"Always put the speakers in the sun and the listeners in the shade," joked Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.
The event was meant to showcase the plaza as a model of cooperation between business and government in urban development.
"We need more public-private partnerships like this," said Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Richard Krochalis.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch described such partnerships as fundamentally American, as opposed to business or government "going it alone."
"This is emblematic of the way things are done in America," he said. "This is one of the most fiscally responsible states in America."
Previously, Valley Regional Transit had plans to build a multi-modal transit center—now part of the plans for the City Center Plaza—near the Idaho Statehouse, but the Department of Lands blocked that outcome, which paved the way for the plaza.
"I'm thankful for Kem and Gardner Company for getting me off the hook," said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.
Some stakeholders in the project, notably Valley Regional Transit and the Greater Boise Auditorium District, said that they, as well as the city, have much to gain from the new facility.
"The notion persisted that Boise could be a destination for conventions. This project is sure to draw more than a few 'Eureka!' moments," said GBAD Chair Jim Walker.
"It seemed like the location was a sticking point, but the multi-modal transit center will serve as a gateway for downtown commuters and tourists," said David Zaremba of Valley Regional Transit.
The $45 million, 370,000-square-foot plaza will include office space for Clearwater Analytics, two floors totaling 50,000 square feet of classrooms and laboratories for Boise State University computer science students and commercial spaces for shops and restaurants. The attached multi-modal transit center will be approximately 55,000 square feet and house eight of the city's 12 bus stages. Its total project cost is estimated to be $11.9 million.
It is estimated to be complete by the third quarter of 2016.
Crowds Ponder Big Changes to Boise Grove
Construction is the new normal for downtown Boise, from the building of Simplot's JUMP, the raising of the 8th and Main tower, the renovation of the Owyhee, the installation and removal of buffered bike lanes, and now, Gardner Company's largest project yet: the new City Center Plaza.
The Grove filled with a couple hundred people who watched as Gardner Company made their official announcement this morning. Beside the stage, a giant sign depicted the future of the Grove: a nine-story building with office space for Clearwater Analytics, classrooms for Boise State University, and commercial space for shops and restaurants; and a five-story building for convention space and retail. Beneath the Grove will be a multi-modal transit center center.
Chamber of Commerce member Ray Stark stood before the sign, animatedly explaining what buildings will go where. Former first lady of Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Patricia Kempthorne, listened closely.
"My husband broke ground for this first convention center," Kempthorne said, referring to the Boise Centre. "That [convention center] was the start. It was a huge change back then, in 1989, and now this will be, too."
Today, everyone had their backs to that building. The new plaza will change more than the Grove; several people in the crowd said they'll feel the change in their own lives.
For AJ Adams, it means a new office. He's a 25-year-old "I.T. guy" at Clearwater Analytics. Right now, half of his company's offices are in the Banner Bank building and the other are in the same building as D.L. Evans.
"No more having to walk across the street when you need to talk to someone," Adams said. He's looking forward to a balcony on the building that will overlook the Grove, and events like Alive After Five. But for the next two years while the Grove is under construction, Adams has to find another bike route.
"Since the bike lanes were taken out, I started riding through the Grove," he said. "Not anymore."
Also straddling a bike and "witness[ing]" the groundbreaking was Steven Ziegler, an employee at the Taphouse, across Main Street from the Grove. He said the development will change the downtown area in a good way for business-owners.
"It will bring more business to the Taphouse," he said. As far as the construction goes, "What's new? We're used to construction. It took them awhile to build the Zion Bank building, too. It's nothing new for the downtown area."'
Randy Miller also hopes for more business from the new development. He started the Boise Pedicab Company, a rickshaw service, last year. He said anytime there's restaurants, that means fares.
But he didn't realize how big the new development is, and the Grove is one of his best pockets of customers—"kids and grandparents."
"This is a really nice area," he said, scanning the plaza, picturing the changes. "But the mayor is a good man. He cares about us."