Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Hoff Up For Sale; Homes Away From Home Planned for Central Addition Houses

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 9:43 AM

The 80-plus year old Hoff Building in downtown Boise is for sale.

The Idaho Business Review reports that the Hoff, currently owned by a group that includes John Comick, Patrick March, Jim Tomlinson and Darryl Wong, went on the market on Friday, March 20, and is being listed by Colliers International.

IBR reports that the 14-story Art Deco building is currently managed by Tomlinson & Associates. According to its current leasing agency, The Hoff has 86,791 square feet of leasable space and is linked to Boise's geothermal line.

Meanwhile, a lifeline has been tossed to some of the last remaining historic homes in Boise's Central Addition. In Wednesday's Boise Weekly, we'll have details on plans to move, salvage and/or deconstruct five of the homes that were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The cluster of homes, on Fifth Street between Broad and Myrtle streets, needs to be moved for a planned  six-story, 160-unit residential/commercial complex.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Boise Council Asked to Earmark More Funds for Circulator Analysis

Posted By on Sun, Jan 11, 2015 at 9:18 AM

The city of Boise is preparing to roll more money toward its ongoing analysis on whether Boise should have a downtown circulator—Lately, Boise officials prefer using the term "circulator" instead of trolley or streetcar.

It has been over a year since Boise got back on board the idea of having a transit system downtown. In February 2014, Boise and the URS Corporation, which was hired by the city to oversee the analysis, asked citizens to draw their own ideas on maps: Most of them sketched out loops that ran north-south or east-west. According to feedback from the February 2014 open house, 54 percent of citizens said they preferred rail service, 26 percent wanted a circulating bus line. In September 2014, planners hosted two two-hour workshops for invited guests, which were mostly downtown property owners and tenants.

Now, the first stage of that analysis is in the home-stretch, but planners apparently need more money. On Tuesday, Jan. 13, the Boise City Council will be asked to route an additional $75,000 into the project, sliding the funds from the Public Works Department's management and operations account to the department's capital improvement plan account.  

Planners say the "scope" of the analysis changed when they decided to expand the study area and increase the number and type of public outreach events, which is why they need the additional funds, they say. The Public Works Department ended Fiscal Year 2014 with a $75,000 end-of-year contingency savings, triggering the proposed transfer.
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Boise Planners Want Street-Level Residences in Downtown Core

Posted By on Sat, Jan 10, 2015 at 9:40 AM

City of Boise planners say they want to make a "significant" change to the Central Business District zoning ordinance and the standards-and-design guidelines for Boise's downtown core.

The ordinance currently prohibits ground floor residences in the C-5 (Central Business District) zone. The original intent was to encourage mixed-use development such as retail and restaurants for active street-level areas. But the the city recently set an ambitious goal to introduce 1,000 new downtown residential units within the next five years. Planners say the current zoning, which encourages retail at ground-level is "unrealistic from a market standpoint." Additionally, planners say "achieving an active 24-hour presence Downtown can energize the street." 

However, there are challenges with putting a living room (or bedroom or kitchen, etc.) at eye-level of passers-by. That's why planners say the units will require creative designs to put appropriate facades along the street.

"This can be accomplished by incorporating a variety of features including windows and doors in appropriate locations," Planning Director Hal Simmons wrote to the Boise City Council and Mayor Dave Bieter. "The planning team believes this concern is most appropriately addressed on a case-by-case basis."

The Boise City Council will take up the issue on Tuesday, Jan. 13 when it will be asked to adopt the amendment to the zoning ordinance, which planners say will "allow additional residences within walking distance of employment and the countless amenities and services downtown."

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Northwest Neighborhood Residents Will Push Back Against Proposed Apartments at Tonight's Boise Council Meeting

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Opponents of a proposed development, which would see hundreds of apartments pop up north of State Street just west of Gary lane, say they'll be out in force this evening to tell the Boise City Council how much they don't want to see the complex.

Boise Planning and Zoning Commissioners initially denied the application for the project after neighborhood residents pushed back against the original plans to build 320 apartments on approximately 170,000 square feet. But developers came back to P and Z with a revised plan of 312 apartments on about 70,000 square feet. Neighbors still didn't like the idea but P and Z approved the plan from Hawkins Companies and Bach Homes.

