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JUMP Approved by P&Z

Commission overturns previous denial

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For a volunteer city commission, Planning and Zoning has dominated the headlines of late. Last week, commissioners green-lighted the long-stalled 5.66-acre Whole Foods development. And on Dec. 13, in front of a packed audience, P&Z unanimously overturned Design Review's Oct. 13, 4-3 vote denying Jack's Urban Meeting Place.

The J.R. Simplot Foundation--which wants to drop $70 million on a 7-acre, eight-story educational and cultural development with above and underground parking--appealed the committee's decision to P&Z, alleging that the committee had overstepped its authority, among other things.

"The commission can reverse the decision of the committee. The commission can retain jurisdiction over this project," said JoAnn Butler, speaking on behalf of the Simplot Foundation.

Though city planning staff recommended approving the project in September with conditions, Design Review denied JUMP in mid-October. The committee cited concerns about the building's elevated parking structure, which includes visible spray-on fireproofing, the project's vague landscaping plan and general worries about the building's architectural design and color scheme.

"The design is overly aggressive and overly complicated and the disparate components distract from its function," said Committee Member Elizabeth Wolf at the Sept. 29 meeting.

But the Simplot Foundation urged P&Z to take another look at the memorial project, which will include an amphitheater, meeting rooms, a rooftop sculpture garden, multi-story slides and artists' studio spaces.

"JUMP is definitely a departure in architectural style," explained Butler. "It does not attempt to mimic existing buildings."

Jon Swarthout, founder of the children's arts center TRICA, urged the commission not to be afraid of "fantastical design."

"We're being given a gift in a package wrapped with a bow on top of it, completely funded by the Simplot Family Foundation and that is worth so much," Swarthout said as the room erupted in applause.

To counter Design Review's arguments that JUMP is merely a parking garage without substantial retail or mixed-use components, the Simplot Foundation dropped a familiar line: future phases. All aspects of the project--from the 26-foot-tall ceilings to the ramp-less, column-less, above-ground steel parking structure design--allow for future development.

"The flexibility is in place to convert spaces within these areas ... they're designed to be retrofitted, converted to office, retail, whatever is required that the market demands later," said Butler.

Ultimately, commissioner Brandy Wilson motioned to overturn the Design Review committee's decision on a technicality.

"When they started talking about floor-area ratio ... that overstepped the bounds of their authority," said Wilson.

Wilson's motion--which also recommended adopting the staff's previous conditions of approval with some exceptions--was unanimously approved. Applause, once again, echoed through the room.

Construction on JUMP could begin as early as next summer.

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