You could soon get your chance to tell the College of Western Idaho what you think of its proposed campus on the edge of Downtown Boise.
One day after the community college reported the results of a new appraisal, CWI officials said Wednesday that they plan three meetings for the public to discuss the planned purchase of the former Bob Rice car dealership on West Main Street next to the Boise River. The first meeting could be in late August, spokeswoman Jennifer Couch said.
The community college will seek public opinions on any aspect of the Boise campus and what the college might offer, said Guy Hurlbutt, vice chairman of CWI’s board of trustees.
The college seeks a permanent site to replace the space it rents in the the Blackeagle Center business park on Overland Road near South Maple Grove Road. That space costs the college more than $1 million a year.
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But officials are bracing for an earful from some people still angry over how trustees handled the pending purchase and upset over its cost, which likely will require a tax increase. The college signed an agreement in April declaring its intent to purchase the property for $8.8 million from the Rice family without obtaining an appraisal or checking the site’s assessed value. The county assessor valued the property at $3.6 million.
CWI released an appraisal on Tuesday that valued the property at $8.97 million.
Hurlbutt said he hopes opponents will come to realize that the purchase is worthwhile.
“I assume that ... the problem was their view that the property wasn’t worth what we offered for it,” he told the Statesman. “I would hope if they take a look at this in a dispassionate way they will change their minds.”
The appraisal was done by Integra Realty Resources, a Boise company, for $4,000.
Arriving at the appraisal presented challenges, said Bradford Knipe, Integra’s senior managing director, and Robin Brady, its director, in a letter to CWI. Downtown Boise has few riverfront parcels available for sale of the kind CWI is considering, and Integra couldn’t find any at 10 acres or larger. It found four parcels in the five- to eight-acre range and reported that they were higher priced ,under contract or limited in their uses.
At the same time, the parcel is in an area only recently zoned for high-rise buildings, and the property is right next to the Greenbelt — a desirable amenity.
CWI’s board still has three months to complete its due diligence on the property before completing its purchase.
The college was authorized by voters in Ada and Canyon counties in 2007 and opened in 2009. Its main campus is in Nampa. CWI’s leaders say the time has come to expand. Besides building in Boise, they want to build a health sciences building and a student center on the Nampa campus.
To pay for that, they have contemplated asking voters to approve a $150 million bond sale backed by property taxes. That would require a two-thirds majority. Leaders say they also might consider a capital campaign.
Meanwhile, CWI is considering environmental issues at the site, and looking at traffic patterns and potential effects of flooding, since part of the property is in a flood zone, