Bulging Boise’s Bungled Building Boom

A small patch of blue seen from the steps of the Borah Post Office.

A small patch of blue seen from the steps of the Borah Post Office.

At the risk of posting another typical “growthophobe” story, we offer up a major caution in the rush to embrace the Gardner folks’ latest plan for downtown Boise.

As wise businessmen, they are gathering as much public funding as possible to build on some pretty small plots adjacent to the Grove Hotel and the U.S. Bank building.

Plans for their “City Center Plaza” call for buy-ins from Valley Transit for an underground transit hub as well as the Greater Boise Auditorium District which has money burning a hole in its pocket collected from the hotel tax.

There will be assorted easements and complex deals regarding above and below ground ownership as well. The Urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corp (CCDC) will also give taxpayer funds to Gardner.

It wasn’t long ago that Mark Rivers was the heart throb of city development politicos. He went with the Lt. Guv to Europe, was featured speaker at the City Club and offered all sorts of plans to supplement his BoDo project. Well, BoDo was built, tenants have come and gone, a third of the parking spaces in the public parking garage are not available to the public and the rest of the spaces are so cramped they keep body shops in business fixing dents. It’s a success.

For more hints on why Rivers has faded from prominence, just do a Google search for MARK RIVERS DEVELOPER.

Gardner has filled the hole in the ground with the Zion’s Bank building and is looking for more. The problem we see is the urban renewal district expires in 2017. We expect some manipulation of the law and funds in order to extend the CCDC jurisdiction beyond 2017. The best we can learn from sources is “its unclear” who owns what and who pays after 2017.

In conclusion, we urge caution in putting too much faith–and public money–in one developer. We joke that “downtown Boise is so crowded no one goes there.” Jamming more buildings into our once “quaint” downtown creates shadows on existing structures, high winds with the venturi effect, and blocks the scenic views from many angles.

Washington, D.C. doesn’t allow tall buildings and that isn’t all bad. Our message is to reassess the need and desire to fill all the surfaces with megastructures. Do we really want to hide the capitol from view and create a big city feel?

Some would say building downtown condos, megastructures, etc. creates a demand for more traffic which can then be managed with a transit system which needs a transit center, which makes the foundation for another tall building…we see another Fairview and Eagle, but with no sunshine.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Why do so many, so often, so easily fall prey to the Slick Willie persona. My grandpa taught me to be skeptical of flashy people and businesses. He said “those who flash a lot, got none left in their pocket”. In large part he has been spot on. Yet somehow, the population at large still approves of giving money and power to bankrupt people with a sharp look and talented tongue.

  2. As a lifelong Boise resident, I can remember when there were TWO “tall” structures in Boise – the Statehouse, and the Hotel Boise (now the Hoff Building). The view up Capitol Boulevard from the Depot was magnificent, and many thought it was worth preserving.

    Along came Bank of Idaho – they wanted to build a new “skyscraper” a block south of the Statehouse, but right on Capitol Boulevard. “It won’t totally block the view – only some of the view” was their argument. “Do it for economic progress – do you want to live in a small town or in a thriving hub of commerce and industry?” There was much opposition, but commerce and industry won out.

    THAT pretty much sealed the fate of the view from the Depot. Several other buildings have encroached on the view over the years… that’s the price we pay to be a hub of commerce and industry.

    I’ve got nothing against tall buildings… I work in one that’s pretty big and tall. I only wish our City Fathers had held firm on the view up Capitol Boulevard. The remaining view isn’t nearly as valuable as it was in 1960 or so… maybe it doesn’t matter much any more.

    I liked the Boise I grew up in, more than I like 2014 Boise. Sigh…

  3. The CCDC MUST survive so the mayor can pay his buddies and have money to play with. How else is he going to keep his friends employed?

  4. I wonder how many people will like it when the eastern spoke of the grove plaza is reduced to a small pedestrian tunnel that opens out to 120 feet of driveway on Capitol, making in fairly pedestrian un friendly. The semis and delivery trucks are supposed to be going below ground to unload…that will be interesting to watch. The arena also uses the spot that the new bus and car ramps are going to load and unload beer, food, and people. Not to mention maintenance vehicles. Where is all of this traffic going to fit?

  5. Rod in SE Boise
    Mar 6, 2014, 9:18 pm

    I’m very glad that we now have a Trader Joes, but the city planning should not have allowed those two other smaller buildings there (Panda Express and Chipotle). The city should have required that space be used for parking.

    I’m very glad we have a Whole Foods, but the city planning should not have allowed them to build the Walgreens there. Again, not enough parking. And in both lots (Trader Joes and Whole Foods, the parking places are too narrow and the driving lanes too narrow.

    I also read that a developer is planning a LOT more condos downtown. Is that really necessary? Has the inventory from the last condo building boom been used up? There can’t be that many downtown bartenders who want to live in a 700 square foot condo that costs $100,000.
    Remember – it’s all about population density. Higher density = bad, lower density = good.

  6. Grumpy ole guy
    Mar 6, 2014, 11:01 pm

    I have found it interesting that in order to draw attention to down town the builders have gone with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as well as the tall-rise hole in the ground filler. As several have noted, both of the grocery outlets have been scant on parking, which has been one of the long-standing complaints about the Co-Op. Apparently we either can’t learn from experience, or don’t want to. I have not changed my pattern of shopping and have not been to either of the new shopping venues, having found a time of day when parking at the Co-Op is usually open, that coupled with the chain groceries carrying wider selections of the more specialized foods than they used to; where parking is easy, almost any time of the day. As for non-grocery shopping down town – to me goods is goods and prices draw my interest more than style at my age and brand has never been an interest. And, convenience is paramount in all other decisions. The least amount of gasoline and time I use determines my choice, since Boise has never had a public transportation system worth spit I am dependent on my own car.

  7. An artist could make a cool rendering of what the view would be like if all the DT buildings were west– say over by Fairview & 36th… If that area were tall buildings and the core downtown were limited to 2 stories… the view from the The Depot…like Bikeboy remembers… would be cool. I still like the current view though.

    After all it is the header photo of The Guardian, so it can’t be that bad of a view.

    Any artists (or computer wiz) in the house?

  8. I remember the good ole days when we all lived in huts and Capitol Blvd was but a game trail leading to the wild blue yonder. Then along came all the evil developers and all this unneeded population.

  9. In regard to the changes to our viewshed and the Capitol building, take a look at the Lusk Street Master Plan, specifically page 11:
    “The Ada County Highway District developed a preliminary design(-
    figure 16) for the intersection of 9th/Royal/Capitol Boulevard that
    would create an additional full access point into the Lusk Street
    neighborhood. Initial modeling indicates that construction of the
    intersection would alleviate anywhere from 12-18% of the congestion at the Ann Morrison/University intersection. This would provide relief for current congestion, however the long-term effect would not alleviate traffic congestion for potential build out of the area.”

    The proposed road segment will wipe out existing mature trees, be located about 70 feet from the Greenbelt and the John Booth Memorial, and will cut through Land & Water Conservation Fund lands. It also will include the installation of stop lights on both Capitol and 9th Street. So much for our historic Capitol Blvd viewshed. Look closely at the proposed road and you’ll see that the bike lanes and pedestrian crossings are dysfunctional and dangerous. So why would the City encourage ACHD to build this road? And why did this road vault to the top of ACHD projects and is now scheduled for completion in the next year? The City’s own report shows that it will not relieve any congestion now or at the envisioned build-out of the Lusk Street neighborhood. Could it be that the Trolley to Nowhere lives on? As an FYI, rumor has it that ITD’s new bridge at Broadway is being overbuilt to accommodate trolley tracks…

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