Gardner Co. removed from contract to build Boise library, leaving SLC firm with big construction deal

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Gardner Company is no longer part of a contract to help develop the new Boise Library campus.

The firm, known for its development of the Zions Bank Building, partnered with Okland Construction of Salt Lake City for development and contracting services.

This summer, the city removed Gardner from the contract, as well as local construction company Jordan-Wilcomb – leaving just Okland.

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The moves will take a request for combined development help and construction management and move it toward a multi-million dollar opportunity for Okland.

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Contract won on Gardner’s experience

Documents obtained by BoiseDev show the contract came down to two parties: Gardner/Okland and Oppenheimer/McAlvain.

When a team of city employees met to score the bids, they handed out points in two categories: development experience and construction management experience.

For the development portion, Gardner outscored Oppenheimer by five points.

For the construction management piece, Okland and McAlvain tied.

Screenshot of Boise scoring document

Now, with Gardner out of the project, Okland stands alone.

In other contracts, in the event of a scoring tie, Boise City’s Mike Journee asserts the city can take its pick.

Journee said the removal of Gardner wasn’t related to Tommy Ahlquist’s exit for a new venture, despite the timing. He said the decision was because “that phase of the contract was ending.”

McAlvain Companies principal Torry McAlvain would not comment on the record. Representatives for Oppenheimer Companies would also not comment on the record.

Journee also said it was the city’s intent to unbundle the two pieces once initial development was completed.

[Historic Boise library won’t be artists’ home after all]

Big contract for Okland

In an estimate provided to Boise City Council in December, Okland stands to take in more than $75-million in construction costs from the project if fully built out.

  • $47.13 million for the library
  • $7.85 million for a theater
  • $6.8 million for arts & history
  • $7 million for sitework

The contract is written to limit the work Okland can give to its own workers to 30%, but it still stands to make millions before it pays subcontractors for individual elements of construction. Based on the December estimate that could be more than $20 million.

Jordan-Wilcomb involved… and then not

The initial response to the request for qualifications from the City of Boise by Gardner/Okland did not include Jordan-Wilcomb Construction. The firm joined before the scoring process.

Jordan-Wilcomb owns property across the street that is being eyed for a public-private partnership for parking space for the library.  In its bid award, the City of Boise said it was aware of the potential conflict of interest.

City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee said it was above board.

“We required Jordan-Wilcomb to put the City’s interest first as part of this project. (They could not) consider their financial interest,” Journee said. “If we thought they were doing that, we could remove them. And if you are being forced to make a decision that benefits you instead of the taxpayers – you have to come forward immediately and tell us.”

Journee said Okland and Gardner felt Jordan-Wilcomb brought experience with the site since the company built the initial library complex. He said because Jordan-Wilcomb was not on the RFQ response, city staffers who scored the proposals were not allowed to consider its contributions.  J-W was allowed to be a part of the in-person interviews, however.

Multiple parking sites considered

Boise Public Library
The library branch when it was Salt Lake Hardware Co. Photo courtesy City of Boise

With Jordan-Wilcomb on the CMGC and developer team and a property it owns across the street set to be developed for parking – how much involvement did it have in the selection process?

None, according to Journee and Boise Public Works Director Rob Bousfield.

“Parking is a key part of the project and has been from day one,” Journee said. “Gardner brought in Jordan-Wilcomb with that local connection as part of that contract. In order to protect the taxpayers we said ‘OK fine, but they have to sign this conflict agreement.'”

He said the decision to remove JW from the contact was made on June 26th, though the City did not sign off on the change until October.  

Journee said the city evaluated a number of properties for parking, including the FedEx Office site, property the City of Boise owns occupied by Biomark and Julia Davis Park.

Ultimately, leaders made the decision to form the partnership for parking with Jordan-Wilcomb and redevelop the current Foothills School site.

“The process for selecting (the Jordan-that property was one of elimination as more anything,” Journee said. “It was decided on by the project team.” 

