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A Nordstrom in Boise? It nearly happened, but an expert says it’s now unlikely

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For decades, shoppers in Boise hoped to see a Nordstrom store built in the Boise area. A former mayor said it very nearly happened, but now a commercial real estate expert says it probably never will.

During a 2016 City Club of Boise forum on the rebuilding of Downtown Boise, former mayor Dirk Kempthorne dropped a tantalizing tidbit: Did Downtown almost hook its retail white whale?

While answering an audience question about the desire for a department store in Downtown Boise – specifically Nordstrom, Kempthorne seemed to indicate that almost happened decades ago.

“Nordstrom is like that girl in high school who you ask to prom, but she says no and you move on,” he said. “But then they come back to you and it’s too late.”

[IKEA? In-N-Out? Dunkin’? A crystal ball look at when the area could get some big names]

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Kempthorne explained that plans for downtown had moved beyond a mall concept to the form it has today – and any overture by Nordstrom came too late in the process to become a reality.

“The idea of putting a box downtown was never going to work because of egress and ingress – getting people in and out.”

With Macys’ exit from its location at 10th and Idaho in 2010, the core area is left without any department store-type retailers. It once used to host Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney and The Mode.

Skip Oppenheimer, who was also on the panel and developed One Capital Center and the Wells Fargo Center, remains optimistic – that more retail could be in the downtown area’s future.

“I think we could see a department store in or around downtown in the future,” he said.

[So you’re telling me there’s a chance: In-the-know team talks Target in SE Boise]

Retail expert: probably no Nordy’s

The Seattle-based retailer did enter the Boise market with its Nordstrom Rack format at Boise Towne Square in 2012.  The company has announced store openings through 2019. The list includes new large-format stores in Carlsbad, CA, New York City, NY and Norwalk, CT — but none in Boise… for now.

LeAnn Hume with Cushman Wakefield Pacific Advisors told BoiseDev earlier this fall that she doesn’t think it’s in the cards.

“I’ve heard that the Rack here does not do as well as it needs to be,” she said. “And some of the metrics they look at is if people are going online to Nordstrom.com, they will look at that data.  Mixed with the sales data, they will never come.”

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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