The east end of Downtown Boise now has more than 50,000 square feet of new retail space, with the newly opened Walgreens drug store and the Whole Foods Market opening Wednesday.
But those buildings are just a fraction of the construction that was once envisioned for the site on the west side of Broadway Avenue between Myrtle and Front streets.
Two members of a Texas development company first came to Boise in 2005 looking for a site for Whole Foods. Brad Schlosser and Rick Duggan of Schlosser Development in Austin found the nearly six-acre plot of fallow land owned by Jim Kissler, the CEO of Norco, a family-owned Boise company that distributes welding and medical equipment, gases and medical supplies. Schlosser and Kissler proposed a 17-story hotel and condo development, other retail, and a 55,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, about the size of a typical Albertsons supermarket.
The economy was booming then. Schlosser hired Boise architectural firm CSHQA to prepare designs. The city approved the project, although there were some objections from people who felt the 17-story tower was too tall and out of character with the Whole Foods part of the project and the rest of the area. In February 2008, the developers said they would reduce the tower to six or seven stories, about as high as the nearby Idaho Water Center. Groundbreaking was set for September 2008, with construction estimated to take up to 18 months.
By then, the Great Recession had begun. As it deepened, the project was shelved. Then the developers scaled it back again. In December 2010, the Boise Design Review Committee approved the building designs and landscaping that are there now. Whole Foods was reduced to 42,000 square feet, including its mezzanine. Walgreens was designed at 15,000 square feet. Groundbreaking took place October 2011. ESI of Meridian managed the construction.
While the 17-story tower idea is history, the development may yet get bigger. The city approved a possible second phase in its conditional use permit. CSHQA says the rest of the site could be developed sometime into a residential-and-office building with structured parking if market conditions allow.
Whole Foods Market will hosting a public "bread-breaking ceremony" at 9 a.m. Wednesday. An oatmeal breakfast to benefit the Idaho Foodbank begins at 8:30, and a vendor fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.