And now the development comes before the Boise City Council this evening, which will have the final say—but not before neighbors say they'll once again voice their opposition.

"We're not trying to stop it completely, but we're trying to find a happy medium for everyone," said spokeswoman Lydia Hamilton. "This parcel is one of the last remaining opportunities for innovative mixed use in our city."

Representatives from Hawkins and Bach are expected to have their say at this evening's city council meeting, but so will more than a few neighbors who aren't pleased with the possibility that lawmakers could green-light the project.

This evening's meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. at Boise City Hall.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

COMPASS Releases Local Growth Scenarios

Posted By on Sat, Jun 2, 2012 at 12:00 PM

When Boise City Council members meet for a work session on Tuesday, June 5, a review of growth scenarios compiled by the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho will take center stage.

That document includes four growth scenario maps as part of an update to regional transportation plans. Jobs, housing availability and variety, traffic, schools and other details factor into the planning group's figures.

Total population projected for the Boise Planning Area is expected to swell to between 301,785 and 336,505 people by the year 2040.

Forecasts for specific area neighborhoods include a projected shrink in Foothills neighborhood population, down from the 13,000 projected for 2035 to 9,900 for all four scenarios. Increases for the Central Bench and significant drops in the downtown and southeast populations are also included. COMPASS projects a drop in the 2035 forecast of 14,213 people to a range of 8,000 to 11,000 people.

The plan also forecasts a significant drop in jobs downtown across all four scenarios. The 2035 forecast was 70,983 jobs, above the 2010 estimate at 30,673. However, the 2040 forecast now shows a range of 42,346 to 47,298.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trader Joe's Rumors Circulate Again

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Whether it’s because of the recent Boise Co-op melodrama or the ongoing Whole Foods hoopla, the rumor mill has started churning once again about Trader Joe’s opening a location in Boise.

To see if there was anything behind the buzz, Citydesk dialed up Cece Gassner, assistant for economic development at the City of Boise.

“I haven’t heard this latest rumor,” said Gassner. “I do know that Trader Joe’s is always looking for new markets, and Boise is definitely one they are looking at because of the retail gap that we have in specialty grocery here. From time to time I know that they take a look at different places, but I am not aware that they’ve actually signed something or that they’re close to signing for any particular property.”

Asked specifically whether TJ’s might open a location in the now-vacant former Ridley’s Market space on Bogus Basin road, Gassner had this to say:

“I’ve heard they’re looking at [Ridley’s] just because it used to be a grocery store, so of course it would be something fairly easy for them to kind of step into,” said Gassner. “My understanding is that they’ve also looked at places that are out … closer to the mall just because of its proximity to 84 and the ease with which folks from Ontario and Mountain Home can get out here. So they’ve kind of looked all over, my understanding is that they’re sort of keeping options open.”

A potential drawback for Trader Joe's opening a local store, Gassner noted, is Boise's relative distance from the nearest distribution center.

"One serious issue … is the distance that we are from their closest distribution center," said Gassner. "So that’s something that, from a logistics standpoint, I know they are constantly going to be looking at, and I am not sure where they are right now, to be honest, with their decision."

Hal Simmons, planning director at the City of Boise, also hasn’t heard anything concrete about Trader Joe’s coming to town in the immediate future.

“Nobody’s talked to us about the site or about Trader Joe’s. I’m not saying it’s not happening but nobody’s come in and talked to us about it yet,” said Simmons.

Trader Joe’s couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

P & Z Haikus

Posted By on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Last night's Planning and Zoning committee meeting chugged on for a good 90 minutes before commissioners began reconsidering the proposed downtown Whole Foods development.

With ample time to mull over conditional use permits and variances—or stare blankly at the majestic Native American-inspired carpeted wall mural jutting up behind the commissioners' heads—we decided to whip out some sexy P&Z haikus to keep things entertaining. Here are a few:

Christmas garland winds
around laptops, name placards.
Commission says, "Aye."

Emotionless tone:
"Motion to reconsider.
Please ignore photos."

We disagree on
vinyl siding and concrete
but it's not over.

A public comment.
Quivering cottonmouth, cane:
"I will miss the pond."

