Placemaking Spotlight: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene offers beautiful views and embraces placemaking values

Coeur d’Alene Marina. Photo by Curtis Gregory Perry, courtesy of Flickr.

Coeur D’Alene is a city located in northwest Idaho known for its beautiful lakes, the most famous being its namesake, Lake Coeur D’Alene. Home to more than 55 lakes, the Canfield Mountain Natural Area, McEuen Park, and Coeur d’Alene National Forest, this town is perfect for vacationing, given its charming sunsets and moonrises, bustling downtown nightlife, arts and culture, golfing, active fishing sights, and so much more for any time of the year. With a population of roughly 50,000 people, Coeur D’Alene is a beautiful and historically rich town that exhibits strong placemaking values and enduring community character.

“Coeur” meaning heart and “D’Alene” meaning awl was a nickname created by French traders to describe the Schitsu’umsh people, the original natives of the land with whom they  traded. This meant the natives were perceptive with their trading skills with hearts as sharp as awls. Eventually, the Schitsu’umsh people were coined as the Coeur D’Alene Tribe, naming their central lake the Coeur d’Alene lake. The town increased in population when General William T. Sherman established a military fort on the land in 1878. The fort was useful because steamboats could easily transport supplies via the lakes, which eventually led to the production of commercial steamboats. There were more steamboats on the Coeur D’Alene lake than there were on the Mississippi River by the early 20th century. Coeur D’Alene became a large transportation point between the east and the Silver Valley. The fort was ultimately repurposed and is now used by North Idaho College. 

Coeur d’Alene town. Photo by Todd Heiman, courtesy of Coeur d’Alene tourism page.

The city began to expand after 1887 thanks to its beautiful lakes, which attracted visitors from all over the country. Tourism industries flourished as people became more interested in boating, camping, fishing, and hunting. The town grew into a strong political and business-oriented center in Kootenai County, becoming the County seat in 1908. Coeur D’Alene continues its legacy modern-day as a powerful business and recreational center, showing strong economic developments within the last several years. 

Today, Coeur D’Alene not only boasts a powerful tourism economy but has its top two industries in retail and healthcare, placing tourism as the third biggest business in this region. In addition to these industries, the abundance of natural resources allows for multiple career paths in the agricultural industry. 

To fuel its tourism industry year-round, Coeur D’Alene offers lots of recreational activities available every season, with a host of museums, theaters, art galleries, and movie theaters, and a lively calendar of festivals and events to complement outdoors opportunities like zip-lining, boating, and skiing. Additionally, the town’s thriving dining, shopping, and nightlife scenes attract individuals from all over the country. 

Coeur D’Alene is committed to maintaining solid placemaking principles that promote its unique character. Planned developments are designed around open green spaces, riverfronts, golf courses, beaches, parks, lakefronts, and so forth to increase access to these resources for all communities. Better and equal access leads to the perfect environment for local families and tourists alike. Coeur d’Alene’s local chamber of commerce also promotes a local business mindset, advancing a locally sourced economy. 

Coeur d’Alene town. Photo courtesy of of Coeur d’Alene tourism page.

Noting the attractiveness of the region to future residents and businesses, the town is looking to develop 5,000 new residences with a focus on affordability and walkability (i.e., an urban lifestyle). This, of course, may take decades, but will greatly boost the population thereby boosting the economy. Real estate companies want to build in this area given its scenic views, safe environment for children, and community parks. To extend the project even further, contractors hope to build more recreational buildings with basketball, tennis, and soccer courts, swimming pools, and more. After more than 20% growth in Coeur D’Alene’s population in the last decade, the town is projected to grow even more with these residential buildings. On top of these residences, three high-rise buildings could also be built in the town, increasing the population even more. 

Coeur D’Alene is an excellent example of placemaking properties. With the onset of new developments and the commitment to preserving the history of the town, the town also stays true to its historic roots thanks to groups like The Historic Preservation Commission, which ensures that Coeur d’Alene’s distinctive character and fascinating history isn’t compromised by contemporary developments. 

Get more information about Couer D’Alene here.