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Eye on Boise: State endowment land may be restaurant site

The recent brouhaha over operation of a mini-storage business on Idaho state endowment land is expanding a bit. Now, a report has surfaced about the state Lands Department seeking proposals from construction managers for a downtown Boise brewpub.

The Boise Guardian blog broke the news last week under the headline, “Land Board to build brewpub?” Some lawmakers already were concerned that the mini-storage deal raised issues about a public entity competing with private businesses.

But Kathy Opp, acting director at the Lands Department, said, “We are not going to run a brewpub.” Instead, what’s going on is that a potential tenant for one of a dozen endowment-owned properties in downtown Boise, which include parking lots and commercial properties mostly leased for retail or office use, is interested in opening a restaurant.

“Our current relationships for constructing tenant improvements are all office retail,” Opp said. “Restaurants are potentially very different for that.” To be “responsible,” the department decided it needed to seek proposals from different construction managers, she said.

The construction manager RFP identifies the site as a one-story 1915 building at Ninth and Bannock streets. “It’s currently got some retail space in it and some vacant,” Opp said. Negotiations would determine which parts of the improvements are paid for by the tenant, she said.

The state endowment, a land trust that benefits public schools and other state institutions like the University of Idaho, owns property in downtown Boise as a result of a land exchange conducted between 1998 and 2000, when it acquired it as part of swap involving cottage sites and forestland. Two state agencies, the Public Utilities Commission and the Endowment Fund Investment Board, rent space in endowment-owned buildings; the remaining tenants are “mostly private firms,” Opp said.

Capital comes to Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake, Idaho, population 1,945, will be the state’s “Capital for a Day” on Aug. 31. It’s part of Gov. Butch Otter’s series of meetings in different Idaho towns, to which he brings a slew of senior state officials and members of his Cabinet for an all-day gathering open to local citizens, who get an opportunity to ask questions or seek information.

This month’s event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Community Senior Center, 32564 N. 4th Ave., including a no-host lunch at noon at the city park with Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Spirit Lake Mayor Todd Clary.

Tale for redistricters

Before Idaho’s citizen redistricting commission took a break this week to try to work on compromises, Democratic Commissioner Julie Kane shared a story, saying, “Maybe it’ll help with our mindset when we take some time to go over maps.” She said a friend of hers works for the Navajo tribe in their legal department, and recently was having a busy day at work when her husband called, reminding her that it was their anniversary. He offered to cook dinner if she’d pick up a bottle of wine at the grocery store on the way home, which she did.

Coming out of the store, she saw a Navajo elder woman whom she knew, and offered her a ride home. On the way, as the miles rolled by, the older woman asked what was in the bag. Kane’s friend responded, “Oh, that’s a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.” The Navajo woman responded, “Good trade.”

“We may all place different values on different things,” Kane said amid laughter. She encouraged all the commissioners to “take a look at where we’re at now and where we can move, to get to where we need to go for the people of Idaho.” She later said the story was apocryphal — “just a joke” — but it seemed to make an impression, as the redistricters ended on a more conciliatory note after their latest round of meetings.