the workshops can still contribute their opinions by taking an online survey at www.sandpointidaho.gov/uofi. According to Sandpoint Planning and Economic Development Director Aaron Qualls, the city has received more than 200 responses to the survey so far.
At the Tuesday night meeting, Bill Grimes of Studio Cascade said the community contributions have so far been very helpful and should shape the planning process.
“I think there are things we can do to address a lot of the significant considerations here,” he added.
Likewise, Elaine Clegg of Idaho Smart Growth said that there is great opportunity within the property. However, she cautioned that, especially when pursuing ambitious projects like a recreation center, strong partners and plenty of time will likely be required before they come to fruition.
“It’s going to take a lot of partnerships, a lot of years, but I think there are some real possibilities,” she said.
With plenty of community feedback in tow, the Studio Cascade team will work up designs that take community considerations into account. Once that’s complete, they will return to the Sandpoint City Council for approval of a conceptual master plan.
“We’ve come to understand what a precious resource this is to the community,” said Hughes.