More housing will come to downtown Boise’s western edge, but what it will look like is still undecided.
On Monday, Boise’s urban renewal agency Capital City Development Corporation’s board heard presentations from three developers looking to build income-restricted housing on Idaho Street. Two of the proposals are for 17 units, the maximum allowed on the .4 acre site, but the third hopes to develop nearly the whole block with 45 units by acquiring nearby parcels.
The empty lot, located at 1715 W Idaho Street near 17th Street, was originally proposed to be the site of a three-story, 17-unit development after City of Boise approval. But, Nampa-based developer Mussell Construction walked away from the project after a soil analysis found low-quality dirt fill on the site would not support a three-story building, according to CCDC spokeswoman Jordyn Neerdaels.
The property went back on the market and CCDC purchased it for $605,000 in July.
The agency then put out a request for proposals looking for developers to build housing on the site, in the hopes of increasing the housing stock targeted toward people making between 80% and 100% of the area median income. This ranges between $41,920 and $62,880 for a single person, according to AMI ranges set by the federal government in Boise.The income levels set by the government change depending on the size of the household.
CCDC will be meeting at the beginning of February to rank the proposals.
Proposal One: Conner Construction
The first proposal includes a mix of townhomes and apartments, with seven townhomes fronting on Idaho Street and 10 apartments in the rear. It would include 23 parking spaces between the two buildings, including spaces for bicycle parking, dedicated electric vehicle charging outlets in each space and permeable pavers for eco-friendly stormwater management.
The development team did not include information on proposed rents for the units in their presentation, but Conner Construction representative Alex Yanchuk said the plan is for the units to be priced for those making between 95% and 100% of the area median income. There was no requirement from CCDC to provide potential rental unit prices and companies were only directed to design a project around certain income requirements.
CCDC Chair Dana Zuckerman said she appreciated the sustainable elements of the design, but she was concerned about how it meshed with the surrounding area.
“I’m a little bit concerned with how this design fits in with the neighborhood,” Zuckerman said. “I don’t see how this is the west North End vernacular, both with the slanted roofs and the stone and stucco.”
In response to her question, Project Architect Jim Glancey said the specific materials for the design have not been confirmed yet and much of the design is still conceptual.
Proposal Two: McCarty Flats LLC
Community space is a major part of the second pitch.
McCarty Flats, proposed by Afton developer Michael Hormaechea, is a 17 unit, three-story project with a mixture of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units with units for those making 60% AMI up through 100%. This lower income level starts at $31,425 for a single person, according to the AMI chart set by the federal government for Boise.
Twelve percent of the units will be priced for those making 120% of the AMI, but it will also include 12% of the units for those making at or below 60% AMI. Hormaechea did not lay out specific rent price proposals in his presentation.
The design includes individual stoops for each tenant surrounding a central courtyard with a large tree in the center, street facing roof decks for the upper floors as well as a small covered area for community gatherings and bike parking. It also includes 14 parking spaces.
Zuckerman said she liked how the developer had smaller units priced lower.
“I really like the wide range of incomes addressed here and I liked how you addressed them by unit size,” she said. “It shows you’re not going to dumb down the materials to accomodate the lower rent.”
Hormaechea said he also has been in talks with nearby property owners, which could mean an expansion of the project and more redevelopment if his project is selected. This would add another “six or eight or ten units.”
Proposal Three: SMR Development + deCase Miksis + Edlen & Co.
SMR Development’s proposal is going bigger than the other two.
The design, presented by former CCDC employee Shellan Rodriguez, who now owns her own firm, pitches 45 units stretching several parcels in addition to the CCDC owned property. Rodriguez said her goal is to build a three-floor building with 12 studios, 10 one-bedroom, and 12 two bedrooms covering a large portion of the block.
To do this, Rodriguez said they have worked out agreements with the nearby New Life Apostolic Church, Rock Hard Granite and an HVAC company to acquire the necessary properties to build the larger structure. It would entail a land swap with the church to give them access to a parking lot on Main Street, currently owned by Rock Hard Granite. This would allow Rodriguez to develop the church’s current parking lot at the corner of Idaho and 18th.
Rodriguez said the project will rent to those holding Housing Choice Vouchers for low-income residents, with $800 one bedrooms and $1,000 two bedrooms. The project will also include units for those making 80% AMI, which would rent for $1,200 for a one bedroom and $1,500 for a two income household. It would also rent to those making 100% AMI or less with rates of $1,350 for a one bedroom and $1,680 for a two bedroom.
Rodriguez said the project is relying on the City of Boise passing it’s proposed Housing Bonus Ordinance, which allows developers to build denser projects if they provide affordable housing or other things the city is hoping to incentivize. She said if that was not passed, the project would require a rezoning. When asked about the proposal to develop the larger area, Rodriguez said the city’s housing needs required a bigger project this close to downtown.
“This is too good of an opportunity not to have a high dense development,” she said. “It is too walkable to not create some real units for the workforce in this community.”
Questions from the Commission
Commissioner Dave Bieter raised objections to language in the RFP, which said one of the criteria the project should be judged on is how additional tax value it would bring to CCDC and eventually the City of Boise. He also was concerned about the fairness of evaluating the proposals, and how the small parcel size would make it hard to develop a project big enough to get affordable rents.
“Other properties would be great, but I don’t know how we evaluate proposals on one site at a certain entitlement and be fair here,” Bieter said. “God knows other sites will bring affordability, it will help, but I think we’re going to have a hard time weighing these fairly and I don’t expect the 17 units to get anything very affordable.”
The possibility of the land deals not coming to fruition was a concern for Commissioner Gordon Jones. He asked if there was going to be a mechanism to ensure the selected developer would follow through on their plans.
In response, Zuckerman said the agency can withhold reimbursements to the developer and also plans to use a rating system to make sure they are not stuck with a design that changes later.
“We’re going to solve some of the issues by using a ranking system this time,” she said. “If the top ranked development can’t come through with what they said, then we can go to a second ranked one and we’re not backed into a corner to accept whatever second rendition of a proposal.”