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‘A long, important process’: City of Boise, Boise State look to redevelop affordable housing complex on Capitol Boulevard

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A long-envisioned redevelopment of an aging affordable housing complex on Capitol Boulevard could soon be getting off the ground. 

This week, the City of Boise and Boise State University launched a joint Request for Information looking for interested private sector developers to redevelop what’s known as the city’s Capitol Campus at 1025 Capitol Boulevard. This aging property, a former motel, is home to 110 units of affordable housing that serve some of the lowest-income Boiseans. The nearby affordable units in the historic Boulevard Motel is slated to stay unchanged in this concept plan. 

The city’s goal is to turn the block into a mixed-use, mixed-income property with half of the units dedicated to affordable housing. There are few concrete details available before a proposal has been selected, but early studies of the parcel found it could accommodate roughly double the units there now. 

Maureen Brewer, who heads up the city’s Housing and Community Development department, said the city’s “number one priority” is to make sure that the current residents are relocated to other affordable units in Boise and don’t become homeless as a result of the project. 

“This will be a long, important process,” Brewer said, noting the city has been in contact with tenants already. “We wanted to make sure that this processes tenant centered and they’re hearing from us directly what’s happening, the timing of what’s happening, making sure we’re answering questions they might have. Undoubtedly this is a bit of a stressful and anxiety-inducing situation for them and we want to make sure they understand we’re here and we’re showing up for them and we’re going to continue to show up for them.”

There is no definite timeline of the project currently, but Brewer estimates it could break ground in 2024. 

Focus on ‘deep affordability’

The total area of the project is 4.7 acres, which includes the current affordable housing complex and a parking lot owned by BSU. 

The goal is for the project to be a mixed-income project with some market rate units mixed in, but overall the vision is for a developer to propose a project with “deep affordability,” retail space and a focus on alternative transportation options. The city also hopes for a building that could hook into the city’s geothermal network and has environmentally friendly stormwater management aspects to it. 

Street view of the parking lot on the north side of the Capitol Campus. Courtesy of Google Maps

3.1 acres of the site, where the affordable housing complex is, was purchased with federal funds and is subject to certain requirements for its redevelopment. Just over half of the units built on this site will have to be for households making less than 80% of the area median income ($47,150 for a single person). The RFI says the city hopes for a “heavy focus” on households earning less than 60% of AMI, or $35,400 for a single person, as well as some units dedicated specifically for households exiting homelessness. 

All of the tenants currently living at the property will be relocated and provided with assistance finding a place and their new housing will maintain their current “rent-to-income” ratio for current tenants. These residents will also be given the first opportunity to move back to the project once it’s complete. A note in the RFI said these tenants will need “special consideration to qualify” because of their extremely low, and often fixed, incomes and “other barriers to housing.”

Brewer said the city will be required to comply with the federal government’s Uniform Relocation Act, which mandates how tenants of existing federally funded properties will be moved if redevelopment occurs. 

BSU wish list and financing 

Unlike the city’s parcel, the 1.6-acre parking lot at the north end of the parking lot owned by the university is not subject to these federal requirements and can have as many, or as few, affordable units as a developer chooses. 

The RFI says the university is interested in partnering with the city on the redevelopment to help create more housing supply, both affordable and at market price, near campus for employees or graduate students. The school also noted they would be interested in “one-stop” retail, which refers to a corner store with groceries and essentials  to “leverage the neighborhood’s density and lack of essential services.”

“The Lusk District has become an exciting hub for Boise State students and the community,” Marlene Tromp, president of Boise State University, said in a press release. “The university looks forward to exploring possible opportunities to collaborate with the City of Boise on the future development of this area. We share the city’s commitment to our community and to genuinely enhancing this important neighborhood near our campus.”  

The project could also help address the demand for parking on campus with a parking garage both for tenants and possibly public parking, as long as there is not fewer parking spaces than the current parking lot has already. 

Part of the proposal from developers should include “creative financing” for how to make the project pencil, which means there isn’t any specific information yet on how the redevelopment could be paid for. Brewer said it would likely include low-income housing tax credit funding, CBDG or HOME grant funds from the federal government or the city’s own general funds could also be used to subsidize rents. 

Years of talks about redevelopment

Talks of redeveloping this site are not new. 

BoiseDev reported at the end of 2018 on a proposal from developer Gardner Company for BSU to trade two parcels it owns in the Lusk District to help pay for the construction of a new baseball field for its now-defunct baseball program. The trade never came to fruition. 

The Idaho Press also reported in 2019 that former Mayor Dave Bieter’s administration had been planning for the redevelopment of the site since 2014 to bring the unit count on the site to nearly 400 units. At the time, the city was considering a range of configurations for the site including building on the open lawn space behind the Boulevard Motel, on top of the office spaces of the larger motel fronting Capitol Boulevard, or collaborating with Boise State University and the parking lot. 

Boise acquired the two motels in the area in 1995 using affordable-housing funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These units are roughly a third of all the affordable housing units the city rents out at rates lower than the standards set by the federal government, which also includes over two dozen single-family homes. As of late 2019, studios in the two motels rent for between $341 and $361 per month, and one-bedroom apartments range between $387 and $404.

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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