While a large-scale project to build a new Boise Library in Downtown Boise remains officially on hold, the city and its urban renewal agency might buy a key piece of land for the future.
As BoiseDev reported last month, the Lydia Merrill Trust listed three properties along 9th St. for sale. CCDC hopes to purchase one of the three, and in turn, transfer it to the City of Boise.
CCDC centered in on the site of a parking lot at the corner of 9th St. and River St. Agency staff pitched its board of directors on buying the site inside its River-Myrtle/Old Boise urban renewal district for $1.9 million. The site is to the north of property the city currently owns, as well as across the street from the main Boise Library campus. Purchasing the property would give the city control of both blocks on either side of 8th St. south of River.
Near the library
The city under former Mayor Dave Bieter hoped to tear down the existing library and relocate facilities used by The Cabin Literary Center and Wasmuth Center to build an expansive public library facility. The project found significant public scrutiny and ultimately spurred a ballot initiative that put new limits on how the city could move forward.
The scuttled library plan did not include facilities on the west side of 8th St., due to a long-term lease the city signed for the old Shavers Warehouse, which is directly south of the property CCDC now hopes to buy. The city under Bieter signed a 45 year lease in 2011 to an LLC related to Biomark USA for the warehouse building. Biomark is now a unit of Merck Animal Health, and still occupies the building.
“We believe it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity assemble parcels in this area for the city and expand on the investment the city has made in our public spaces,” CCDC project manager Alexandra Monjar told the CCDC board Monday. ”The site is well suited to serve community needs through placemaking and short and long-term investments.”
A ’premium price’?
Several board members questioned the proposed $1.9 million purchase price for the 0.2 acre site
Jay Story of Story Commercial, who is representing CCDC in the deal, said an appraisal had not yet been done, but one could be ordered during the due diligence process.
“I can tell you that prices for (downtown parcels) has skyrocketed over the past several years,” he said. ”We were a little more optimistic that we were going to be able to negotiate a slightly lower price. We had hoped with interest rates, there would be a softening of the interest. But, I do know several out-of-town developers were targeting this neighborhood, and were willing to pay above what we’ve seen.”
Monjar told the board that the agency initially bid a lower amount with an escalation clause – and four other bids came in higher, leading to the proposed price.
“What is the motivation for paying a premium price for this location?,” board member Rob Perez asked.
“The real motive is we had our eye on properties owned by this trust for nearly two lifetimes worth of ownership. When the opportunity came up, we couldn’t really compete on (the other two sites offered), but we did see this opportunity as a golden one to complete public ownership of the side-by-side lots for future generations of Boise.”
Brunelle said that regardless of if an expanded library or other projects happen in the area some day ”there will come a day where we will look back and say that was an intelligent move, in our opinion”.
Ultimately, the board asked the agency to get an appraisal on the property. Board chair Dana Zuckerman and Mayor Lauren McLean said that it might be worth paying more than the appraised value, however.
“While I understand and believe we are to spend taxpayer money wisely, this is a key piece of real estate, and I don’t think it has (real estate comparables),” Zuckerman said. ”It’s hard for me to see what the comps could possibly be.”
“I apperciate the interest in seeing an appraisal. I think it’s important once we receive it that we have a conversation about the public purpose. It’s important we give voice to that public purpose piece.”