Hendricks Commercial Properties of Beloit, Wisc. just snapped up The Owyhee in Downtown Boise. But the project folks may see the most movement on soon is Bodo.
The firm, backed by billionaire Diane Hendricks, purchased many of the “newer” structures in the area in 2017. Developer Mark Rivers revamped the 8th Street Marketplace in 2005, converting former surface parking lots into a mixed-use development containing a movie theater, national chain retail like Levi’s and Urban Outfitters and more.
Hendricks CEO Rob Gerbitz said the firm is making progress on a plan to revamp the development. While firm plans aren’t yet set, big ideas are on the drawing board.
A new hotel?
In recent weeks, members of Hendricks’ Geronimo Hospitality Group visited Boise. The group manages hotels and restaurants in various U.S markets – and Gerbitz said a boutique-type hotel could be in the offing for Bodo.
“That is definitely what we are exploring right now,” he said. “(We want) to bring a very authentic boutique hotel into Bodo and to Boise as a whole.”
As BoiseDev has reported, the downtown market continues to see potential demand for additional hotel rooms, despite a spate of new places for visitors to rest their heads.
Gerbitz said any hotel for Boise would be unique to the area – not a chain-branded property.
“We finished one in Indianapolis not too long ago, but it took us nearly two years to pick and pull and put that idea together.”
A hotel project would be tailored to the Boise market.
“It would be a brand we would have to create. We want to build a great experience. We do that through a story, and it’s often through history. People really like the history of their communities, especially the stuff that doesn’t get told too much anymore.”
Starbucks: no. D’arte? Yes.
Hendricks said someone asked him recently if he’d consider a Starbucks in Bodo. He said his answer was firm.
“Absolutely not. It’s nothing against them. But we have Caffe’ d’Arte, they’re actually independent.”
He said the approach the company takes is to find more local options, with a sprinkle of regional options.
“We stay away from national chain stuff – it’s not what we like,” he said. “We think we can create a more authentic feel in a community when you stay local, independent and regional at the most.”
Bodo currently has a significant dose of national brands, including PF Chang’s, Loft, Office Depot, Regal/Edwards Cinemas, and others. For now, those will stay put.
“We are good with them where they are, and they seem to be OK. Our leasing group is solid,” he said. “They are in lots of discussions with the tenants there and lots of other ones.”
He said Hendricks continues to be selective on what it wants to bring into the center.
“I’ve said no to more tenants in Bodo. I think the brokers have fallen off their chairs. ‘What do you mean no?'”
While Hendricks is in what Gerbitz calls the “R&D phase,” he wants to ensure that any new tenant fits with the next phase.
Affordable housing a consideration
Hendricks’ staff has been working with the City of Boise on its vision for the Bodo project and what the city needs.
Top of the list: affordable housing.
“When Mayor Bieter and I talked one time, we talked foremost about the challenges of affordable housing in a city like Boise that is growing so much,” Gerbitz said.
He said affordable housing could be part of the overall mix for projects Hendricks has on deck, including Bodo and parking lot development around The Owyhee, which the firm just bought this week.
Gerbitz said he spent his younger years in apartments – including one with a rent of $400 a month.
“I definitely was on the side where I need affordable housing for a portion of my younger life. It’s a problem in cities much bigger than Boise. And by the point they get too big, it’s like ‘so how do we figure this out?’ And then you can’t.”
But in Boise he thinks the challenge can still be overcome.
Instead of building a project solely focused on affordable housing, Gerbitz said they would consider what he calls a “melting pot” approach.
“I don’t want to say ‘well that building is affordable housing.’ You could have different products on different floors.”
He said different units could have different amenities tailored to a variety of price points.
“If you want to get more and better things and make more money, there needs to be that affordable level. It doesn’t mean junk. It can be nice. “
A new destination
Bodo stands in stark contrast to the historic buildings it wraps around. Hendricks said he’d like to see that change.
“The buildings are built really really well, but from an exterior perspective we want to get them to feel like those great old buildings across the street,” he said. “We have some really good plans for that – and now we’re looking at the interior.”
In the company’s Beloit headquarters, there’s a mix that could be similar to the future of Bodo.
“If you look at our headquarters, it has fitness, education, lots of office… in this old downtown building. It seems to be what we drift toward in all of our projects.”
That includes making the area feel like even more of a highlight.
“We want to make BoDo a true destination. People in Boise are going to be like ‘I want to go to Bodo.’ We are a long way from finishing that.”
He said the firm is patient and is OK taking its time.
“We want to do something we are really proud of when we are done – and the city too. That requires some time.”
He hopes to begin the permitting process this year with construction starting next year, if costs and contractors can line up.
It’s a strand that runs through many stories of out-of-state developers looking at Boise. Why here?
“It is funny how often I get asked that,” Gerbitz said. “I get asked that by all the people there I meet (in Boise), and people from the outside. They will say “Boise is where?”
He said it is many of the typical things.
“You guys are nice. It sounds kind of silly and almost elementary. You are nice people to talk with and work with,” he said.
The possibilities in Boise fit in with the Mrs. Hendrick’s overall philosophy.
“For Diane our owner, she wants stuff she’s really proud of. It goes beyond just buildings for her. She’s very philanthropic and huge into education. We try to incorporate that into our projects as well – how that gets addressed.”