Downtown Boise entertainment icon Grove Plaza to be renovated, brick by brick

By Michael Deeds, Idaho Statesman

After nearly 30 years, it’s time. You can buy an inscribed brick, or just voice your opinion about future improvements to the home of Alive After Five.

Three bands rocked. The fountain flowed. Alive After Five wound down its 29th year of free Wednesday concerts under the approving glow of outdoor dancing and smiles this week.

By all accounts, nothing appeared glaringly wrong — certainly nothing to warrant major change. You would never have imagined that $3.5 million of renovation is coming, unless you gazed down at one of the crumbling, uneven bricks dotting The Grove Plaza.

Hours before the party started blocks away, Capital City Development Corporation’s board approved its budget for fiscal year 2016. Boise’s redevelopment agency plans a substantial overhaul of the plaza, which should be ready for the first Alive After Five next June.

We have an opportunity to set up The Grove Plaza for the next generation,” CCDC project manager Doug Woodruff says. “So in partnership with all this adjacent development that’s happening, we thought this was a really appropriate time to kind of refresh the plaza and enhance the user experience.

It’s time. The Grove Plaza is older than all the adjacent properties except the U.S. Bank building.

The space is almost 30 years old,” says Karen Sander, executive director of the Downtown Boise Association, “and so it’s needing a little TLC.

The question now becomes: What do we want The Grove Plaza to be for the next 30 years?

CCDC has gathered public input. It also will hold an open house from 4 to 9 p.m. Sept. 3 at 405 S. 8th St. — during First Thursday.

Nothing has been finalized about the renovation. But CCDC executive director John Brunelle says a couple of things have become clear.

Boiseans are passionate about that signature fountain, which isn’t surprising — yet sort of is. “It’s not the Bellagio,” Brunelle quips. They especially love the fact that it provides a walk-through experience. Upgrades won’t change that.

Secondly, The Grove Plaza still needs to be “Boise’s multipurpose room,” Brunelle says — a place able to handle events ranging from a fundraising breakfast and formal jazz concert to a farmers market. Single-minded suggestions for improvements — such as a permanently installed stage or sound system for Alive After Five — need to be considered in a larger context. (Either way, acoustic improvements to the plaza will be explored.)

A quieter, quality-of-life dynamic is crucial to The Grove Plaza’s future, too, Sander says.

“It also has to be a space where somebody can go take their lunch and sit at one of the tables over their lunch hour …” she says. “Just kind of listen to the fountain and get outside. Open space is really important to an urban environment.”

Open space is a bigger challenge than it used to be. Originally a lonely brick patio surrounded by wide-open parking lots, the plaza’s future is enclosed by buildings with walls of glass and metal. (Hey, when is that Buffalo Wild Wings opening down there, by the way? It’s almost football season.)

And although $3.5 million sounds like a lot of money, many improvements won’t be obvious. They’ll happen below the plaza’s surface. Every brick will be yanked.

Want to have a lasting part of the renovation? Buy an inscribed brick at They’re $60 or $100. By the way, if you are one of the 14,000 people who already have a brick down there, you’ll still have one — just a fresh one.

Someday not so far away, most of the construction will be finished next to The Grove Plaza. The area will teem with shoppers, restaurant patrons and convention attendees.

We think it will be a more active space than ever before,” Brunelle says.

So speak up. It’s not too late to get in your 2 cents. Want more shade in The Grove Plaza? A treefort in one of the trees?

We’re good at listening,” Brunelle adds, “and we’re not being prescriptive on the deal.”