"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 to 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 the 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 ... [Hopefully] we can start construction by the second or third quarter of next year," said Schlosser.