by Andrew Crisp
Dozens of people turned out today to witness the groundbreaking of Boise's biggest project: filling the long-empty Boise Hole, which has sat at the center of the city for 25 years. They descended a set of metal steps to sit beneath an awning set up on the hole's dirt floor, flanked by 30 waiting, golden shovels
The new office tower will become the Idaho headquarters for Zions Bank, now the third-largest bank in the state. Zions also financed the project.
"I think we all know the doldrums we've seen over the past few years, and we've shaken them. This is an economy on the move," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "We need to have faith in our collective selves and faith in our city. Nothing shows that well-placed faith more than this project."
The dirt lot will become a major part of the Boise skyline as Idaho's tallest building, measuring 315 feet to the top of a large roof spire. The 18-story, 391,930-square-foot office building will cost between $75 million and $80 million when completed, according to Christian Gardner, CEO and president of the Gardner Development Company. He said the building represented a new way for Boise.
"There's been a trend of businesses leaving downtown for the suburbs," said Gardner. "We really believe this building can reverse that trend."
Other representatives said they hoped the building could become the heart of the city. Future tenants include Ruth's Chris Steak House, Idaho Fitness Factory, CTA Architects and Engineers, Holland & Hart law firm and more. The Idaho Business Review reported that 60 percent of the building's space has already been leased.
Just before the groundbreaking ceremony, a Native American ceremony was held, courtesy of an area tribe, meant to dispel three curses in the location's 149-year history. With that completed, all 30 shovels scooped a symbolic first shovelful of dirt.
"The economic effect of this—the ripple effect through downtown and the rest of the economy—is huge, from the workers having lunch downtown, to all the suppliers, all the subcontractors, all that activity," Bieter said.
The mayor said the momentum of this and other projects—including the Whole Foods Market and Simplot Family's JUMP project—continue to bring development to the city.
According to Gardner, the building is scheduled for completion in January 2014.