Now that they have the tallest structure in Idaho, people at the Gardner Co. wonder whether they should have made it taller.
"I blew it. I really should have 25 floors in this building," founder Kem Gardner said, and he sounded as if he was only half-joking. "But I was scared to death of 18. And now that I see where we are on it, I just think, 'Let's take this (top) off and build another couple of floors.' "
That comment drew plenty of laughter from the roughly 130 dignitaries who rode a temporary elevator Wednesday to the top of the building in Downtown Boise to recognize the structure's "topping off" - also known as "topping out."
Even 25 floors might not have satisfied Kem Gardner, joked his son, Christian Gardner.
"Without (my mother) controlling my dad, this would be 45 stories," Christian Gardner said.
Topping-off ceremonies are a traditional celebration marking placement of the final beam at the top of a building. After the Gardners spoke, so did their chief operating officer, Tommy Ahlquist, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and two Zions Bank executives. A crane then raised and placed the last beam. It was painted white, with an American flag on one end, a small fir tree on the other end, and the dignitaries' signatures in between.
The tree symbolizes bringing life to the building, Ahlquist said.
Life is exactly what this site has lacked for decades.
In 1864, the corner - a famous stop on the Oregon Trail - became the home of the Overland Hotel. Four decades later, the Eastman building replaced the hotel and stood as a Downtown beacon until the 1970s. That was when the Boise Redevelopment Agency bought the building and evicted everyone in it.
Billy Fong, one of the last members of Boise's Chinese community, cursed the ground at 8th and Main before leaving town. The Eastman building sat vacant for 15 years before it burned.
After the suspicious blaze, plan after plan for new developments fell through. In 2001, work began on what would have been the 25-story Boise Tower. But legal and financial problems stalled the project, leaving the Boise Hole.
Boiseans began to wonder whether there was something to the curse of Billy Fong.
Doubts lingered even after the 8th and Main building began to rise. But the doubters have been proved wrong, Christian Gardner said.
More than eight months from its scheduled opening, he said, tenants have signed leases for more than 80 percent of the $76 million building.
Demand for 8th and Main's nearly 400,000 square feet is a testament to the building and Boise's larger economic recovery, Bieter said.
"If you had any doubt that we're back, you're certainly about to have no doubt now," Bieter said.
The 8th and Main building is a symbol as well as a major piece of the recovery, Bieter said. Last year marked a five-year peak in the number and value of building permits the city issued, he said.
"The hole is gone forever. Ladies and gentlemen, long live 8th and Main," Bieter said.
Sven Berg: 377-6275