The Idaho Transportation Department owns a choice piece of property in Boise. It sits on the banks of a pond filled by the Boise River and includes significant frontage along State St. and Whitewater Park Blvd.
And most of it is empty.
But soon, the large parcel could leave state hands and “return to the tax rolls,” as a top official with the Idaho Department of Administration noted at a meeting late last year.
The property, home to the state agency responsible for many of the roads across the state, contains an office building, maintenance facilities, a large paved parking lot, large green lawns, and acres of empty fields.
It’s a piece of land the City of Boise has long looked at for the possibility of redevelopment – and now movement could see change for the 45-acre campus.
A move to Chinden West?
BoiseDev reviewed minutes from ITD’s board meetings in recent months, which show the agency – as well as the Idaho Department of Administration, began mulling selling the property and moving agency staff to other locations – including the State of Idaho’s “Chinden West” campus, otherwise known as the HP Campus in West Boise.
The discussions grew out of a legislative working group that recommended using the state’s request for proposals process and surplus property statue to better utilize state-owned land.
ITD doesn’t post video of its meetings online. But meeting minutes show discussions are well underway.
The board discussed the idea of declaring the property surplus and starting a request for proposal process that would allow developers to tell the agency what it would do with the property – and how much they might pay. The board cited Boise’s “hot” real estate market and the large size of the property as reasons it thinks it could receive multiple offers for the property.
A number of potential figures went around during the meetings – with numbers as high as $90 million floated. But both Department of Finance Director Keith Reynolds and the board discussed that finding a valuation before declaring the property surplus would not be simple. The board discussed hiring a consultant to help guide the process.
Reynolds told the board the Chinden West campus does not currently have a facility that would meet ITD’s needs, and the state would likely need to build a new building, with funding coming from the campus sale.
Some board members expressed concern they might not get proposals for the ITD site that provide enough cash for ITD to move and potentially build a new facility at Chinden West.
“Member (Julie) DeLorenzo noted the difficulty of the proposal due to the unknown value of the property,” minutes from ITD’s December board meeting noted. “If the value is not sufficient, it may not be beneficial to sell it. Director Reynolds emphasized that if the property is declared surplus, the RFP would include an option to reject the offers. The property would then be transferred back to ITD.”
Any funds that came from the sale of the campus not used for relocation would flow back to ITD and the agency could put them to use for road projects.
Boise’s designs on the property
The ITD campus sees sparse use, mostly serving office and a few maintenance functions. It sits within the West End neighborhood and is just a strong-armed stone’s throw from Esther Simplot Park to the south and Veterans Memorial Park to the west. The CCDC 30th Street urban renewal area borders it on the east side, and a proposed State Street urban renewal area could include the site. That could allow the urban renewal agency to use tax increment financing funds to pay for improvements to the site.
It’s also one of the largest under-developed parcels close to Boise’s urban core.
“Director Reynolds said there are three goals for the disposition of ITD’s property: replace the existing 60-year-old building, return the 45-acre property to the tax rolls and ensure the best use of the property, and dedicate excess funds to other projects,” minutes from the December ITD board meeting noted.
The discussions come at a time when housing prices in the Boise area continue to climb at a quick pace.
The City of Boise’s spokesperson said that while they were aware discussions were underway, they had no formal conversations on the property recently.
“Would love to partner with the state on better ways to use Boise property,” City of Boise spokesperson Seth Ogilvie told BoiseDev.
Ogilvie noted the city considered redevelopment of the campus in the past – including in its planning around making the State Street area into a transit-oriented corridor using urban renewal and other tools. The city’s 2019 plan for the area repeatedly refers to the possibility of redevelopment of the campus.
The plan calls for a transit hub at 30th St. and State St. next to the ITD property.
“(The ITD campus is) a major opportunity to build residential and commercial mixed-use,” plan writers noted. “Large scale development at Whitewater will be dependent on whether the current ITD headquarters remains a state office site, or the site redevelops with a mix of uses.”
An “urban design concept” included in the City of Boise’s State Street plan envisions extending the current west Downtown street grid across the ITD campus, with mixed-use office and residential buildings, as well as apartments, townhomes, single-family “cluster housing,” parking and open space.
New signalized intersections could go in at 32nd and 33rd St, as well as along Whitewater Park Blvd. if the grid extended across the campus.
A market analysis included in the plan said the area could see 200,000 square feet of new development in the ITD campus area if the property redevelops.
The city’s comprehensive plan, known as Blueprint Boise, generally addresses the campus and how it envisions the future for the property.
“Encourage high-density, transit-supportive, mixed-use development along the Main/Fairview/30th Street Extension, at the ITD site at Rose Street and the 30th Street Extension, and along the Main/Fairview Corridor consistent with the 30th Street Area Master Plan,” the plan notes. 30th Street Extension later took the name Whitewater Park Blvd.
Discussions to move ITD’s operations came out of a legislative working group, and the general conversations aren’t new. Lawmakers discussed the possibility of moving ITD to the former HP campus back in 2018. Such a move could help offset the State of Idaho taking the HP property out of the tax base.
The Idaho Press reported at the time developers were “beating down his doors” about the ITD site.
During a January meeting of the ITD board, Reynolds told ITD the agencies needed to involve the governor’s office in the process, according to meeting minutes.
A spokesperson for the governor said they’re aware of the process.
“The Governor’s Office is always in communication with agencies on how best to maximize the use of state-owned facilities,” Marissa Morrison Hyer said. “Those discussions are ongoing, and Governor Little supports the Board and Director.”
A memorandum of agreement is being drafted and would outline the process moving forward. Reynolds said the agency would ideally vacate the campus first before the state declares it surplus but said that might not be possible.
“With the current market and economic conditions, now would be an opportune time to sell the headquarters campus,” Reynolds said according to the minutes.