Downtown Experience gets Boost
Boise consultant hired to lead downtown revitalization efforts.
May 25, 2011

A working group of the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency (SURA), the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association (DSBA) and City of Sandpoint have concluded a six-month effort to hire a professional consultant to support downtown and economic development efforts, by announcing that they have retained Mark Rivers of Boise-based Brix and Company.

Mark Rivers

Mark Rivers, CEO of Boise's Brix and Company, a real estate development and services firm.

Developed by the city’s Project Coordinator, Stephen Drinkard, the national search and interview process attracted the interest of 40 different firms, with finalists having been interviewed and screened by a local committee, which included a broad cross-section of public and private sector leaders, businesses and organizations.

“After an informative process with a number of great organizations, we felt Mark was the best fit for Sandpoint, with an excellent track record in redevelopment and a proven legacy of commitment to Idaho’s economic vitality,” explained Eric Paull, the Chairman of SURA, the agency that will be funding the 12-month project.  “Mark brings great energy, perspective and a can-do spirit that will make a difference here.”

“We talked to a lot of firms that wanted to do another study, even if the study they proposed was more refined than the original Tom Hudson/ Lorraine Roach Study/ Plan done in 2002 that was the genesis of this community’s good efforts to date,” said Drinkard.  “But we were looking for people now who did things; people who had redeveloped vacant sites; who knew how to leverage investors into building public infrastructure; who had the creativity and energy that actually changed downtowns, not just have created another pretty picture.”

Rivers is the CEO of Brix and Company, a boutique real estate development and services firm, headquartered in the Gem State’s capital city.  The company’s signature project was the BoDo development in downtown Boise, a $60 million public-private mixed use venue which was the global winner of the International Economic Development Council’s 2009 award for “Best Redevelopment and Reuse.”  Mark has also developed projects in Glendale, Arizona and Medford, Oregon and is currently working with the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency.  A champion of Idaho’s economy, he developed the state’s first and only private innovation incubator, the WaterCooler in Boise and, he led a 2010 economic development delegation to the Basque region of Spain, along with Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little.  Mark was Idaho’s 2008 Stoel Rives “Innovator of the Year.”

“Having enjoyed Sandpoint as a visitor, I’m excited to get to work in this very special community,” Rivers related.  “This City has always been a bright beacon in northern Idaho and a place of limitless possibility.  Over the next year or so, we’ll try to take the spirit of vitality, revitalization and prosperity to the next level.”

Rivers will work on a number of initiatives, including: the potential redevelopment of downtown properties; support and promotion of downtown vitality; business retention and recruitment; infrastructure investment; and, expansion of tourism, innovation and the arts. Specific projects include positioning downtown for changes in traffic and consumer patterns anticipated with opening of the Sand Creek bypass.

DSBA’s Economic Restructuring Committee has been expanded with SURA and city representatives, along with Karl Dye of Bonner County EDC and several downtown businesses owners, to serve as a steering committee for the effort. “We have a real collaboration going, and the possibilities for downtown are really exciting,” said committee chair Chris Bessler. He said the city’s Project Coordinator, Stephen Drinkard, and DSBA’s downtown manager, Kate Buska, will be working closely with Rivers, and the committee plans an open house and workshop in the near future to engage downtown businesses and stakeholders.

“I’m proud to welcome Mark to Sandpoint and begin this important forward step for the City,” added Sandpoint Mayor Gretchen Hellar.  “As our economy inches toward recovery, this effort of local stakeholders and professional expertise will give us needed horsepower to meet the future head-on.   We have always believed in our potential and, now have another ambassador to help us with job creation, new investment and broadening our economy and downtown experience.”