Our View: Officials should be open to Gardner plan

December 13, 2013 

Gardner Co. has presented Boise and the entire Treasure Valley an opportunity to connect some dots to its future. We feel a plan devised by Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist to enhance transportation and Downtown Boise development could be extremely useful and marketable assets for the region.

The plan, which will serve Gardner’s business goals while providing for civic development in The Grove, could be completed by early 2016 and would include the following features: a nine-story, 206,000-square-foot retail and office building on the west side of U.S. Bank Plaza; a skybridge connecting that structure to a four- or five-story building on the U.S. Bank tower’s south side; two floors of parking and two or three floors of meeting and convention space in the 25,000 square-foot south building; and a transit station taking up about an acre underground.

We urge officials of the city of Boise, the Capital City Development Corporation, Greater Boise Auditorium District, Ada County Highway District, Valley Regional Transit and any other stakeholders to apply a mix of maximum scrutiny and open-mindedness to these promising plans and plug them into longer term goals.

We urge citizens to walk The Grove and consider how this plan could move the region forward.

Valley Regional Transit will never reach its potential until a transit hub — in such an ideal location — is constructed. It is in possession of $12 million in federal and local funding to propel the transit project. With such a central location (and we hope this leads to expanded hours and reach), VRT could blossom to become the mass transit connector the Treasure Valley needs.

Should GBAD be willing to consider weaving its future convention center needs with the opportunity Gardner presents, we see a win-win. Conventioneers with walking access to Downtown Boise and bus access to The Village at Meridian and the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, for instance, will have enhanced experiences.

We are aware GBAD’s funding and sphere of influence is linked to a broader geography than The Grove: portions of Boise, Garden City, Eagle and Meridian. We are aware GBAD refocused its mission toward expanded convention facilities — which Ahlquist has addressed.

We can understand GBAD might be concerned about throwing in with a “Boise-centric” project, but we would remind its leadership that one of GBAD’s major assets is Parcel B, located virtually across the street from The Grove and the proposed Gardner developments.

Ahlquist is risking $500,000 to study the transit hub idea. These plans will be subject to layers of government approval, but Gardner Co. is an attractive teammate in a public-private partnership. Since Ahlquist can fill the hole at 8th and Main as effortlessly as he did, we welcome his collaboration and ideas to shape the Treasure Valley’s future.

There are times when the public sector should get behind the draft created by the private sector. This looks like one of those times.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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