Things just seem to break Tommy Ahlquist's way. Following two days of torrential rains, the clouds parted Feb. 15, offering a rain-drenched Boise a practically perfect spring-like evening for Gardner and Co.—which Ahlquist serves as chief operating officer—and its grand opening party for the Eighth and Main Tower. A day-long street party, which was as wide as the tower is tall, included a food truck rally, a beer garden (which was much more beer than garden) and a family-friendly tent of arts and crafts activities.
As day edged into twilight, the Goo Goo Dolls, Ra Ra Riot and Allen Stone held sway from a stage which Boise officials were all too happy to block off Main Street traffic for.
Ultimately, Ahlquist was surrounded by a number of private and public officials at 6 p.m. to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the tallest building in Idaho.
But Ahlquist had to supply the optimism four years ago, when he sat in the office of what he said was a "prominent Boise attorney" and talked about Ahlquist's hopes of turning the so-called "Boise Hole" into a shimmering tower of commerce.
"He started laughing. And he wouldn't stop," Ahlquist recalled. "He said, 'This is never going to happen. Never.'"
Even when Ahlquist saw the same attorney years later, as the Eighth and Main Tower began rising from the hole, the lawyer said he "would believe it when the tower was finished."
Citizens know all-too-well of the urban legend that became the Boise Hole, and how Billy Fong, who was evicted from the last building on the Eighth and Main site in the 1970s, had cursed the site. In fact, no other structure stood at the eyesore since 1987.
In October 2013, as the tower neared completion, Ahlquist even had to dance around a minor controversy that erupted when some citizens suggested that the spire on top of the building resembled a spire on a Mormon Church. Some surface materials around the spire and minor lighting changes were made and the complaints faded.
That was then.
On Feb. 15, thousands lined Main and Eighth streets (both of which were blocked off to traffic) to welcome the tower, which includes Zions Bank, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Flatbread Pizza, the Zenergy health club, Fist American Title, CTA architects, the Babcock Design Group, investment adviser D.B. Fitzpatrick, the accounting firm of Clifton Larson Allen and the law firm of Holland and Hart.
Ahlquist now has his eyes set on another prime piece of real estate, right across the street. His company has closed a deal to purchase the U.S. Bank Building—the state's second tallest building. Plans include an elaborate multi-modal transit center to be constructed in the subterranean foundation of the building. Additionally, plans have been unveiled to build new convention and meeting space on the south and west sides of the U.S. Bank Building, allowing the Boise Centre to dramatically increase its convention capacity.
Meanwhile, Ahlquist remains a bit of an enigma. In addition to his visions to reshape Boise's footprint, Ahlquist is a physician and works every other Tuesday evening in the emergency room at St. Luke's downtown Boise medical center.
And, he's been known to quote poetry on occasion. During a June 2013 address before the City Club of Boise, Ahlquist said his personal and professional pursuits could be tied to an 1850 poem penned by Emily Dickinson:
"Luck is not chance—
Fortune's expensive smile
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin