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“Dream site:” Ahlquist says his firm would be interested in redevelopment of Expo Idaho

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With the future of Expo Idaho on the Boise River currently up for debate, one prominent local developer says his firm might want to participate

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The Ada County Commissioners launched a process to determine the future of the large site at Glenwood St. and Chinden Blvd. The site, which is bordered on all sides by Garden City, but is in Ada County, presents a big opportunity.

During a taping of the BoiseDev podcast, Ball Ventures Ahlquist CEO Tommy Ahlquist said his firm would “absolutely” show interest in helping develop the project.

“I think that’s the perfect infill development, 240 acres on the river,” he said.

The county launched a citizens advisory committee this winter. That will kick off a three-phase process to make recommendations to the county commissioners on what to do.

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Right now, the site hosts a number of different uses, including the former Les Bois Park horse racing track, Expo Idaho buildings and fairgrounds, Lady Bird Park, an RV park, a University of Idaho extension center — and Boise Hawks Memorial Stadium.

Stadium a key piece

It’s that last piece that generates much of the attention.

“I’ve got some ideas on a stadium,” Ahlquist said. “You could integrate a stadium so well there. That’s a dream site.”

Another developer, Greenstone Properties of Atlanta also appears to have its eyes on the site. Greenstone, through its sister company Agon Sports, owns the Boise Hawks. The group tried and failed to build a stadium with the help of the City of Boise on three sites in Boise. The project, championed by former Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, would have benefitted from public money from Boise, Greater Boise Auditorium District and the Capital City Development Corp. Ultimately, voters said they wanted a say on if any city resources were going to go to the project.

While Greenstone & Agon haven’t answered questions since the vote last fall, they did list for sale a small site near the hoped-for stadium site.

Agon Sports’ Jeff Eiseman applied to be on the citizens advisory committee for the Expo Idaho project, but that request was denied by the county commission. Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce President Bill Connors is on the committee and has already advocated on behalf of the Hawks.

County Commissioner Kendra Kenyon stressed the process for redeveloping Expo Idaho will play out in public. That’s a stark contrast to the quite process Boise’s former mayor participated in for the failed Boise stadium project.

“(Greenstone is) going to have be patient and go through the process that we are going through,” Kenyon said. “They would have an opportunity to talk to the committee.”

BVA’s interest

If the citizen process leads to a request for proposals from developers, Ahlquist said BVA would want to take part. He lays out a possible idea for a mix of uses.

“If ever there’s a softball down the middle, that’s it,” he said. “Think of the uses you could put there for housing – think of the variety of different types. Use the amenities of the river, existing infrastructure, existing transportation, easy bus routes, have some entertainment there with the stadium.”

BVA, which launched in 2017, quickly went about developing scores of local sites. It also had its eye on a large redevelopment site in Boise that currently holds the Boise tank farm. Expo Idaho could present another opportunity.

“We would love to be part of that solution.”

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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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