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Ada Co. waits to sign off on empty lot sale to CCDC: large parking garage, vision questioned

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Ada County isn’t quite ready to take Boise’s urban renewal agency up on its offer to buy a piece of property next door to the courthouse. 

On Tuesday, the Ada County Commissioners met with Capital City Development Corporation officials about their proposal for the agency to buy a triangle-shaped piece of county property on Front Street for $6.861 million. If the sale goes through, it would be part of CCDC’s plan to redevelop the entire superblock between Front, 3rd, 5th, and Grove streets with a mixed-use project and possibly a public parking garage. 

[CCDC outlines what it hopes to see for ‘catalyst’ proposal: affordable housing, parking near Boise YMCA]

CCDC offers parking agreement

The parcel is currently used as a parking lot for county employees to park in for $10 per month. Under CCDC’s proposal, employees could continue to park there at the same cost until construction possibly begins on a new garage.

Those employee spaces would then be relocated to the nearby garage at 6th and Front before being moved back to the triangle lot of a parking garage is built. Ada County’s Director of Operations Jess Asla told the county commissioners CCDC’s proposal includes a parking agreement.

“That’s a big concern of the county, that there will be parking on that lot one way or the other,” Asla said. “So they’ve also put a provision in here so if partial development were to occur but if there is no parking within five years then a one-acre parcel would come back to the county so we could develop a parking solution ourselves. It’s written in here one way or the other there is a parking solution.”

Everyone’s not on the same page, yet

CCDC and Ada County have been talking over the possibility of the sale and potential redevelopment for months, but some of the commissioners have lingering questions about the deal. Several commissioners also questioned whether their vision and the CCDC commissioner’s ideas about the property were aligned before they entered the deal. 

Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said she listened in to the April meeting of CCDC and it seemed like the majority of the commissioners had different ideas about the property than the county was expecting. She suggested a meeting between the Ada County Commissioners and the CCDC commissioners themselves to hash out the details before signing. 

“When (CCDC) had the board meeting last month, it seems like they didn’t know that vision,” Kenyon said. “It seemed like they had a different vision. That brings me back to my original intent to go down this path for us to create this great community asset for people, for taxpayers, for everyone. Now I don’t know where that vision is going.”

At the April CCDC meeting, several of the commissioners, including Mayor Lauren McLean and Commissioner Ryan Woodings, questioned agency staff about the parking agreement. After McLean and Woodings asked several questions to CCDC executive director John Brunelle and outside attorney Ryan Armbruster, Brunelle indicated parking did not have to be built.

McLean: “Are we guaranteeing the parking goes on this site…?”

Brunelle: “If we build parking in the future, they would have the option of buying up to four hundred spots.”

McLean: “So if?

Brunelle: If.

After further requests to clarify from Woodings, Armbruster indicated that parking hadn’t yet been decided.

“(Parking) is an issue to negotiate,” Armbruster said. “If there is a parking garage to be built on this site, the county will have an option and first right of refusal to purchase up to 400 spaces.”

McLean indicated she didn’t want a requirement to build a significant parking structure.

“This is a difficult piece of property,” McLean said in April. “My concerns lie in the long-term use of it and the ability to meet parking expectations. The answers provided in terms of it being a may – and not locking ourselves into building 400 parking spaces is a good step forward. It is a spot that we’ve hoped to see something else beyond surface parking.”

But during the Tuesday meeting with Ada County, Brunelle told the Ada County Commissioners parking was a part of the plan for a part of the parcel.

“Our intent is to use that acre to go vertical with a parking structure,” he said.

After the publication of this story, a CCDC spokesperson said that between the April and May meetings, agency staff worked on a separate parking agreement for the site. However, the CCDC Board of Commissioners has not yet considered that agreement in a public forum.

Could the lot be useful later?

Commissioner Rod Beck also had some questions about CCDC’s dreams for the block. 

“I just read a report saying that when your board discussed this it was reported you wanted to build affordable housing there and I don’t recall ever having that discussion,” he said. 

In response to Beck’s comment, CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle pointed out that the board had mentioned housing for people making below 100% of the area median income included on the block. Board President Dana Zuckerman also piped up and said the plan wouldn’t be to build permanent supportive housing for extremely low-income Boiseans. 

[CCDC outlines what it hopes to see for ‘catalyst’ proposal: affordable housing, parking near Boise YMCA]

“We’re not talking about low income housing,” she said. “We’re not talking about bringing people off the street and building something with supportive services meant to keep homeless people off the street. We’re thinking along the lines of something affordable for a teacher, firefighter or a county employee. That level of housing.”

The idea of a sale, no matter what would be built there, doesn’t necessarily appeal to Commissioner Ryan Davidson. 

He said the county is talking about the possibility of building a new administration building somewhere to expand the courtroom space inside the Ada County Courthouse and the nearby piece of land could be important. 

“I feel like until we have the future of this building locked down it might be premature to sell off the triangle lot, especially without a grand shared vision that Commissioner Kenyon talked about,” he said. “I’m leaning towards tabling until we’ve figured out a plan for expanding this building or not.”

BoiseDev’s Don Day contributed reporting.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. 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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