State approves Gardner-Boise State lease

sberg@idahostatesman.comJune 19, 2014 

For years, Boise's software-tech industry has clamored for more qualified employees.

Much of their urging has focused on Boise State University, which is trying to grow its Computer Science Department. 

Thursday, the university moved toward addressing the private sector's demands when it got permission to lease 53,000 square feet in the Gardner Co.'s planned City Center Plaza.

Gardner plans to break ground July 1 on the $70 million City Center Plaza. The project is planned as a retail-office-convention-parking development with an underground public transportation hub. It will be located on U.S. Bank Plaza between the Grove and the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Main Street.

The project is the brainchild of Gardner COO Tommy Ahlquist, who envisions it as the cultural and economic center of the Treasure Valley. In fact, Gardner suggested Boise State lease the space, Boise State President Bob Kustra said Thursday.

The Computer Science Department's upperclassmen would operate out of the second and third floors of the development's Clearwater Building, which Gardner plans to build just west of the U.S. Bank tower. Boise State would pay $856,784 the first year, with an option to renew the lease for 19 subsequent years. The rent would increase by 3 percent each year. Kustra said the university couldn't afford to build its own space for that price.

"This is a bargain of sorts," he told the State Board of Education on Thursday.

The university would also have the chance to buy the space. Each year, the purchase price would decrease — from $9.1 million the first year to $1 in year 20.

Clearwater Analytics, a Boise tech industry leader, plans to occupy the top five floors of the same building. 

Kustra told the Education Board that basing part of the department in the Downtown core will encourage more cooperation between faculty, students and private industry types. Already, he said, the department has relationships, including adjunct professors and interns, with 28 Downtown Boise tech firms. 

"Clearwater is just one of them," he said. "Clearwater will be our building partner, but believe me, we will be working across Downtown and across the valley with many other firms as well, and they're not all software engineering firms."

Additionally, Kustra said, having a university presence Downtown will encourage students to finish their degrees if they take jobs before graduating. 

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