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City of Meridian agrees to work with developer on $13M downtown community center project

- Idaho Press

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MERIDIAN — The city of Meridian has accepted a proposal for a $13 million urban renewal project in downtown, which would redevelop the city’s community center.

In a joint meeting on Tuesday, the Meridian Development Corporation, the city’s urban renewal agency, and the Meridian City Council agreed to work with Boise-based developer The Galena Opportunity Fund on its proposal.

The vote means the city has agreed to enter negotiations with Galena, however it was not an approval of the project as a whole.

The Galena Opportunity Fund is proposing to build a new community center and a public auditorium, along with mixed-use space. The developer is also proposing to include space for a charter school above the community center.

The proposal includes creating a new urban renewal district for the community center site and a separate development site south of the center, both of which are currently within the downtown urban renewal district.

“I really enjoy the creativity of this proposal,” City Councilman Treg Bernt said. “I like the dynamics of it. I like what it can offer to our community for generations to come.”

Galena was the only developer to respond to a request for proposals the city issued in August. The request was for redevelopment of its downtown community center and surrounding area, dubbed the Civic Block.

The 1.24-acre Civic Block includes the aging Meridian Community Center, Centennial Park and a parking lot — on Northeast Second and East Third streets, just south of East Idaho Avenue.

Galena estimates the total cost of the project would be $12.8 million.

In its request for proposals, the city stated it would contribute up to $3.85 million from its impact fee fund for the construction of the new community center. The remaining $8.97 million would be reimbursed to the developer through tax increment financing.

More than $4 million of that budget would fund construction of a parking structure across the street from the community center, according to a budget breakdown presented by Galena representatives at Tuesday’s meeting.

The developer purchased 6.4 acres, south of the proposed community center, on the corner of North Main Street and Broadway Avenue. The second development includes retail, office and residential units built over a 168-stall parking structure, which could be utilized by community center patrons.

“This is pretty visionary,” City Council Vice President Luke Cavener said. “(As) somebody who grew up in this community, I never thought something like this would exist here in a million years.”

The city council and urban renewal agency agreed on several contingencies, written by a review committee, such as requiring the developer to fund design costs and costs associated with creating a new urban renewal district in the Civic Block, a public process that will come later in the project.

Another contingency stated, “The project should include office or other revenue-generating and/or job-creating commercial use(s) above the community center in lieu of the charter school.”

Galena’s proposal to include a charter school in the mixed use development is similar to another project it completed, Parkway Station in Garden City.

“We see great value in including the rising generation in an urban core, allowing families to thrive, all within walking distance,” Galena Opportunity Fund President Bill Truax wrote in his pitch to Meridian.

“We want to make it clear that this (charter school) is optional,” he continued, “only adding that we found great success in developing one (named “FUTURE Charter School”) in our Parkway Station project in Garden City.”

Members of the city council and Meridian Development Corporation voted to strike “in lieu of the charter school” from the contingency, reasoning that a charter school could generate revenue for the urban renewal project.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the city of Meridian agreed to work with Galena on its project proposal; it did not approve plans for the project.

This story has also been updated to clarify that city has not agreed to contribute funds to the project. In its request for proposals, the city stated it plans to contribute $3.85 million to the project.

Ryan Suppe - Idaho Press reporter
Ryan Suppe - Idaho Press reporter
Ryan Suppe is a reporter for Meridian Press, Kuna-Melba News and The Idaho Press. Follow him on twitter, @salsuppe.

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