Modular buildings or urban brownstones: proposals for workforce housing downtown near Boise River

Don Day
BoiseDev.com EXCLUSIVE

CCDC is hoping to achieve its goal of additional workforce housing in the River Street/Myrtle district with a request for proposals for a parcel it owns on Ash St near River St.

The site is near the Boise River and sits on the Pioneer Pathway which links the Greenbelt & Ann Morrison Park to Downtown Boise near JUMP. It also is near the Giraffe Laugh non-profit early learning center.

Two proposals were submitted - one by a group that includes GGLO and deChase Miksis, and another from a team led by Gardner Co.

The deChase proposal aimed for the higher end of the workforce housing pricing threshold, whereas the Gardner concept aimed for the lower area.

An initial Q&A meeting was hosted on Tuesday where developers presented their proposals, which BoiseDev attended. 

GGLO/deChas Miksis

The team wants to build 31 townhome-style apartments on the .7-acre site.  Twenty-three of those would featured three bedrooms and a single-car garage and rent for $1,750 per month - which is at the higher end of CCDC's target for workforce housing pricing.

The remaining eight apartments would be styled as flats, with one bedroom and street parking. Those would fetch $1,100 per month.

"The mix of uses includes townhomes, flats, boutique retail, open space, and pedestrian-supported amenities," according to the proposal. A coffee shop is illustrated in one proposed rendering.

A deChase Miksis spokesperson noted that it chose for town homes because of a current abundance of typical apartment projects in Boise. The idea here was to build a project with more family-friendly units with more bedrooms - and potential for sale of the individual townhomes in the future.

The concept would also feature parking tucked under a hillside that would slope down to the adjacent Hayman House site. Above the parking would be a grass hillside with an amphitheater and outdoor classroom which would tie into a park to the west.

The deChas Miksis group would guarantee workforce rates through 2025.

They also hope to extend a geo-thermal line that currently runs down River St. to the site and are asking for public tax dollars from CCDC to help offset those costs.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter noted the "pretty" nature of the renderings and said he hoped to see more realistic renderings without grown-up trees in the images.

The project is estimated to cost $7.3 million and would be complete in December of 2018.

Renderings, site plan, floor plan:

Gardner Co.

Gardner's proposal is a bit different - in that it proposes more, smaller units. The company behind the 8th & Main Building and City Center Plaza wants to create 36 units, with a dozen two-bedroom apartments renting for $1,100/month and 24 studios for $950/month.

The project would also include "An area for food truck vendors, open park space, ample parking, and outdoor space for tenants will complement the functionality of the building."

A southern courtyard with fire pit, picnic tables and a gathering spot helps connect to the nearby park and Pioneer Pathway.

The Gardner team looked at current workers in its buildings around downtown and noted it saw a lot of single folks. They felt that one and two-bedroom units best fit that audience and gave the project the best chance for success. The aim is for roommate situations or young families with a single child.

The idea for this project would be to use prefabricated modular units that are put into place like "building blocks."

Nashua Builders is currently working on a school project in Jackson, WY - where they are fabricating similar modules in the Treasure Valley and trucking them over the border for installation on site. The units in the Ash St. project could be built over the course of about a month, according to a spokesperson.

That concept would allow Gardner's team to move fast,  with construction starting by the end of February and completed by late April - with the first tenants moving in by May.

Fast may mean compromises elsewhere.  

"That's a pretty blocky, generic look," Boise Mayor Dave Bieter commented during the public meeting.

"While I think that there are certainly some design elements that we need to work on, we are trying to meet a need for workhouse for our tenants," Gardner's Tommy Ahlquist said. "This achieves this. It's not high-end housing, it's workforce housing, which we need. That's our MO. It's not coming in here and painting a picture we can't ever achieve."

Renderings, site plan, floor plan:

Conclusions

The panel generally voiced a preference for the deChase Miksis proposals due to the higher end design and materials, as well as integration with the Hayman House and concealed parking.

Bieter noted that the projects are very different which made comparing them difficult. CCDC staff said that the Gardner proposal was at about the 90% threshold of current workforce housing thresholds, and  the deChase proposal came in at 110%.

A final decision is expected at a meeting on December 12th.

Don Day

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