He said none of the parties to the contract – including J-W, Gardner or Okland – provided input.

Many questions surround library project

The Boise Library redevelopment has undergone intense scrutiny since its formal announcement last year.

This weekend, former Boise State president Bob Kustra joined a group of leaders calling for a public vote for the library and unrelated stadium project.

“Given the enormity of these two projects in terms of cost and space in a city facing serious congestion issues, city residents deserve the same consideration that taxpayers of school districts have when districts go to the voters for bond issues, often for amounts less costly than these two projects total,” Kustra wrote in an op-ed.

Last fall, BoiseDev uncovered travel expenses billed to the City of Boise by a high-powered architecture firm for first-class travel. Amidst our reporting, the city asked the firm to reimburse a portion of the money.

In November, over objections from its non-profit board, Boise leaders voted to move The Cabin to make way for the library, to an undetermined site in Julia Davis Park.

The project cost isn’t fully known. In the 2017 request for help with development and construction, the city noted a 2014 cost estimate of $40 million to $50 million. Last summer, city officials said they could spend $80 million to $85 million. Some cost estimates have put the project well over $100 million.

Officials have looked at delaying an event center component to tamp down initial costs, according to the Idaho Press.

UPDATE: Clarifies city says it planned to unbundle the two pieces from the outside.

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Don Dayhttp://linkedin.com/in/donday
Don has been covering news in Boise for 20 years. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.


  1. There is no need for this grandiose project. If a bit more space is needed in the Downtown library, then add a couple more floors above the existing lower floors of the old warehouse part of the building, or above the southern projection where the larger auditorium is now. I would like to see a cost estimate for this. Plus more actual library space may not be needed at all, because library use in Boise is not growing. Instead it is stalled according to the most recent library use reports. As for new event spaces and artsy venues, there is BSU, JUMP (whatever that is about), the Egyptian Theater, the Boise Arts Gallery, etc. It seems a new events center is totally unnecessary. Regarding Okland, the sole remaining contractors, I understand they have built a lot of LDS Temples and other such structures. And you know, that is somehow fitting because this whole Bieter library scheme to date – from the 11 million dollar architect, the big bloated ugly building plan with no regard for history – is sort of a Temple to Boise leaders vanity and their pretensions of elitism and privilege.

  2. Many questions indeed . . . such as, will this proposed project take away from the private sector? Is it the job of the municipal government to entertain or is this the private sectors domain?

    A significant amount of real estate for this proposed project is to be allocated to the events center/community center/performing arts center – all names I have come across for this component of the project – plus a large art gallery area, as well as ample outdoor space. This will allow the City to produce revenue using these areas to host events, which would impact the existing venues that currently host such events (The Egyptian, Morrison Center, JUMP, etc.).

    In a capitalistic society, isn’t it the private sectors role to provide the infrastructure/facilities for “entertainment” while the role of the public sector – in this case the municipal government – is to primarily provide the basic taxpayer funded necessities of roads, sewer, water, safety, etc.? Plus the public sector has usually supported the efforts of the private sector – not competed directly against them.

  3. Yea, absolutely bizarre.

    I’m curious if the city has ever considered selling the current library site and simply building a new one in the “West End” or one of the many vacant lots just outside the downtown core?

    The current site doesn’t seem workable, housing would seem a more optimal development on the 8th St corridor in my opinion. I also don’t understand how the building embraces the “woods” & river just as they finished an expansion of the Anne Frank Memorial.

    I also don’t like the idea of turning the Foothills School building into a parking garage. It’s too many parking garages along Capitol, and makes no sense to build a landmark library only to have it face onto parking garage.

    A lot of questions on this library….

  4. First the city pays a competitor to attend sales pitches for the architecture contract, reimbursing for work done before the period of performance began. Now they make decisions based on experience of proposers who won’t actually be doing any work. And all of this is for a project which doesn’t have funding.

    Didn’t we dump Brent Coles for less than this? I suppose everything is bigger and better under Dave Bieter, including the illegal finances.

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