Is Boise The Next Portland?

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Bikers pedal through downtown Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. (Charlie Litchfield/AP)
Bikers pedal through downtown Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. (Charlie Litchfield/AP)

Long dismissed as a remote outpost in "flyover country," the capital of Idaho is booming with out-of-state transplants. Boise's cultural cachet is growing as tourists and new residents seek out its unique food and music scenes, as well as its low cost-of-living.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson talks to Boise Weekly's Harrison Berry (@HarrisonBerry) about how Boise is changing.

Interview Highlights

On hearing people call Boise the next Portland

"Well, yeah, I have heard that. I've also heard Boise is the next Seattle, Boise is the next Austin. I think that Boise has a bit of its own identity."

On how Boise has been changing

"There are some pretty robust advertising campaigns in some of those larger cities that are promoting Boise's lower cost of living. It's a very safe city, people really like to come here, especially from the tech sector. That is changing the look and feel of Boise. For a long time Boise has been kind of 'flyover country,' and that is changing in a big way, and I think that's what invites some of those comparisons."

On the "hipster scene" in Boise

"There was a time when 'hipster' was a very current term in Boise. We actually ended up banning from use over at Boise Weekly. It was just one of those things that was becoming overused, it bordered on cliche. I feel like, you know, five or 10 years ago, that that term 'hipster' really denoted something specific. And, in Boise, that something specific started to change. It stopped being as relevant a term as maybe it felt when the skinny jeans and stocking caps were more prevalent here."

On describing "new" Boise residents

"By and large new Boise residents come from a professional class. They're coming here with a little bit of work experience. It's a little more buttoned-up than what we might describe as a hipster."

"In Boise, you really start to feel welcome almost on the first day that you're here, for newcomers."

Harrison Berry

On whether the housing prices in Boise are rising

"They are definitely, and that's creating a real pinch for people who live and work near downtown. You know, the people who sling your coffee are kind of being pushed to the outskirts while some of those rentals and for-sale homes are being scooped up by people with more disposable income. And, it is, in fact, a real problem."

On demographic changes

"On top of being white, Boise is also one of the largest per capita destinations for refugees and new Americans. We're beginning to see, obviously, a lot more people of color here in Boise. But, you know, other kinds of diversity as well. That's definitely picking up. The idea that Boise is a white city is something that's going to change in the near future, I think."

On the tight-knit community

"Boise is, it's kind of locked in this struggle between wanting to be a big city and a small town. It's sort of like 'Cheers' — everybody knows your name. And, that's something that I hope sticks around. You know, in some of those bigger cities it's a little bit easier to be anonymous, and that can be comforting sometimes. But, in Boise, you really start to feel welcome almost on the first day that you're here, for newcomers. And if you've been here for a long time, that's a feeling of inclusivity that's very difficult to leave behind."

On changing food culture

"So Boise has, for a long time, had a very strong Basque cultural undercurrent. Many of some of the first settlers here came from the Basque country. And in the Basque country itself, some of the foods of choice, it gravitates toward seafood. And it Boise, the Basques gravitated toward lamb. And so, we have these amazing spicy lamb grinders. I can't speak highly enough of them. You won't find them anywhere else. But of course, there's the paella, that is probably some of the best you'll find anywhere. In addition, we've had a lot — I've mentioned new Americans, a lot of them are bringing their own culinary traditions to bear on Boise, and I think over time we're gonna start to see a lot more, you know, not just representation of those traditions, but also some experimentation."

This article was originally published on August 28, 2017.

This segment aired on August 28, 2017.



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