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Alive After Five: Plan B(asque Block) or Plan C(apitol Park)?

"We see this as an opportunity to help support businesses and provide a great temporary location."


City of Boise officials think it's not such a bad problem to have: What to do in order to accommodate more downtown development?

So, while some City Hall departments are gearing up for a Monday, March 3, meeting where the Gardner Company hopes to move forward with its next big vision--an underground transit center and accompanying above-ground convention and meeting space at the Grove Plaza--other city departments want to help accommodate Alive After Five, presuming that the Wednesday night summer concert series will have to clear out of the Grove during the height of construction.

Sponsored by the Downtown Boise Association, Alive After Five has been a primary draw to the downtown core for more than a quarter-century. So, when Gardner announced its plans to dig up a healthy chunk of the Grove to build its subterranean transit center, the obvious next question was: What might happen to Alive After Five?

"With any luck, there will be a lot of disruption," joked Capital City Development Corporation Director John Brunelle. "Yes, what to do about Alive After Five might be keeping her awake at night."

"Her" is DBA Executive Director Karen Sander, who said first and foremost Alive After Five will indeed kick off its 28th season on the Grove Plaza Wednesday, June 4, and will probably continue Wednesday evenings on the Grove through July. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess.

"Our plan is stay on the Grove as long as possible, maybe with a different configuration. Maybe we'll put the stage in the middle of the plaza and face west," Sander told Boise Weekly. "Beyond that, it depends on where [Gardner Co.'s] designs will be. But we're at the table with them, looking at a number of options--Plan B or Plan C. It's a 'wait and see' game."

But city of Boise officials don't want to wait; they're already talking about a "Plan B," as in Boise's Basque Block, and "Plan C," as in Capitol Park.

In fact, the Boise Parks and Recreation Department wants to make it as easy as possible for the DBA to move Alive at Five over to Capitol Park, across from the Idaho Statehouse, if the DBA so chooses.

"We see this as an opportunity to help support businesses and provide a great temporary location," Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway told BW.

Holloway has already secured approval from the Parks and Recreation Commission to recommend to the Boise City Council that a special accommodation be granted to DBA so that alcohol can be sold in Capitol Park during Alive After Five.

"It's all about being a good partner with the DBA and a good neighbor with downtown businesses," Commission President Stacie Curry told BW, whose eight-member board voted unanimously to recommend the accommodation.

Holloway is also recommending that the city waive any of DBA's user fees if it chooses to move Alive After Five to Capitol Park. The traditional fee for use of the park during the time would be $234 per week, but Holloway told BW that DBA would not need the park all of the time, which would drive down the cost. He estimated that approximately $936 would be waived by the city for the month of August and part of September. The DBA would still be responsible for any rehabilitation to the park in case of damage during Alive After Five. A similar arrangement in 2015 would be renegotiated.

"But we would like to deal with this sooner than later," Holloway told the Parks and Recreation Commission Feb. 20. "We see this as a doable deal."

If indeed Alive After Five finds a temporary home in Capitol Park, the DBA will need more than the city of Boise's approval. It'll also need to turn to the Ada County Highway District, which has authority over city streets.

"This proposal might also require closing off a portion of Jefferson Street in front of the Capitol," said Holloway on Feb. 20. "The park is not large enough to handle the stage, vendors and porta-potties."

Sander told BW that she had been talking to Gardner Co. officials since late 2013, long before Gardner's big announcement that it planned on bringing dramatic change to Boise's downtown core (BW, News, "The Right Time, The Right Place," Feb. 5, 2014).

"We're waiting to hear when they'll be breaking ground," she said.

And that could come sooner than later. Gardner Co. is preparing to unveil more details of its plans at a Monday, March 3, City Hall meeting of the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission. That's where Gardner will ask for a conditional use permit to move forward with its plans to build an underground transit center beneath the U.S. Bank Building, which the developer purchased in October 2013.

In fact, Gardner is already calling its downtown footprint, which includes its recently opened Eighth and Main Tower, the "City Center Plaza."

"We believe that surface parking lots in the Central Business District are an obstacle to development and that they are an incredibly inefficient use of urban space," wrote Gardner V.P. Geoff Wardle in a Jan. 30 letter to Boise city officials. "As the owner of both Eighth and Main and U.S. Bank Plaza, we embrace transit as benefiting our tenants and their customers."

If all goes as planned, the underground transit center and new above-ground corporate, retail and meeting space should be completed in 2016--ideally in time for Alive After Five to return to its home on the Grove Plaza.