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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: downtown Boise

Ground broken for project that includes two long-sought downtown Boise goals, plus new office tower…

The ambitious City Center Plaza project, which includes a new tech-focused nine-story office building, a new underground multi-modal transit center, and a major convention center expansion all in the heart of downtown Boise kicked off with a groundbreaking today, where business and government leaders hailed the public-private partnership. “It’s certainly something that the capital city needs,” declared Gov. Butch Otter, who also joked that he was grateful for “you guys getting me off the hook, because the transit center was going to go right at the corner of 8th and Jefferson at one time.” That’s kitty-corner across from the state Capitol. “The Land Board was against it, the Legislature was against it,” he noted.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said, “Folks, this is a day of gratitude. … I want to express my gratitude to the Legislature, the Land Board and the governor, for turning down a really good project – so we could get to an even better project.”

The new Clearwater Building will be a technology-focused office tower that will include the Boise State University computer science department, which will take up the second and third floors; headquarters for Clearwater Analytics, a software firm that will occupy five floors; and restaurant and retail space. The Boise Center convention center will see its current meeting and event space nearly double. The transit center below will be a hub for ValleyRide buses, park-and-ride, vanpools, carpools, shuttles, taxis and more. The whole project, put together by Gardner Company, which recently completed the 8th & Main building just across Main Street, will cost $45 million and is scheduled to open in mid-2016. “We love Boise – we love the state of Idaho,” Christian Gardner, Gardner Co. president and CEO.

The 8th & Main Building filled a gaping hole in Boise’s downtown core that had stood vacant since the historic Eastman Building burned in 1986, despite repeated, failed attempts to develop the site. Now, the City Center Plaza project is taking on two more long-planned but long-unrealized downtown goals: Convention center expansion, to allow Boise to host larger conventions for which is currently doesn’t have large enough facilities, and a transit center. David Zaremba, a board member with Valley Regional Transit, said, “We’ve looked forward to a day like this for a long time.”

Tommy Ahlquist, Gardner Co. chief operating officer and head of the firm’s Idaho operations, invited the big crowd at the groundbreaking to stay on this afternoon for the USA vs. Belgium World Cup soccer game, for which the company is hosting a public viewing party in the Grove plaza complete with a giant TV screen and beer garden. “We are pleased to bring together so many great organizations with a common vision for our downtown,” Ahlquist said. “City Center Plaza will anchor and transform the heart of the city for decades to come.”

Alleged burglar picks wrong target - squad car with officers just feet away…

Of all the targets for a burglary, a Nyssa, Ore. man picked one of the worst early Sunday morning. He was in downtown Boise at 6th and Main streets at 2:15 a.m. – a busy time, just after the bars close – and police officers in marked cars were on the scene, responding to a report of a hit-and-run collision with a bicyclist, who turned out not to be badly hurt. The officers were just feet away from their car, interviewing people including numerous witnesses, when Juan Jose Vasquez, 25, allegedly opened the front passenger door of the squad car, leaned in and started rummaging through the officers’ stuff. The officers saw him, shouted at him and grabbed him, and he was holding a metal box containing paperwork and supplies for writing police reports that he’d picked up from the passenger seat.

Now Vasquez is in the Ada County Jail facing a felony burglary charge; he was appointed a public defender and has a preliminary hearing set for June 24. “Usually officers are not very far away from their vehicles,” said Boise Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower, making burglarizing a squad car on-scene “not a good idea.”

Construction begins to refill Boise’s long-vacant downtown ‘hole’

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — There is finally some evidence that the infamous hole in downtown Boise will be filled with a new building. Crews on Monday began removing street signs and making other preparations for the demolition of concrete, rebar and other materials littering the vacancy at the corner of 8th and Main streets. A small crane will also be installed this week to help remove materials from the site — jokingly referred to in Boise as “The Hole.” The property has been vacant since fire destroyed the Eastman building in 1987. Several developers have proposed projects for the site since, but all efforts have failed. Current plans call for a 16-story, 268,000-square-foot building anchored by Zions Bank. Demolition and foundation preparation will take up to six weeks before vertical construction gets under way.

New hope for filling the big hole in the heart of downtown Boise

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Meridian developer says he has signed a contract to buy a prime chunk of real estate in downtown Boise that has been vacant for years. Officials from The Gardner Co. say they have agreed to buy the parcel on the corner of 8th and Main streets from Capps Holdings LLC, which acquired the land in a foreclosure auction two years ago. Gardner Co. Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist said Wednesday the deal hinges on resolving a handful of issues. He says the company is doing a study to determine what kind of project best fits the property. The site has been vacant since 1987 and is nothing more than a hollow pit. Financial and legal problems scuttled previous plans to build a 25-story tower at the site.

Incidentally, the site became vacant back in '87 when the historic Eastman Building, a grand, multistory sandstone structure that had been vacant for years but for which restoration plans had just been announced, caught fire in the middle of an icy night, thanks to a squatter's campfire, and burned to the ground. I covered the fire as a young reporter for the Statesman, after having just spent a couple of days amassing info on the building's history for a planned story on its looming renovation as part of the city's downtown redevelopment; that evaporated with the flames. Boise's been awaiting the next step ever since.

Art with a message in downtown Boise…

Art with a message went up in downtown Boise today, as a new anti-hunger mural was unveiled on the south wall of the infamous big hole in the center of downtown. The mural proclaims “HUNGER AFFECTS EVERYONE,” and features striking 3-D images of an empty fridge and an empty cupboard, with a shopping list on one cupboard door listing such basics as bread, milk, eggs and soup. As contributions are made to feed the hungry, the empty cupboard and refrigerator will fill with food; the mural is scheduled to be up until January. It’s a collaboration between the city of Boise’s Art and History Department, Boise Young Professionals, Wirestone, which donated the design work, and the Idaho Foodbank. Also contributing to the project were Hewett-Packard, Home Depot, Thriftway Home Center, Food Services America, and Signs 2 U.

As the work was unveiled this morning, a knot of volunteers and passers-by gathered across Main Street to watch; the 3-D images, which don’t look like much up close, stand out in the view from across the street and for motorists driving by. The mural also features information about food drives and other anti-hunger events.

“During uncertain times, more and more Idahoans are seeking emergency food assistance, many for the first time,” the Idaho Foodbank said in an announcement about the project. More than 40 percent of those seeking its assistance have a family member who’s working; more than 70 percent of households seeking help did so because their income has temporarily dropped below $10,000 per year.

The wall that serves as a barrier around the hole in the center of downtown Boise has played host to an array of murals over the years; behind it, an unfinished foundation and jutting rebar testify to a giant office tower that never was built, one of a series of failed redevelopment proposals on the site that once was the home of the historic Eastman Building. That structure, vacant and on the verge of a historic renovation, burned to the ground in a spectacular midwinter nighttime fire two decades ago; it’s the last remaining piece of Boise’s original downtown redevelopment zone that’s never been successfully filled back in.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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