Late last year, Rob Gerbitz started looking at Boise; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Kansas City for an investment by his Wisconsin-based company, Hendricks Commercial Properties.
“Every year, I’ll select a few cities and do research on them, understand what they are, how they are demographically, what the business climate is,” said Gerbitz, the company’s CEO. “Boise is always one of those cities that’s on the top rankings for quality of life, affordability, kind of everything.”
Gerbitz decided to buy the three buildings that make up the 12-year-old BoDo commercial district as a long-term investment. The $25 million sale, which closed late last month, includes the buildings anchored by P.F. Chang’s and the Edwards Boise Downtown theaters. It also includes the ground-floor businesses under the public parking garage across Broad Street from Edwards.
The company has no plans yet for major changes, though Gerbitz wants to update the facades to allow each store to stand out and draw more attention from passers-by.
Never miss a local story.
“We want the tenants in their spaces to have a personality, because that’s what creates a good environment,” he said.
Hendricks is owned by Diane Hendricks, who founded the company in 1974, in Beloit, Wisconsin. It has holdings in 33 states, including Washington and Colorado, with buildings totaling more than 1.1 million square feet.
“We don’t have investors in our company,” Gerbitz said. “We have one investor, Diane, so we don’t need an immediate payback.”
Two projects in Indianapolis offer a glimpse into the way Hendricks Commercial Properties does business.
In September, Hendricks opened a luxury hotel, Ironworks Hotel Indy, adjacent to a mixed-use apartment and retail complex that Hendricks also developed.
Last summer, Hendricks was selected to redevelop a former Coca Cola bottling plant in Indianapolis from the 1930s that was once the world’s largest Coke plant. The $260 million project will turn the Art Deco building into a hall of markets and restaurants. The 11-acre site also will house a 150-room boutique hotel, a movie theater, condominiums and apartments.
Buy 8th Street Marketplace too?
Gerbitz likes developments with charm and a creative vibe.
During a visit last week to Boise, Gerbitz gazed out from Caffe D’Arte, a BoDo tenant on Broad Street. He admired the century-old 8th Street Marketplace across Broad, a three-story, red-brick retail and office compound whose classic urban feel contrasts with BoDo’s contemporary look.
“That’s really great,” he said. “That’s something that we’d like to re-create.”
The 8th Street Marketplace, owned by Talcott Holdings Ltd. of San Francisco, consists of six early 20th-century historic warehouses and a former gas station/garage. After renovations, the first two buildings opened with retail tenants in 1977. The others followed four years later.
Jerry Malone, vice president of Boise’s Oppenheimer Development Corp., which manages the 8th Street Marketplace, said he appreciates Gerbitz’s compliment.
“I think it’s fairly common that if you’re going to buy something, you’re going to try and buy something in a neighborhood that you’re impressed by or you’d like to be involved in,” Malone said.
The 8th Street Marketplace is not for sale, but Gerbitz said that if it were, “we would certainly take a hard look.”
Anonymous visits to tenants
During his trip to Boise last week, Gerbitz visited some of BoDo’s shops and observed vehicle and foot traffic. He did not identify himself, because he wanted to be treated like any other customer.
Gerbitz said he plans soon to set up tenant meetings where business owners or managers can share concerns or suggestions.
Kasey Allen, co-owner of The STIL ice cream parlor next to Caffe D’Arte, said he would like to see the space vacated this summer by Urban Outfitters at 8th and Front Street filled by a business that benefits the entire neighborhood. A business open in the evening would help drive traffic to his shop and others, he said.
“We’d like to see that be something that really draws people Downtown, like an upscale bowling alley or a bar or brewery — things that are more experiential in nature,” Allen said.
The Village at Meridian, Allen said, has created an “experience destination,” with its outdoor skating rink and frequent events. “Not that Downtown will ever become The Village, but we’d like to see the same kind of operations that really get people excited about Downtown,” he said.
BoDo’s developer says Downtown is short on retail
Mark Rivers, a North End resident who developed BoDo but no longer owns any of it, said Urban Outfitters’ move to The Village is a troubling sign for Downtown Boise.
“It’s not ideal when Urban Outfitters would rather be Suburban Outfitters,” he said.
Rivers said Downtown has become too concentrated with restaurants and must beef up its retail sector.
“We’ve got to get back to the right mix,” Rivers said. “The recipe for Downtown is everything. There’s shopping. It’s dining. It’s entertainment. It’s living. It’s working. And it’s unique experiences and amusements.”
Gerbitz said Urban Outfitters’ departure is not necessarily bad. The next tenant in that space might be a restaurant, he said.
“To give you an example, Fork, that’s the dynamic that could work there,” Gerbitz said. Fork is a farm-to-table restaurant at 199 N. 8th St. “They have just a wonderful vibe. The quality is excellent. That kind of restaurant would be spectacular.”
A good retailer could fit too, he said. “Those are getting harder and harder to come by, but when you find a really good one, they’re terrific.”
He said his company looks first to find local companies to fill store vacancies. People like spending money with local businesses and have great loyalty to them, he said.
“People don’t mind spending a little more money for a shirt or whatever it is, as long as they have a really good experience,” he said.