Memo to Mayor Dave Bieter:
Save the date: Wednesday, July 9.
More than a year ago, when hizzoner heard local businessman Clay Carley's grand design to bring new life to the century-old Owyhee Plaza--to turn it from a past-its-expiration-date hotel into a vibrant downtown mixed-use apartment/retail/office meeting space--Bieter took one look at the plans and announced, "I would love to throw back the first cocktail on the rooftop." (BW, News, "At the Owyhee, Everything Old is New Again," April 17, 2013).
"It will definitely be July 9. We'll have a grand opening celebration and, yes, that will include the rooftop," Mike Brown, co-owner of L.A.-based company Local Construct and Carley's partner in the Owyhee development, told Boise Weekly. "And it will be quite an evening."
In April 2013, Carley told BW his first impressions of the Owyhee were "that it was old, tired and needed a lot of work. But the other side of my brain was screaming 'economics!' At the right price, I thought I could do a lot. I just didn't know what that was."
"That" has become one of the most-buzzed-about downtown renovations in recent memory, as Carley and Brown prepare to swing the doors open to new office and retail space, and begin leasing apartments that they're branding as "clean, green, efficient [and] modern."
"We'll have 36 units available, beginning in July. Four of them are studios," said Brown, adding that the spaces will be "roughly 700 square feet, some a little more, some a little less. This is targeting young professionals who live downtown."
But Brown said interest in the downtown units is also coming from baby boomers looking to dial down from their lifestyles.
"It's an interesting waiting list," he said.
The public will immediately notice the change to the Owyhee's first floor, no longer a stuck-in-time hotel lobby, but a combination of some of the Owyhee's original architecture and newer features, including a revamped restaurant, which replaces the old Plaza Grill, and bar. The main floor will also feature long library-style tables.
"We're really taking a swing on building a new downtown, wireless, public space for people to hang out," said Brown.
What will fill the corner once inhabited by the old Gamekeeper Restaurant, though, is still unknown. Brokers have reached out to what they say are some "well-respected restaurateurs in Idaho, Oregon and Washington," and though they have had some interest for more casual-style eateries, according to Brown, they're still holding out to get "something special."
Meanwhile, Boise-based Tapia Family Catering has secured the full-time contract to operate the first floor grill, to be named "Tapia's at Owyhee," as well as all catering for the meeting room, ballroom and penthouse, totaling nearly 15,000 square feet.
Businesses will come into the second through sixth floors of the Owyhee's main building, while the 46 apartment units will be housed in the western half of the complex. Additionally, the basement will include a new gym, lockers and showers for tenants and business owners.
Brown, whose company has specialized in renovating historic buildings into modern apartments in the Los Angeles and Denver markets, said the idea of introducing downtown living to Boise after a vibrant downtown was already flourishing turns the traditional model on its ear.
"Normally, cities introduce downtown housing, which spurs other amenities," he said. "But in Boise, there's good bars and restaurants, tons of jobs and a pretty OK retail presence. And now, we're bringing in housing for young professionals. It will only be a catalyst for more amenities, but we're not starting from scratch."
In fact, his company already owns a currently vacant parcel at 15th and Bannock streets, also downtown.
"Sure, we hope to get some apartments there, too," Brown said.