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Proposed tall downtown building gets reworked in face of neighbor concerns

Earlier this year, BoiseDev broke news of a new 16-story building slated for Downtown Boise.

Now the project’s developer says it will make significant changes after concerns from nearby neighbors.

“It is a big project and we had time to get input from neighbors and hear everyone out,” Ball Ventures Ahlquist CEO Tommy Ahlquist said. “One of the ideas was to switch the building around – it would help (neighbors’) view and blend in with the skyline better. It was a pretty big deal to change everything out but I think it’s the right decision for the city and the neighbors.”

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The Idaho Central Credit Union building at 4th St. and Idaho St. wold replace an existing ICCU branch and surface parking. It will still include a new ICCU branch, Saltzer Health medical clinic, four to six condos and medical and general office space.

New configuration

Updated site plan, with Idaho St along the bottom and Bannock St. along the top. Via Horrocks Engineers

The project’s footprint would grow slightly, with BVA acquiring one extra parcel along Idaho St. – currently the site of a house converted to office space.

Originally, the project included two towers. A taller one reaching 16 stories high lined up along Bannock St., and a shorter 9-story one along Idaho St. The new parcel allows planners to flip the project, with the taller tower along Idaho, and the shorter tower along Bannock.

It will also allow nearly twice as many apartment units.

“There will be seven levels of multifamily on the eastern edge of they alley. We will now have 75 for-rent units,” development attorney Geoff Wardle said. “The multi-family component is more integrated.”

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The change to the building’s orientation also allowed the parking garage to enter and exit off of Idaho St. instead of Bannock.

“The entrance to the garage is off of Idaho Street. It’s an arterial and one-way and we think it goes a long way to increasing circulation and addresses the concerns we heard with Bannock.”

Residents of the Imperial Plaza Condominium wrote a letter to the City of Boise pushing back on the project and asked the city not to allow BVA and ICCU to rezone the parcels for the new project. BVA said it will hold an additional neighborhood meeting early next month with the revamped project, which they hoped will address many of the concerns.

“As we visited with neighbors, the biggest concerns were views, and impact on traffic,” Wardle said. “By relocating the office tower – Imperial Plaza has their historic views toward the capitol and foothills protected.”

More changes

Revised east elevation. Via Cushing-Terrell

BVA made a number of other changes:

  • Added a new plaza/alley feature that would connect with the current east/west alley and connect it north to Bannock St.
  • Decreased the overall width of the office tower, down to 180 feet wide. This will eliminate the need for a request from the city to grant an exception.
  • A new outdoor amenity space on the 7th floor for residents.
  • One or two new “service commercial” spaces on the ground floor, adding commercial on all four corners of the building.
  • Changes to the building’s design, including increased screening of the large parking garage area.
  • Preserving two large sycamore trees along the eastern boundary of the project

Even with the raft of changes, Wardle says he knows they won’t be able to satisfy every concern.

“We respectfully disagree with people who say it’s too high and in the wrong place,” he said. “You have a choice. You can either have tall buildings or short-wide-squatty-massive buildings. We think this is an appropriate tradeoff.”

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Some have raised concerns about balconies on the project for the market-rate apartments. A new FAQ is blunt about not changing that element.

“Balconies for the multifamily for-rent units have not been eliminated,” the document notes. “They are an important design feature for residents and the community. Eliminating them would be inconsistent with the Downtown Design Guidelines and is classist.”

Ahlquist said he thinks the process with neighbors produced an improved outcome.

“I’m really pleased at how this turned out,” he said. “I think we have a better project.”

The revamped Idaho Central Credit Union Building will still go through Boise’s public hearing process for rezoning. Hearing dates are not yet set.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at don@boisedev.com.

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