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Boise says it wants to hire Utah developer for Bench site, specifics not revealed

Tamarack Summer

A project to redevelop a piece of land the City of Boise owns at Franklin Rd. and Orchard St. moved forward last week.

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As BoiseDev first reported in March of 2019, the City of Boise purchased a large portion of the former Franklin School site. The Boise School District tore down the historic school in 2009 and sold it to Salt Lake City-based Maverik for a convenience store and fueling station. Maverik later decided not to develop the project, and put it on the open market. The city bought 4.7 acres for $1.855 million last year.

The city under former mayor Dave Bieter embarked on a plan to trade land downtown and involve the Capital City Development Corp in a land swap. It later backtracked and canceled the project without explaining what it hoped to do.

What did residents want?

Franklin School site
The faded yellow lines of a hopscotch court are one of the few remnants of the former Franklin Elementary School site at Franklin Rd. and Orchard St. in Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

A new outreach process started late last year. A series of in-person events as well as online open houses gave members of the neighborhood a chance to provide input.

The city asked residents what they wanted to see, including design, form, use, and interaction with a park on the edge of the site.

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Now, the city said it wants to hire a Utah-based developer to build a mixed-use project focused on affordable housing. The announcement came late on Friday before the holiday weekend.

The city will hire J Fisher Companies to develop the project if the city council signs off.

“The vision of housing for all is not an easy task, but it’s important to get it right if we’re building a Boise for all,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean wrote in a statement. “Everyone deserves a home. And we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that there’s a place to live for every resident, at every budget.”

Few specific details

The city’s news release does not detail specifics on the project, including what the retail mix for the project will contain, how many units it might include or what terms J. Fisher proposed for the project.

It notes in general terms that the project would include an “anchor building” at the corner of Franklin and Orchard with both retail and multi-family rental units. The release also said the project would “integrate into Franklin Park,” and provide “unique community gathering spaces… woven throughout the development.”

The city said the project would include apartments from 500-1150 square feet, as well as townhomes. Configurations would include one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

The city would not provide BoiseDev a copy of the bid submitted by J. Fisher.

“Until we have an approved (memorandum of agreement) (which will be the next step after further discussions with J Fisher) between the City and J Fisher, we cannot release the information (as it could impact the discussions with J Fisher),” city communications director Karen Boe wrote. “After the MOA is approved by Mayor and Council, then we are happy to release the requested information.”

City of Boise graphic

The site sits in an L-shape along Franklin St. and Orchard St., with the park behind.

Renderings show a central outdoor area with a large five story building around the rim.  The renderings also show a series of shorter buildings, town homes and an outdoor pool.

In its request for proposals, the city asked the developer to incorporate a number of requirements into its proposal:

  • Build a new restroom for the public park.
  • Dedicate a space for a future bus stop, including shelter, bike racks, seating and trash service.
  • Integrate three larger older trees on the site in the design.
  • Use green building techniques.

It also instructed those who bid to take into account public feedback. The city produced a report on what it heard from community members.

J. Fisher’s first Boise project

J. Fisher Companies develops projects across the west, with many throughout Utah.  Last year it started a similar mixed-use project in Salt Lake City featuring affordable housing units as well as commercial and retail space.  The Moda Meadowbrook project invested $30.1 million in a project in that city’s downtown area.

The Boise site would be the company’s first project in the Boise area.

“We are ecstatic at the chance to partner with the City of Boise on this project,” J. Fisher Companies Partner Jake Wood said. “The Franklin Park site offers a unique opportunity to create an asset that will provide affordable housing, community-based spaces, and enhanced experiences for the future residents, neighbors, and the city as a whole.”

In its RFP, the city said hopes to break ground on the project by next summer.

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