Gardner eyes Boise transit hub

The 8th and Main building's owner closed a $43 million deal Friday to buy U.S. Bank Plaza, and the hub would go underneath.

sberg@idahostatesman.comAugust 27, 2013 


The Gardner Co. already is studying whether it’s feasible to put a $12 million transportation hub in the US Bank building’s basement — or anywhere else on its newly acquired property.


  • Gardner Co. expansion?

    Gardner is looking at ways to develop U.S. Bank Plaza, which it bought last week. Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist said Gardner may develop surface parking lots on the building's south and west sides to offer new retail and office space.

    The company would design any such development to make its surroundings pedestrian-friendly and protect the value of neighbors, two of which the Gardner Co. now owns. Gardner has no plans to change the existing building's tenant mix, Ahlquist said.

The Gardner Co. already is studying whether it's feasible to put a $12 million transportation hub in the U.S. Bank building's basement — or anywhere else on its newly acquired property.

That process should be finished in a few months, Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist said.

Ahlquist believes a public transportation hub would enhance Downtown's culture and economy. Helping build it would cement Gardner's standing as one of Boise's biggest players and a company that makes things happen when no one else can. The developer is months away from finishing 8th and Main, which will be Idaho's tallest building, on a piece of ground that once was so troubled it was known as the Boise Hole. Buying the state's second-tallest building, across the street, was another huge coup.

"If there was any doubt before, we're committed to Downtown Boise," Ahlquist said.

Despite a central Downtown location, many hurdles stand in the transit center's path. First, it has to work for the Gardner Co. Then it has to meet the requirements of Valley Regional Transit, which would operate and possibly own the hub.

If the project meets both of those criteria, it still has to go through a federal approval process that includes an evaluation of environmental impacts, because most of the money for the transit center would come from a $9.5 million congressional earmark. Boise's urban renewal agency has pledged an additional $2.4 million.

"It's a public process. It has to be open, transparent and fair to everyone who participates," Valley Regional Transit Executive Director Kelli Fairless said.

For years, the transit agency has failed to find a home for a Downtown hub for buses, car sharing, bike sharing, van pools, taxis, airport shuttles and other public transportation. Six proposals ran aground when neighbors fought back.

The most recent attempt failed when Idaho Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz denied the transit agency's application to put the hub on a lot southwest of the corner of 8th and Jefferson. The department manages that lot.

Fairless said Monday the transit agency has given up on the site.

So it's good news for Valley Regional Transit that one of Boise's most successful big-project developers is taking the hub seriously. And the Gardner Co. isn't the only one.

Fairless said several local developers have expressed some level of interest in helping build a Downtown transit center. Clay Carley, the Owyhee Plaza's new owner, whose family developed Old Boise, said he's one of them.

The transit agency is entertaining new proposals for the transit center, and companies have until the end of the week to say if they're interested. Rafanelli and Nahas partner Scott Schoenherr said his company won't be among them. Rafanelli and Nahas owns the Boise Building and was a vocal opponent to one of Valley Regional Transit's early proposals.

Boise spokesman Adam Park said the city is excited about Gardner's approach to the transit center and is eager to hear more about "this new proposal and the others being submitted."

"As Boise's economy continues to surge, more developers are seeing the benefits of partnering in transit projects like the multimodal center to maximize resources, lower infrastructure costs and help get projects built," Park said in an email.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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