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Maintenance yard by Julia Davis, old fire facilities could transform to affordable housing

Boise is working on a plan to consolidate its maintenance facilities to a new campus and make way for more housing downtown.

In the next few years, the City of Boise hopes to begin relocating some Parks and Recreation and Fire Department facilities located in and around downtown to a new campus west of the airport. This will accomplish the goal of bringing similar operations to one location and makes way for affordable housing on land the city already owns close to services.

[Explain this to me: Boise’s affordable housing land trust]

Three ‘key’ sites

Boise Facilities Program Manager Rob Bousfield said the city is looking at three potential sites to move so far, but they will soon start an in-depth planning process to look at all of its disparate maintenance facilities to find out which ones can be moved. The sites identified for sure so far include the Parks and Recreation maintenance yard behind the Idaho Black History Museum, the fire logistics center near Shoreline Drive and another site across the street from it with two city buildings.

Bousfield said moving the industrial uses out of the downtown core will give the city more room to grow its operation later and allow the city to put in development better suited to the comprehensive plan.

“Having these facilities where they’re at probably made sense 50 years ago, but probably less so today,” Bousfield said “We are really interested in better use for these sites primarily for housing. Apart from that, these facilities are getting fairly old and they also are limited in terms of how much growth they can support.”

The Julia Davis site is the headquarters for Parks and Recreation’s maintenance and operations, and at last appraisal was worth roughly $5 million.

The fire logistics center currently houses specialty repair facilities for fire engines and air packs for the Boise Fire Department and the other two buildings on the third site nearby house a building maintenance facility and a communications and radio shop. 

Bousfield estimates the creation of the new campus for these facilities would cost between $25 and $30 million, which would also likely include more facilities than just the three mentioned above. He said the year long planning process to find a property, plan for how many facilities need to be relocated and the exact costs will take roughly a year and cost the city $300,000.

Years-long timeline

City Council approved the planning funds Tuesday night.

Even though the price tag is high, Bousfield said leaving the city’s maintenance operations spread across the city in multiple aging facilities will eventually be costly as well.

“This is a significant investment to achieve this,” Bousfield said. “…But again, compare back it’s not like it’s free if we leave them. We will need investments in these facilities regardless.”

[19-story condo tower planned for Downtown Boise]

Bousfield said if the city has found a site by 2022 they could move ahead with the design of the first facility, begin construction and move the Julia Davis operation by fiscal year 2024. He said at the same time, the Grow Our Housing team can work to put out a request for proposals for a developer to build affordable housing on the site and get its approvals so construction could begin as soon as possible. 

City Council President Elaine Clegg asked if the project could be fast tracked, but Bousfield said the lengthy planning process, construction time and relocation means the timeline he presented is probably the quickest it could get done.

“The third year in this process is to make sure we get the right site and we have it planned out and the whole sequence of things and avoid that risk of starting to build and realize ‘oops we should have had more land for these other facilities,’” he said. “I understand this is a high priority and I’m hoping I’m conservative, but I’m reluctant to promise we can accelerate.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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