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Big questions: Tall buildings? Trains? Stadium? Library? Topgolf? Albertsons? What we’re watching for you in 2020

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There are a whole slew of projects teed up for 2020 around the Treasure Valley. Instead of a list of items we’ve already reported (which you can find in our exclusive Project Tracker), instead, here’s a look into our crystal ball at some of the NEW things we’ll be watching for this year.

BoiseDev Project Tracker

  • Downtown Circulator (Streetcar)

    Click here for details, information & past stories
  • Eagle View Landing

    Click here for details, information & past stories
  • Village at Meridian expansion

    Click here for details, information & past stories
  • Boise Sports Park

    Click here for details, information & past stories

Also, we’ll refrain from making any 2020 vision puns.

What’s next for The Hoff Building?

This fall, we told you the Hoff Building in Downtown for sale went on the market. The original Hotel Boise building sits at the edge of downtown’s Restaurant Row and a stone’s throw from the Statehouse. Filled with office tenants, a new owner could bring a number of updates and changes to the classic structure.

Going up?

Will we see a move toward more taller structures in Downtown Boise? In 2019, the skyline saw no material changes. Nada. Two projects in progress – the 11th & Idaho office building and Home2 Suites by Hilton started construction this year, and during 2020 will start to move toward the sky. Several other projects – including an eight-story apartment building at 6th St. and Front St. – could start material construction soon. But what other projects will hit the permitting stage as Boise continues its hot growth spurt.

What will become of Downtown Boise’s empty lots?

Speaking of going up, one prime lot is on many people’s minds. Owned by the Yanke family, it sits at a key crossroads near Simplot, One Capitol Center and very near the Boise Centre. The lot bounded by Front, Grove, 12th and 13th used to house the Boise Farmers Market, and largely serves as overflow parking for JR Simplot Co. employees. Several developers took runs at developing the property over the years, but it remains underutilized in the core of the city. The Capital City Development Corporation will spend millions of dollars to upgrade infrastructure along Grove St. in both directions radiating from the Grove Plaza. The investment could help spur development along the corridor.

Boise Yanke lot
This block, the former home of the Boise Farmers Market, serves as surface parking. It carries a C-5 zoning. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Costco & Winco in Meridian on the way?

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Tamarack Resort

Residents in Meridian continue to watch – and wait – for progress on separate projects along Chinden Blvd. Each would carry a large big-box retailer, Winco at Chinden and Linder, and Costco at Chinden and Ten Mile. While dirt started moving on the Winco project, the land remains bare at the Costco site – and developers of the projects have not yet announced when the stores could open.

Will Mayor McLean halt the Circulator?

A rendering of a Downtown Boise fixed-rail streetcar. The project was a favorite of Boise mayor Dave Bieter – and could now be in doubt.

In 2020, for the first time in sixteen years, Dave Bieter will not be mayor. What will that mean for his hoped-for downtown circulator project? The Boise City Council approved engineering on the project, and both the City of Boise and Capitol City Development Corp. spent money toward the idea. But Bieter’s will for a rail-driven streetcar could come into question, with new mayor Lauren McLean and a pair of new city council members changing the political mix. Bieter looked toward the streetcar or circulator project for more than a decade, but like two priorities listed below – he never got the large-scale project off the ground before voters decided to make a change.

Will Boise get a new main library?

Another project in limbo is a new Downtown Boise main library. Despite a packaged attempt to make the project come to life, public questions, the proposed relocation of the historic Cabin, a citizen initiative and finally overwhelming public vote put the project on ice. Longtime library director Kevin Booe stepped down this fall, and on the way out the door suggested forming a library district for the project. For now, city officials stopped working on the project. McLean said she supports a new library, but how and when the project could move forward remains a mystery.

Is the Downtown stadium dead?

A previous rendering of a stadium at Americana and Shoreline in Boise. Courtesy City of Boise

Will the Boise Hawks ever play anywhere other than Memorial Stadium? Reporting from the Idaho Press, confirmed by BoiseDev, indicates a plan for a stadium on land currently owned by Roundhouse is off the table. In October, Minor League Baseball said some teams in the Northwest League are “vulnerable” to losing their affiliations. It also said some NWL teams could move to full-season ball. MiLB also told teams not to make big changes – including financial commitments or lease arrangements. Bieter championed the Boise Sports Park project, and he and other city staffers worked on the project. But McLean repeatedly said during the campaign that she would not put a priority on a stadium project.

