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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Zions Bank

CEO on the five factors that drew Zions Bank to Idaho…

Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, said there were five reasons his company decided to expand in Idaho, the reasons “we decided to make significant investment in this new building just up the street,” the nearly finished office tower at 8th and Main streets in downtown Boise that’s the bank’s new Idaho headquarters. The five? Low energy costs (32% below the national average); low construction costs (4th most cost-effective place to build in the western U.S.); educated workforce, in that the state ranks in the top third nationally for the number of adults with a high school diploma; easy transport of goods, including access to the Columbia River system; and high quality of life, from a serious crime rate 21 percent below average to abundant recreation.

“Each of these five encouraging factors makes the state a very desirous place to live,” Anderson told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference this morning. He also noted that Idaho has the lowest per-capita tax burden in the nation and the nation’s second-lowest property taxes – but didn’t include those factors in his top five. “At Zions, we are very bullish on the future of Idaho,” he said. “We believe in Idaho and so we are investing in Idaho.”

View from 17th story proves it: The infamous ‘Boise Hole’ finally has been filled

It was an icy late-January night in 1987 when my phone rang after 2 a.m.; it was my editor. The long-vacant historic sandstone building downtown that was poised for a big redevelopment project – and about which I’d been writing, as a city hall reporter covering downtown redevelopment - had been “torched,” he said. I needed to get down there.

It was an eerie scene. The Eastman Building was leveled in the spectacular blaze; the distinctive six-story structure on one of downtown Boise’s most prominent corners would not find new life after all. Squatters who set a campfire inside the long-vacant building were blamed for the blaze. What followed seemed typical of the redevelopment wars that had led to that point; the site of the Eastman Building stood vacant for more than two decades, as first one, then another grandiose plan to build there was proposed and abandoned.  For many years, all that was left was a deep hole marked by abandoned spines of rebar.

 The past year marked a dramatic turnaround for the site that long was known as the “Boise Hole.” First, in September of 2011, Zions Bank announced it was planning its new Idaho headquarters in an office tower that would be built at the site. Last July, more than 300 people gathered in the hole for a groundbreaking – complete with a blessing from a representative of the Native American community to ease whatever curses might be plaguing the site. Now, today, less than a year later, the new 8th and Main Tower has risen to its full 18 stories -  making it, just barely, the tallest building in Idaho. (The nearby U.S. Bank building is 19 stories, but the parapet of the new tower rises a few feet higher.)

Today, in a “topping off” ceremony, a signed steel girder was ceremonially placed atop the new tower; it’ll be visible in the future from the tower’s penthouse. Again, several hundred people gathered – this time high above the hole where they gathered back in July, enjoying the 17th-story, 360-degree view above the state Capitol  and the rest of downtown. Kem Gardner, chairman of the Gardner Company, developer of the tower, said, “We all knew that that hole in Boise was holding back the development of the community and that it needed to be filled.”

The new tower is scheduled to open in January of 2014, and so far it’s not only on schedule, on budget and free of serious mishaps, it’s already 81 percent leased, with all of its retail space now taken. “I blew it – I really should’ve done 25 floors on this building,” Gardner told the crowd. “I was scared to death of 18. … Now that I see where we are on this, I say let’s take this off and build another couple floors!”

His son Christian, president and CEO of the firm, said, “The feedback we always had is, ‘Boise is not a pre-leasing market – nobody’s going to sign until the last nail is in the building.’” The project proved that wrong, he said. “It just shows you that Boise is not skeptical – that it is growing, and it is vibrant, and there is an active downtown.” Michael Morris, executive vice president of real estate for Zions Bank, noted that the project was conceived and born in the midst of the worst recession since the Depression. “The recovery is well under way, as evidenced by the leasing and the development of this great project,” he said.

Zions Bank will occupy all or portions of five floors in the new tower. Holland & Hart LLP law firm will take up much of the 15th through 17th floors. A new Ruth’s Chris Steak House will be on the first floor; other tenants include restaurants, a fitness facility, lawyers, consultants, architects, engineers, financiers and the Gardner Company, which will have offices on the 9thfloor. The tower also will include three levels of parking; its total cost is estimated at $76 million and its square footage at 391,930.

Said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, “It’s such a pleasure for all of us to be here. … Since this project began, we have been a city on the rise.” He added that city officials long had to answer the question of “what we’re going to do about the hole in the ground – we’ll never have to answer that question again. The hole is gone forever.”

Groundbreaking marks start of 18-story building to rise from infamous ‘Boise hole’ downtown

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, the Grill at 8th and Main, offices of the Holland & Hart law firm, 1st American Title, the Idaho Fitness Factory and more will join the Idaho headquarters of Zion's Bank in a new 18-story office tower to rise at the corner of 8th and Main streets in downtown Boise, from the infamous “Boise hole” that's stood vacant for a quarter-century. Ground was broken for the office tower today, and Tommy Ahlquist, chief operating officer of the Gardner Co., the developer, announced the tenants.

Also listed: CTA Architects, the Idaho Technology Council and Beck Advisory Group. Ahlquist addressed Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who attended and spoke at the groundbreaking. “Mayor Bieter … thank you for believing in us and not laughing us out of your office the first time I came in and said, 'I think we're going to fill this hole,' ” Ahlquist said.

John May, board chairman of the Capital City Development Corp., Boise's urban renewal agency, said, “As the last kind of major undeveloped parcel in the central business district, I don't have to tell you that this parcel has been a … challenge for many, many years.” It's been vacant since the historic Eastman Building burned to the ground in 1987 in a spectacular overnight fire, just as the long-vacant office building was on the verge of a major renovation; squatters who set a campfire inside were blamed for the mid-winter blaze. Numerous proposals for new buildings there since then have all failed, including one that left tall rebar standing in the hole for years.

Today, more than 300 people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony, at which Christian Gardner, CEO and president of the Gardner Co., said, “I am just honored and excited to be here in this hole.” A representative of the Native American community was brought in to offer a blessing - and ease whatever curses might be afflicting the site. “We want good things to happen here,” said Mike Cutler, a BSU professor, who also drummed and sang a traditional song. “We want good things to happen to all the people … making this a useful and helpful place.”

The new $76 million building is scheduled for completion in January of 2014. It'll have two levels of retail and restaurant space, including a Zions Bank branch, at ground level, with a basement level below, and three levels of parking above connected to the adjacent Eastman Parking Garage behind. Above that will be 12 levels of Class A office space, including two and a half floors for Holland & Hart. Every floor will have showers and the basement level will offer storage to accommodate bicycle commuters; ESI of Meridian will be the lead contractor. Gardner said, “We are excited to be forever changing the Boise skyline with this building.” An elated Bieter said, “I would like to say to Gardner and Co. and to Zion's: Please start filling this hole!”

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.

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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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