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Planning and Zoning Unanimously Approves Whole Foods

Posted By on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 11:49 AM

“We’re ecstatic,” beamed Brad Schlosser, president of Schlosser Development, amid a sea of back-pats at the Dec. 6 Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. This was the third time in two months that the Austin, Texas-based developer had traveled to Boise to make his case for a proposed 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery and adjacent 15,000-square-foot Walgreens retail store, which would both occupy the vacant lot bordered by Broadway Avenue and Front and Myrtle streets.

Though initial requests to rezone the long-fallow 5.66 acre site from residential/office to commercial were shot down at an Oct. 4 P&Z meeting, the developers were granted a reconsideration on the grounds that they tweak their proposal to better comply with the River-Myrtle Plan, and apply for a special exception for the Walgreens drive-through instead of a rezone.

“The special exception … applies to a specific-use project, it does not change the range of uses allowed or the dimensional standards of the existing zone,” explained P&Z City Planner Cody Riddle. “The special exception is only required for the small retail building at the corner. The grocery store … is a conditionally allowed use.”

New plans presented at the Dec. 6 meeting by Schlosser’s Rick Duggan included a number of changes: a 10 percent decrease in surface parking spaces, reductions in parking setbacks, alterations to the Walgreens retail drive-through and a pedestrian node adjacent to Julia Davis Park to shield the buildings from the street.

“With its polished-granite boulders rising from shallow pools surrounded by evergreens and seating areas, this corner will become an important landmark for the surrounding community,” explained Duggan.

But one element that was not altered was a request for small (3-8 feet) variances from front and street-side building setbacks. Citing no obvious hardships, P&Z staff recommended denying the variances. But Schlosser explained their necessity.

“The hardship is the fact that we are proposing that we build the project in a phased arrangement … you would therefore push phase two into a situation where you would disorient the opportunity to build structured parking, the very essence of the vertical mixed use,” said Schlosser.

“Every foot counts here,” added Duggan.

Property owner Jim Kissler also assured commissioners that phase two of the project—vertical mixed-use retail and residential development—will proceed as planned.

“I’ll continue to own the 1.77 acres that’s going to be the space for future development,” said Kissler. “It’s got to go vertical for the amount of money we’ve got in the total lot.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the CUP and the variances, and to recommend approval of the special exception for the drive-through to City Council on the condition that both buildings are completed within six months of each other.

“The next step is to go in front of the Design Review committee … and to get the plans started so that we can start construction by the second or third quarter of next year,” said Schlosser.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Caldwell an exurb?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 9:58 PM

In his lead to the recent New York Times story on boise's smog problem, William Yardley refers to Caldwell, in relation to Boise, as, "this high-desert capital and its outermost exurb."

Exurbia is a term that has come of vogue in recent years, earning mentions on NPR, dropped into magazine articles and about to be Twittered by citydesk. Our layman's understanding of "exurban" is that it is an area to which suburbanites might flee as the city encroaches on their once-tranquil white picket existence.

We have looked it up before, but that was our rough understanding until now. Needless to say, we have not used the term in print, since we don't really know what it means.

But Yardley's usage threw us for a loop: How could Caldwell be an exurb, if there is a barely an urb here? 

A recent Brookings Institution report on exurbia appears to agree with our instincts, mapping zero exurbia in the state of Idaho and little to no exurbs in the Mountain West.
It defines exurbs as: "communities located on the urban fringe that have at least 20 percent of their workers commuting to jobs in an urbanized area, exhibit low housing density, and have relatively high population growth."

Some of this fits Caldwell and Boise's other western outskirts as well; lots of commuters, sprawl and influx of new residents. So the New York Times is not completely off base. 
Brookings continues: "Not yet full fledged suburbs, but no longer wholly rural in nature, these exurban areas are reportedly undergoing rapid change in population, land use, and economic function."

But the Brookings breakdown breaks down at the size of Boise Metropolitan Statistical Area in that it's less than 500,000 people. So nowhere in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana can be considered exurban.

While Canyon County certainly has some exurban characteristics, it seems a bit presumptuous to characterize it that way. But maybe we should write an article about it to find out what exurbia really means before up and blogging about it.

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