Basque Block representative: 'Probably' no appeal of Gardner project

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 8, 2014 

Patty Miller, executive director of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, said Wednesday night that she and fellow representatives of Downtown Boise's Basque Block will "probably not" appeal the latest approval of the Gardner Co.'s proposed City Center Plaza.

“But at least we spoke up and identified the problems we saw with (the project),” Miller said.

Wednesday night, Boise’s Design Review Committee approved the 8th & Main developer’s plans for a mixed-use development on U.S. Bank Plaza. During the hearing, dozens of people spoke in favor of the Gardner Co.’s proposed City Center Plaza, representing a wide array of businesses and government agencies. Only one person spoke against the project.

That was in contrast to government hearings over the past few months. At some of those proceedings, dozens stood against the Gardner proposal. Many represented businesses on Downtown Boise’s Basque Block — just east of the proposed City Center Plaza. They predicted the project would make traffic worse, block views and cause traffic problems on Capitol Boulevard and Main Street.

Miller said her chief concern is that part of the project will take away the Basque Block’s view of the Grove Plaza.

Last fall, the Gardner Co. announced plans to build City Center Plaza. The project would include a nine-story office-and-retail structure on the west side of U.S. Bank Plaza, which Gardner bought a few months earlier.

Additionally, the company would put a several-story building on the south side of the plaza. The south building would have indoor parking and convention space that the Greater Boise Auditorium District would own and operate as an expansion of its existing convention facility, Boise Centre.

Underneath the plaza, Gardner wants to excavate and build a public transportation hub with space for eight buses to load and unload bus riders. Valley Regional Transit, the Treasure Valley’s public transportation authority, would own the hub.

Last fall, when Gardner Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist first hatched the idea for putting a transit center underneath the rest of City Center Plaza, he wasn’t sure it would work. The company wanted to break ground on the project this summer, and excavation of the transit center has to be the first thing that gets done.

At least six government agencies had to sign off on the transit center. They include the Federal Transit Administration, city of Boise, Greater Boise Auditorium District, Valley Regional Transit, Boise’s urban renewal district and Ada County Highway District, which maintains Boise streets.

The rest of the project was the easy part and would go forward, with or without the transit center, Ahlquist said.

On Wednesday, Ahlquist said getting stamps of approval from all of those agencies in the space of a few months was remarkable. If no one appeals the Design Review Committee’s approval or puts other obstacles in City Center Plaza’s path, he said, groundbreaking on the transit center will happen in early June. Real work on it would start a week or so later, he said.

Even if opposition to the transit center threatens to delay the rest of the project, Ahlquist said, Gardner won’t scrap it from the City Center Plaza plans.

“We’re going to fight and do everything that we can to make this happen, because this is the right thing to do for Boise,” he said. “It’s going to be the right thing five years from now, 10 years from now, 30 years from now.”

Sven Berg (208) 377-6275

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