In the heart of downtown Twin Falls, on the corner of Main Avenue and Hansen Street, is an empty Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store. The store hours on the front door are still bright white, but the inside is dark and dusty.  

After sitting in its desolate state for nearly two years, the Idaho Youth Ranch building is preparing for demolition. It will replace by the tallest building in downtown Twin Falls, and will be home to 44 multifamily residential units, 12,000-square-feet of office space, and 3,000-square-feet of retail and restaurant space.  

Bill Truax, the Boise-based President of The Galena Fund, said the mixed-use development is in a prime location to serve the Twin Falls manufacturing and agricultural workforce, including Glanbia, Chobani and Gem State Dairy.  

“This addition to downtown will also allow appraisers to underwrite the development as a comparable property,” said Bill. “That increases opportunity for future additions of multifamily units into areas that serve the agriculture, technology, and research and development businesses that are exploding in the Magic Valley.”  

In short, creating an environment where people can live, get to work with a short commute, recreate and enjoy time with their family increases the demand for activities and services throughout downtown Twin Falls and the surrounding area 

“This is the first development of its kind in downtown Twin Falls,” said Nate Murray, Director of the Twin Falls Economic Development Office. “Not only is the project improving an underutilized space, but it’s attracting businesses, restaurants, retail and residents to our downtown, further bolstering our economy and strengthening our community.”  

An Opportunity Zone Project

While the 160 Main project is the first of its kind in Twin Falls, it’s also the first of its kind in Idaho thanks to the location’s designation as an federal Opportunity Zone.  

Opportunity Zones were created as part of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The Act allowed states to designate specific underdeveloped areas  as an overlay for incentive where individuals or corporations could invest capital gains into projects that would improve cities and communities, including affordable housing and mixed-use development like the 160 Main project.  

Idaho Commerce Business Retention and Expansion Manager Eric Forsch said that although its unusual to see a project of this caliber appear in Idaho’s downtown landscape, it indicates that Twin Falls is a growing, dynamic community attracting a younger generation that craves a downtown with more amenities.  

“It says a lot about the community that the state’s first Opportunity Zone project was announced in Twin Falls and not the Boise Metro,” Eric said. “The project in Twin will continue to showcase the Magic Valley and Twin Falls as an exciting, growing community that’s not only home to world-renowned companies, but is also dynamic and progressive.”  

Partnering with Urban Renewal

Bill, Nate and Eric all emphasize that a city’s downtown is the heart of any community.  

They serve as gathering places, incubators for small businesses, and they give the community a sense of authenticity,” Eric said. “People moving to and wanting to remain in Idaho’s communities want thriving downtowns and look to those communities who are improving them.”  

With low and stable taxes, an emphasis on workforce development, and incentives for qualifying businesses, it’s no wonder Twin Falls is leading the charge on downtown revitalization.   

“We know how to stand out in a good way,” said Nate.  

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