Garden City City Council dashed a developer’s dream for a high-end condominium tower along the Boise River earlier this month.
Three of Garden City’s council members voted unanimously to uphold an appeal and deny a proposal to build an 18-story, 111 unit condominium tower at the end of 41st Street. This proposal replaced Boise developer Michael Talbott’s initial proposal for an 8-story hotel on the parcel to accompany his larger plan for the area including restaurants, a public plaza and two buildings with 275-apartment units.
Too little parking, too much height
Garden City approved the project with the hotel component in 2019, but Talbott asked the Design Review Committee to approve changing the project to the condominiums over the summer. Wendy Carver-Herbert appealed the decision on the project up to Garden City City Council, where it was voted down.
Carver-Herbert argued before the council that the project, which would have been triple what was originally approved, did not fit in with the nearby buildings due to its height. She noted that while the neighborhood is transitioning to more density, the tallest nearby buildings are only six stories.
She also pointed out that the project only has 212 parking spaces, instead of the 245 required by city code now that the project changed from commercial to residential.
City Council Members agreed.
City Council Member Teresa Jorgensen said she understands that commercial developers are having difficulty landing financial backing and making projects pencil due to the uncertainty of the market for business travel due to the pandemic. But, she said the developer’s proposal was out of touch with the area and did not meet the city’s standards for parking.
Jorgensen said she hopes the developer could hold off on building the hotel project until a later date when the economy is more settled and building an upscale hotel would be more feasible.
“The project came in as a hotel with retail and it would have been a nice bookend to that district and offer up another hotel option for business travelers who wanted to stay close to the river so its somewhat disappointing to have that flip to a residential solution,” she told BoiseDev last week. “However, having stated that I am very, very sympathetic of the developers and builders right now.”
‘Not a minor change’
City Council Member James Page said the fewer parking spaces made sense for a hotel because often business travelers don’t rent a car and rely on taxis, walking or ride-sharing services to get around. But, the lack of spaces for the location was the major concern for him, not the height of the building.
“The criticism some people had was it is too tall and city council is going to deny on the height and that wasn’t it for me,” he told BoiseDev. “The issue it was basically just stuffing more people in a city that needs infrastructure. A tall building in my opinion requires restaurants and things to do in that area. The nearest grocery store is probably a tie between the 36th Street Albertsons and Fred Meyer. Both of those could be walked, but those are long walks.”
The application process was a big concern for City Council President Jeff Souza. He said such a dramatic shift should always have been reviewed by city council, not coming up through the appeal process from the Design Review Committee.
“What I said in my remarks, which aren’t so much related to the decision, was that the project started out as a 9 story hotel and it came back to us as an 18 story residential building,” he said. “In my view, that’s not a minor change. That’s a different project. I’m not really sure it was before the design review committee, an important decision of that magnitude.”