Finding a city: CTA lends expertise to Garden City Artisan Pathway

By: CTA Staff
11 April 2018

Garden City, ID, is narrow and long, stretching westward for miles from the Boise Connector, a stretch of highway linking Interstate 84 with downtown. Its name is inspired by the Chinese migrant workers who made their livelihood by selling produce, from strawberries to sweet onions, which they grew in row-crop gardens. According to lore, when Ada County commissioners named Garden City as its own municipality, entrepreneurs took advantage of the new entity by lining the city’s main boulevard–Chinden, which is a portmanteau of China and Garden–with gambling houses, which Boise had just banned.

Today, with the city’s namesake gardens gone and gambling houses shut down, Garden City is fighting against the unfortunate idea that it lacks personality, that it is nothing more than the connective tissue between Boise and Eagle. Advocates of Garden City are convinced the city is on the precipice of a renaissance, or, at the very least, a profound discovery of what the area has to offer.

As real estate prices in Boise skyrocket, many young people and artists are turning to Garden City, which is only a few minutes’ walk along the river from downtown Boise, for affordable living and working space. Established residents and businesses, too, are experiencing a renewal in energy as they are stimulated by this opportunity for growth in Garden City commerce and culture.

Looking to capitalize upon and propel this excitement, city commissioners arranged a grant to assist local organizations working to improve the health and welfare of the city’s residents. Three CTA team members–business development representative Danielle Hurd and architects Lindsay Erb and Amy Lindgren–each proposed projects including, respectively, a gateway entrance delineating the district for east- and westbound traffic on Chinden Boulevard; newly installed, colorful sidewalks; and a wayfinding infographic for Garden City’s Surel Mitchell Live-Work-Create district.

Although none of CTA’s proposed projects were selected for this particular grant, the Garden City Urban Renewal Agency recognized potential in the ideas and the prospect of developing a relationship with the firm, so they inquired about the possibility of working together, separate from the initial grant. With an enthusiastic yes, team members from CTA and officials from Garden City brainstormed how they could make use of expertise in visual design, the flow of bodies, and spacial environments for Garden City.

Eventually, the two entities co-developed and co-funded a project (with support from the Riverside Hotel, the Idaho Wine Commission, and COMPASS) to highlight the city’s burgeoning artisan presence and attitude: the Garden City Artisan Pathway. The idea was to install a mapped network of visually striking signs along the Garden City segment of the Boise greenbelt, a safely walkable riverside path extending along the edge of Garden City, tucked away from heavy traffic. The goal of the signs would be to catch the attention of walkers, runners, and cyclists who might only utilize Garden City for the greenbelt, and guide them to venture into the city as a destination of its own.

The nine full-sized signs, eventually designed by CTA graphic designer Lisa Guerrero, direct passersby to over 30 local businesses and community spaces, categorized as either Taste (artisan wineries, breweries, etc.), Create (artist galleries and studios), or Play (parks and other recreational areas). An explanatory sign with dispensable paper maps sits at the base of the path to help those who meander from the greenbelt find their way from place to place, and a banner hangs over Chinden Boulevard to encourage passing traffic to consider Garden City as more than a passageway, and invite them to venture into the city.

The group of businesses, studios, and parks included in the project must complete a relatively thorough application and fit a specific set of conditions. The city is intentionally discerning with potential applicants to ensure the included projects are genuinely artisan, accessible and friendly to the public, and embodying the essence of Garden City. Many of the local artists and businesses display the corresponding graphic–Create, Taste, or Play–in their window to celebrate their role as a member of Garden City’s growing community.

Both as a firm and a collection of private area residents, CTA is thrilled that Garden City is declaring itself a distinct and vibrant area in the Treasure Valley, and is proud to be a part of the city’s development.


“This was an exciting and challenging project; I’ve never developed wayfinding for an entire city! It was out of my comfort zone, but the knowledge that has come from working with supportive team members and a highly involved and gracious client made the experience so rewarding. Supporting and promoting the thriving artisan community and local businesses made it even more special.”


“Working alongside like-minded people on a project that directly supports art and the community of Garden City was a wonderful experience. Spending time on meaningful in-kind gifts is always refreshing, and I’m looking forward to the ways in which we can provide expertise and support to a city undergoing a huge amount of change.”

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