Idaho District Judge Lynn Norton found that Wells Fargo could conceivably try to collect money from the Greater Boise Auditorium District if the district did not follow expectations to renew its lease for an expansion of Boise Centre.
That possibility, even if it’s unlikely, constitutes a long-term liability for the district, Norton found. Therefore, a proposed lease agreement in which the auditorium district paid Wells Fargo through Boise’s urban renewal agency is invalid, Norton ruled.
This is the second time in seven months that, at the request of Boise watchdog David Frazier, a state judge has denied the district’s petition to use the renewal agency as a pass-through to pay for the expansion of Boise Centre, the city’s main convention center. The project includes a ballroom and kitchen, as well as meeting and pre-function space in City Center Plaza, a public-private development under construction northeast of the Grove.
District executive director Pat Rice said he was aware of the ruling but hadn’t examined it thoroughly enough to know what’s the best way to respond. He didn’t rule out further legal proceeedings, such as going back to the judge to clarify details or appealing Norton’s ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court.
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One thing’s certain, though, Rice said: The district will pay for its part of the Boise Centre expansion. If a series of leases isn’t possible, he said, the district can cover the outstanding cost of the project – about $16.5 million – from its cash reserves, which total about $22 million.
That would delay subsequent phases of the expansion, including a skybridge connecting the ballroom building to the existing Boise Centre building, and a renovation of the existing convention space. After paying for its various operations, Rice said, the district accumulates about $3 million, conservatively, every year from a five-percent tax on room rentals inside its boundaries, which include all of Boise and some places outside city limits
If the district pays cash as it saves it up, Rice said, it could wrap up the expansion by 2023.