Simplot Dream Project Has Potential

jackWe’ve seen it all before–the Daily Paper features a huge color architect rendering on the front page with a gushing story about extravagant plans. The plans seldom work out because the hype is just the first phase of what is really a financing scheme.

Things like a convention center, hotel, high rise tower, Tamarack, “European” movie set subdivision (east of town), and dozens more have sucked in the legacy media only to fail.

The latest dream dubbed, JACK’S URBAN MEETING place is the brainchild of the Simplot family foundation and it just might fly.

It is to be located on land already owned by the heirs of J.R. Simplot, the famed Idaho industrialist-farmer-rancher-philanthropist whose willingness to gamble made him a household name. The four block parcel is bordered by 9th and 11th on the east and west and Front and Myrtle on the north and south.

Official plans call for a park, outdoor amphitheater and dinner theater, sculputre garden full of farm equipment collected by Simplot over the years, studio space for the arts, and possibly a new headquarters building for the company “J.R.” founded. City approval is almost certain.

The family foundation is apparently ready to pump $100 million into the project and the politicos are offering positive quotes about the plan. It sounds good on the face of it, but it could compete with the Center on The Grove and the Morrison Performing Arts venues.

The drawing also seems to show parking facilities. That agency dropped $8 million into a substandard parking structure squeezed into the BoDo block housing the Hampton Inn which gets about a third of the spaces for its exclusive use in the public financed structure.

The entire project will not yield any taxes for Boise since it is in the urban renewal district operated by the CCDC (Captial City Development Corp.) That agency will reap the benefit of the taxes if the project comes to fruition…about $2 million at current rates.

No word yet from the G-Bad Boys at the Greater Boise Auditorium District. They failed at every turn to get approval or funding for a convention center on the block to the west. On the face of it, this project looks like it will compete for dinner theater and other events seating up to 1,200.

The GUARDIAN urges everyone to be up front about who will pay for the entire project. Past experience tells us to watch out for “private-public partnerships” that have taxes going to private ventures in one form or another. If this is truly a private Simplot venture, we applaud the effort and wish them all the best in the true spirit of capitalism.

Word from the Simplot spokesman is unequivical: NO PUBLIC MONEY is to be used in the project. Only funds from the Simplot family will be used to build the project, including the parking. We want to reserve some wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances, but at this point the GUARDIAN endorses the project. Now, if the politicos can stay away from it, we may have something.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Mr. Watcher
    May 24, 2009, 8:27 am

    Here’s a fact that no one in The Valley can get away from. This place The Valley and or Boise Idaho is in the middle of nowhere. The closest city with any decent size is Salt Late at six hours away. Trucking companies call Boise, an end of the line city. For every six trucks that bring goods into this valley, only one leaves full. Our airport is a small town airport and if you miss your flight because the plane was pulled out of service. You are going to wait a good six hours and more than likely much longer. No one wants to come to such a city for a convention. In short order being an end of the line town in the middle of nowhere hotels and motels would be taking advantage of the folks going to conventions. Yes we have a huge problem with greed in this valley and state and sales taxes on Milk, Bread and Baby Food only enforce my statement on greed.
    The mall is going to be a huge white elephant in due time. Ask yourself how many white elephants does The Valley need?

  2. Don’t let the mayors of Nampa and Caldwell see this, they will want one too! They have not yet figured out how to live within the means of reality their taxpayers are forced to live.

    Mr. Watcher has a point and living with the reality of where we live will make or break our economy. It is just a matter of time before Micron picks up and leaves Boise. Then we will get back to our base economy…agricluture.

    Nobody wants to ship any big special orders to Boise for the very reason Mr. Watcher stated…end of the line. I waited six weeks for a special order archetecutral shingles for my roof out of Bakersfiled, Ca. A two day haul at best. Nobody wanted the load.

    Also, what happened with the Special Olympics efforts to put Boise on the Map. That effort was around $30 Million. How did we do on that effort?

