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A breakfast bistro in Bown Crossing? Not for now as city council denies appeal over parking

The proposal for a new development on the last lot in Boise’s Bown Crossing suffered another setback Tuesday night, as the Boise City Council denied an appeal to get the project off the ground.

As BoiseDev first reported last year, the owner of the corner parcel at Bown Way & ParkCenter Blvd. wants to build a project with an 80-seat restaurant and two retail spaces.

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Restaurant & credit union swap, parking reduction needed

BoiseDev Project Tracker

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For years, Westmark Credit Union planned to build a branch on the site. Separately, a former Home Federal branch about a mile away at ParkCenter and Apple would get a makeover for Toast Bistro – a breakfast and lunch restaurant.

Instead of building a second bank branch and turning an old bank into a restaurant, the parties worked out a deal to swap spots. The Westmark Credit Union recently opened.

But to build the restaurant and retail, the project’s owner, Boyd Yee, would need a parking reduction approved by the City of Boise.

[New homes to slide into pocket near Bown Crossing]

Boise’s code usually requires 38 spaces for this type of development – but Yee proposed just 14. Beyond that, it leaned on sharing parking throughout the greater Bown Crossing development. The application claimed the area’s covenants, conditions and restrictions meant other landowners had to share their parking.

Bown Crossing site plane
Site plan

Applicant, neighbors at odds

“You have held the applicant hostage,” attorney Andrea Carroll told the council Tuesday. “You are telling the applicant that they must develop this property without any parking reduction. This is a small parcel. This is not a parcel that can be developed with a use that is contemplated by the Bown Crossing development (plan).”

Several Bown Crossing neighbors, business owners and the Southeast Boise Neighborhood Association all testified against the project.

Representatives with Saint Alphsonsus Health System, which owns a clinic adjacent to the proposed project, voiced the strongest concerns. The clinic built at Bown Crossing relocated from the Americana and Shoreline area. Many doctors moved to the new facility.

“Our patients aren’t coming from here,” Laura Landers, Director of Operations for Saint Alphonsus said. “They are traveling and visiting clinicians here. Patients develop relationships with their providers, and because of that they follow them.”

Ross Caulum, SAHS’ Director of Real Estate said the clinic is still in growth mode.

“As we grow, we will be using all the parking that we built,” he said. “When we built the parking, we didn’t ask for a reduction. We wanted to be a sustainable part of Bown Crossing. We need to have that parking immediately available because they are not as ambulatory as we are today.”

Carroll said Saint Alphonsus’ decision to locate in this type of development might have caused the issue.

“It’s not the applicant’s intention that anyone’s healthcare be affected,” she said. “But it suggests joining a pedestrian-oriented development may not have been their best choice. They chose to come to Bown Crossing, which already had its own vision.”

Alternative transportation still a challenge

Ryan Faber, who owns Eastside Cycles in the development says as a member of the cycling community, he supports development that favors alternative transportation – but says the current parking situation in the development is strained.

“I ask that the city have a plan instead of a haphazard approach to parking,” he said. “I’m very observant of bike patrons in our area. And while there are a good number of people who ride to our areas, there are a handful of months that Bown is very busy where people are not set up to ride. They can’t always choose to use alternative transportation.”

He said stressing the current parking situation can hurt all types of businesses.

“Parking has become a major talking point all the time,” Faber said. “Any amount of individual parking limitations changes the mindset of coming to Bown Crossing.”

A parking survey of 980 patrons in Bown Crossing conducted by those opposed to the dev elopment showed that only two people reached the area by bus or ride share. The survey, conducted in the summer month of August, said 78% of all guests arrived by car.

“The big takeaway is that the Bown Crossing customer base is car-intensive,” neighbor Richard Lomas said. “The thing with Bown, is it’s far out – it’s four miles from downtown, two miles from Harris Ranch.”

“We want people to walk. We want people to use public transit and we want people to bike as a city,” Caroll said. “It’s a question of ‘how do you get there?’ If you are going to a restaurant do you expect to park on site? What Bown tried to do was to organize that in a single location. We want parking to be used to its highest extent so people are encouraged to use alternative modes of transportation.”

Appeal denied

The council delibrated, and ultimately found no reason to side with the developer’s appeal.

“While much of Bown Crossing is working really well – maybe too well – there’s still that part of it that is still that suburban style that doesn’t really facilitate that kind of park and walk that might work in a different place,” council member Elaine Clegg said.

She also noted that this is generally the type of development the city wants to encourage, but the planning and zoning decision is correct based on the city’s laws and policies.

“I can’t find a reason to overturn this decision, but I think the applicant is right this is what we want in this place,” Clegg said.

Council member Holli Woodings agreed.

“I definitely see the aspiration here of having something that is really pedestrian-oriented that is right by transit, but I just don’t think we are there yet,” she said. “It’s a big parking reduction, it’s substantial.”

Council President Lauren McLean said the city should look at this development as it impacts other similar concepts around the city. City leaders, planners and staff often hold up Bown Crossing as an example of the type of development they want to encourage.

“There’s a parking puzzle that we didn’t forsee, and that we should look at in other areas in the city where we are trying to do activity centers like that,” she said. “Parking is not unlike roadways – the more you provide, the more you want to bring their car.”

The final council vote was unanimous.

In her testimony, Carroll also said the issue is likely bound for court.

“This is a future civil dispute, and we are confident we would prevail,” she said.

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