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Townhomes, farmer’s market OK’ed near Boise River. Parking concern pushes Garden City to scale it back

A multi-block, mixed-use development got the green light in Garden City, but it’s not exactly what the developer hoped for.

On Monday night, the Garden City City Council voted 3-1 to approve a proposal for a 32-lot subdivision with a mix of townhomes, live-work spaces for artists, lofts, retail, and hotel space on 34th Street near the Boise River. Developer JBI Elemental finally earned city council’s approval after two meetings after scaling back the number of units in the project to accommodate more parking than originally planned.

[Work begins on river-front apartments, restaurant, retail, and future hotel along Boise River]

The project, called Casino Beach, will include 23 residential units with a mix of townhomes designed for live-work spaces for artists, one-bedroom lofts, traditional townhomes, and a 12-room boutique hotel. The project will flank both sides of 34th Street and includes a special easement on the street allowing it to close to car traffic for a farmer’s market and weekly art events.

JBI Elemental originally proposed a larger project with 27 residential units and requested a waiver for fewer parking spaces than required. Still, the plan got a thumbs down from the council at its May 10th meeting. To address the officials’ skepticism that a more urban, walkable subdivision will lead to lower demand for parking, the developer returned to Garden City on Monday with the option of the scaled-back project with the full 36 parking spaces required.

A tough decision

34th St Garden City
A cyclist zips down the Boise River Greenbelt at the end of 34th St. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Council members still struggled with the project. On one hand, two council members praised the project’s creativity and overall vision for the area, but concerns about the lack of parking won the day.

City Council Member Jeff Souza admired the developer’s proposal to work with the Garden City Urban Renewal Agency to build more parking if the development was approved in its full form with 27 units. He said without a concrete plan, he couldn’t vote for it.

“The idea to me is someone would already own (a piece of land for parking) and sell it at a reduced price to the city and the city would go through the processes of developing it,” he said. “Assurances without some kind of absolute agreement in place that involves a hard dollar amount as noble as this is, that’s just not reality at all.”

Instead, Souza made the motion to approve the proposal with fewer units and more parking. His motion did allow the developer to keep the hotel at 12 rooms instead of dropping it down to 10.

Council Member Teresa Jorgensen still didn’t get on board with the project, even in its watered-down form. She worried about the safety of street parking for the project and the complications of Ada County Highway District vacating 34th Street, JBI Elemental purchasing it, and then turning it over to Garden City with an easement.

“I love this proposal and the idea of the development, but this is a situation given how tight things have been in that part of town that we do need to follow the minimum (parking) code,” he said.

“We need to be here representing the people who own property and have certain expectations that have lived there and further have a reason to believe that ‘If I’m tolerating all of this growth, why would I be penalized by not being able to park because I’m being overrun by development?’”

Farmer’s Market can continue

Casino Beach Garden City
Casino Beach. Via JBI Elemental

This project makes up the bulk of 40 lots sold in the area earlier this year after a proposal from another developer to transform the area fell apart.

Prior to 2018, this section of 34th Street was home to a mobile home park before Urban Willow LLC developers Hannah Ball, and Richard Phillips bought the lots and made waves with a plan to redevelop the area. But, the company dissolved, and Ball and partner Dick Phillips sold off the lots to several developers, including JBI Elemental.

Ball is no longer involved in developing any of the parcels, but she told BoiseDev in March she is still involved in the Garden City Farmer’s Market on 34th Street. Council approved a conditional use permit for the market, which will be supported by JBI Elemental’s development, on Monday evening along with the development.

[Downtown Boise market will again start in Garden City – but could return to Boise]

Garden City City Council gave the farmer’s market a permit to operate through March 2022, which will have to be reapproved annually. Other restrictions the council put on the market include limiting catering permits, which allow a business to sell alcohol, and capping the number of events to 50 days per year.

Souza said he wants to allow future councils the opportunity to weigh in on the market’s permit in the future, especially with an election coming in November. He also the city council’s concerns about the market were not because he and other elected officials did not approve of the concept, but because they were concerned that the way the farmer’s market operated violated the “spirit and intent” of the state’s catering law.

“I just think that puts undue stress on our police department…,” Souza said.

Garden City’s ‘broken’ parking code

This project is one of several others in the pipeline for the 34th Street area after the breakup of the properties owned by Urban Willow LLC earlier this year.

Spokane developer Jordan Tampien is working on developing 24 rental units, a brewery and a handful of Airbnbs. Clovision Holdings LLC is also planning a small mixed-use project on 33rd Street with a first floor commercial space with four apartments on the second floor.

During Monday’s meeting, council members also acknowledged the city’s outdated parking code requirements that do not consider urban developments with fewer spaces like what is growing up around 34th Street. Council Members did not come up with a plan to address the problem at Monday’s meeting, but the group agreed the code needs to be altered at some point in the future.

“We have a parking code that is broken for the times we live in, and I know that I and others on this council are interested in correcting that, so there is code developers can rely upon but also as we heard that homeowners can rely on going forward,” Council Member James Page said.

But, it takes months to write a new code of this type, and council members wondered about how to take the time to develop it while applications keep pouring in.

“There’s never the best time,” Souza said, about revamping the parking code. “There’s the appearance of it being punitive or being a direct response to an application.”

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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