Will the Boise tank farm get new life?

In October, we broke the news of an idea to transform the current site of the Boise tank farm on the Boise Bench. A complicated idea would move the large petroleum tanks to land near the Boise Airport, clean up the ground – and create a new close-to-downtown neighborhood. Prolific developer Tommy Ahlquist put together a vision for the area his firm called Curtis Junction. The project, like many of those above, involved Bieter and his team. This is another project where McLean’s role remains unclear.

Is it a Topgolf in Meridian?

Topgolf Meridian
A Topgolf facility. Photo courtesy Topgolf.

BoiseDev also first told you about the plan to build a “golf entertainment venue” in Meridian at Eagle Rd. and I-84. We called it a “Topgolf style” venue, because Ahlquist and his Ball Ventures Ahlquist firm remained mum on the vendor name. Topgolf competes against a smattering of much smaller players like Drive Shack. Topgolf runs the majority of that style of centers, and this spring said it would focus on medium-sized markets. Construction on the Eagle View Landing site started in 2019, and a place for the golf entertainment venue remains on the map.

The rise of Idaho St?

Another area in the heart of Downtown Boise that isn’t pumping blood like you might expect is the block of Idaho St. between Capitol Blvd. and 6th St. On one side, Boise City Hall sits with minimal street activation. On the other, the corners are anchored by Press & Pony on one end and Java on the other – but in between sits a parking lot, the empty former Louie’s building and the empty former Old Spaghetti Factory site. Both of those Italian-themed restaurants closed years ago, and a combination of the recession and OSF’s quick exit from Boise left the area lacking vibrancy. But new owners Barclay Group acquired both buildings last year and worked behind the scenes on a new plan for the site. Could we see movement soon?

Will that new Albertsons near you start construction?

Albertsons Barber Valley
A rendering of a new Albertsons building proposed in Boise’s Barber Valley. Via RKAA Architects

We constantly get asked when the Albertsons in Barber Valley/Albertsons in S. Meridian/Albertson in Star will open. The Boise-based retail giant announced or obtained permits for all three of these projects, but to date, no sign of when they will pop up. It also remains unclear which project might go first. The last firm update company officials provided was that the projects would start once the Broadway and Market Street stores wrapped up. Now, more than six months later, will we see some construction on activity on one or more of these stores in 2020?

Will the Shopkos (and Sears) get new life?

The Boise area saw four large stores close in the winter and spring of 2019, leaving more than 400,000 square feet of retail space empty. Sears and three Shopko stores all held liquidation sales and locked the doors. While a small portion of the Nampa Shopko saw a new lease, the rest await redevelopment. What will come to the empty buildings in 2020?

Will the Village at Meridian’s expansion start?

The Village at Meridian long-ago said it would expand toward Eagle Rd. But for now, those plans remain on hold. Dirt lots extend from the current Village center toward the street, and a site plan shows ideas for hotels, shopping, residential and more. Could the popular shopping gateway get even bigger in 2020?

Will Downtown Nampa continue to bloom?

Mesa Tacos Nampa
Mesa Tacos and Tequila in Nampa aims for a family-friendly vibe.Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Downtown Nampa started to see signs of new life in the last few years. Restaurants, bars and even a bit of retail started to bring new vibrancy to an area that lost much of its vibrancy over the last 30 years. Leaders in Nampa like the trajectory of another downtown – Boise’s, and are looking at how the city’s ‘Restaurant Row’ grew in recent decades. Will we see more new projects in this growing downtown?

How will leaders approach growth?

In a 13-month span from January 2019 to January 2020, the leadership makeup of the Ada Co. Commission, City of Meridian, City of Eagle, City of Boise, and the governor’s office all saw a material change. How this new crop of leaders approach growth will be a key factor in how the area evolves and changes in the next decade. Transportation, affordable housing, gridlock and sprawl are all big topics of conversation – along with climate change, wage growth, and business development. Past patterns of silos and other issues caused more than 70% of residents to say their local government wasn’t handling growth well. With new leaders in place, can they change public sentiment? That might be the biggest question for 2020 of all.

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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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