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Can You Keep a Secret?

Welcome to the game show: Name That Store

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Nobody's talking -- at least on the record -- but private developers and public planners have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements, triggering Boise's newest guessing game: Which store has its eye on a prime parcel of Boise real estate?

Here's a hint. The leading contender's initials are: T.J. Oh, heck, it's Trader Joe's.

Soon after Boise Weekly first broke the story (BW, News, "Retail Square Proposed," Nov. 28, 2012) that architects have crafted plans to turn a 1.7-acre parking lot, framed by Capitol Boulevard, Front, Sixth and Broad streets, into a square of four retailers, city officials and developers quickly closed ranks and didn't offer any details.

"I'm not trying to be coy, but I do have confidentiality on this," Scott Schoenner, partner at Ranelli Rafanelli and Nahas Real Estate, owners of the land, told BW. "A developer made us an offer, which we accepted, and we're going through the due diligence now."

Developers have a Wednesday, Dec. 12, date with the Boise Design Review Committee in hopes of securing a conditional use permit for the property.

"We totally welcome this," said Cece Gassner, economic development assistant to Mayor Dave Bieter, who pointed to the recent evolution of the Front Street corridor from BODO to the newly opened Whole Foods Store on Broadway Avenue.

"That's an area that is truly ripe for development," Gassner said. "There are so many interesting parcels there and this is one of them. It's a gateway to the downtown, as well as that whole corridor leading down to Broadway. Anytime you see a parcel like that being developed, if lifts up the whole area."

But Gassner wasn't confirming any talk about Trader Joe's either. She did confirm that developers had already visited City Hall with nondisclosure forms in hand.

Developers also visited Anthony Lyons, executive director of the Capital City Development Corporation, but he said it wasn't his practice to sign any nondisclosures.

"So, they wouldn't tell me who the tenant was or wasn't. But I've got a pretty good sense of these things," Lyons told BW.

The developers' proposed blueprint for the largest of the four retail buildings -- approximately 13,060 square feet -- looks extremely familiar to anyone who has ever visited a Trader Joe's, the specialty grocer that has more than 350 stores in nine states, offering gourmet foods and its iconic Three Buck Chuck wine. The Boise designs reveal aisles, check-outs and huge coolers similar to the Trader Joe's footprint.

"Oh Lord: Please bring Trader Joe's to Boise. Whole Foods needs a plain but honest friend," tweeted a Boise woman at the @TraderJoesBoise Twitter account. Not to be undone, the Bring Trader Joe's to Boise Facebook page currently boasts more than 4,600 "likes."

"The developers have a site plan, and that plan is based on the tenants that the developers see going into those buildings," said Lyons. "If the city approves those plans, I would imagine that they would announce their tenants pretty soon after that."

That is, if everyone involved can still keep a secret.

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