Boise's urban renewal agency picks condos for lot near Downtown library

Boise-based developer RMH Co. leads a team that includes a Seattle architecture firm and the company that’s building JUMP

sberg@idahostatesman.comMarch 11, 2014 

The lot between 8th, 9th, River and Fulton streets will have 60 new condominiums by early 2016, if all goes according to plan.

The development team wants to build as many as 65 condos, retail and other commercial space in several buildings on the lot, owned by Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency. The total expected cost is $17 million.

“I absolutely expect a range of product types and price points,” said Mike Hormaechea, who’s in charge of developing the RMH project. “Exactly what that is, you know, is still being worked on.”

Early designs for the development show two main groups of buildings — one on the lot’s 9th Street side, the other on the 8th Street side. An alley that runs north-south between the streets would become a pedestrian and bike thoroughfare.

Hormaechea said there’s a lot to like about the property.

“Its proximity to Downtown, jobs, entertainment, recreation, the Greenbelt,” he said. “It’s just in a really nice spot with easy walking or biking distance to all the things I think Downtown enthusiasts like.”

Today, a warehouse stands at the northeast corner of 9th and River streets, just northwest of the Boise Public Library’s main block and north of a city-owned property leased to Biomark, which makes wildlife-monitoring devices. The warehouse was originally a food-distribution center. Boise’s renewal agency bought the property in 2001, hoping to promote development along the Capitol Boulevard corridor between Front Street and the Boise River.

CCDC’s board gave preliminary approval to the RMH team’s proposal over five other proposals for suggested student housing, a hotel or rental apartments. RMH, founded in 1989, has undertaken several notable Idaho projects such as Alpine Village, a residential and commercial development in McCall. The company also owns most of the private land between River Street, the Boise River, 9th Street and 13th Street, said John Brunelle, CCDC's executive director.

Efforts to contact representatives of GGLO, the Seattle-based architect teaming up with RMH for this project, were unsuccessful.

A lot more planning and negotiating needs to happen before any actual construction takes place, said John Brunelle, the agency’s executive director. Over the next few months, Brunelle said, RMH and its team members will sit down with the renewal agency’s staff and hammer out a more detailed design, confirm the project’s financing method and negotiate financial terms by which the companies would become owners of the 1.2-acre property.

“It’s really the most difficult and crucial part of the whole process,” Brunelle said. “If we do things correctly now, things should proceed smoothly during construction.”

One possibility is that the developers will buy the land from the renewal agency but with a provision that if they don’t keep up with progress expectations, the agency will reassume ownership of the property.

“I’m open to whatever is a fair agreement between us and (the agency),” Hormaechea said.

After those kinds of details are finalized, Brunelle would hand the board of commissioners a development agreement — a document that says exactly what the development is and how it will unfold. If the board approves the document, construction can begin, maybe by summer.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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