  3. One More Skeptic
    May 24, 2009, 2:00 pm

    There is a time honored tradition that one person makes a fortune, and their offspring lose it.
    This thing, when combined with Watchers observations, with which I agree, seems to fit the mold.

    It is worth observing that it was not built, or even seriously proposed, on JR’s shift.

    The best thing about it, and I hope it continues to be true, is that The Family is doing it in true Simplot style. They are doing it on their own sack of dimes. Take note, Bieter, CCDC, BODO, and the rest of you tax sucking sack of leaches.

  4. I think Watcher’s comments would be more relevant to a mass transit debate than a privately funded building project downtown. I don’t think this project is designed to be a mega money maker. It is a tribute to a family’s patriarch. It is also a tribute to the argicultural history of the state of Idaho. “White Elephant” or not, it’s their money they can do with it what they want. I happen to think the design is beautiful. All that being said, The Guardian raised some important questions, namely with all the various government agencies that may or may not be involved.

  5. Well, I’m really glad there is another post after eight days.. But, yes, this is a good thing.

  6. Dang, I have to pretty much agree with everyone on this one!
    Yeah, I hope the various officials keep the heck out of it, and don’t dump tax money into it.
    But if the Simplots really want to do it on their own, that’s fine. And it probably will work out OK (I can’t imagine the Simplots creating another “The Hole” and then running away.)
    If Jack were still in the saddle, you know darned well it would fly.
    An only a sort-of aside: Ever since I started at The Statesman more than 40 years ago, I urged them to keep the drawings like this that they ran of various projects, and then, if the thing got built, take a photo from the same angle and run the two side by side in the paper.
    Why? Cuz a lot of things that looked beautiful in the drawings looked pretty crappy when completed — some of the nicest features would be “lost” along the way.
    So, Guardian, hang onto this picture and let’s see if you can (once again) do something The Daily fails to do.
    P.S.: What is that big blue thing in all that white?)

  7. I have read what there is to read out there and have to ask, just what will be in those buildings? Shops and restaurants? Businesses? what?

    The city is already full of commercial properties empty. A big open and outside mall of boutique shops and restaurants with sidewalk cafes and perhaps a theater could be interesting, but simply more commercial real estate is a waste.

  8. Let’s ponder this for a moment. Team Dave, CCDC, the auditorium district have all come to the voters numerous times to get us to pay for one of these. Only to fail miserably! Now the conversation over lunch is. ‘So… how about we do a Park Center Bridge thing? Let’s tell them (the public) that the Simplot Family Foundation plans to foot the bill, get it started and completly committed to it financially,then we can tell them (the citizens) that there was a change in direction and we HAVE to take it over with taxpayer money! BRILLIANT!’ If Jack was still with us, I believe he would be personally leading the effort to run this crew out of Boise! What’s that old saying about how close to keep your friends, AND your enemies?

  9. The downtown convention center is dead. It has been dead. This will kill it completely. Might be very nice. Hard to tell from drawing.

  10. Tom Anderson
    May 25, 2009, 7:12 pm

    I would implore the family to consider a passive solar design with the type of engineering accomplished by William McDonough.

    McDonough is the guy that did the enourmous ‘living roof’ for a Ford assembly factory.

    You can see his amazing work at

  11. It will be interesting to see whether there is some sort of mini ag museum in Jack’s Place as that is what he always wanted. I think a standalone private development will be great for downtown.

  12. I think a large scale “living farm” out by the Idaho Center would be a better idea than a few old tractors in a building downtown – where you have to pay the CCDC to park, get fined by the Boise PD, put up with the bars on the weekend and where buses never appear. Not sure this urban idea would be JR’s passion.

  13. How do the Simplots feel about being included in the LID for the downtown street car plan that was reported again the daily paper this morning? Having known a few downtown business owners, I really wonder how many more special taxes/fees/etc. they want to pay and pass on to their customers?

  14. Being in the middle of nowhere is good. It’s what I like about Boise.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: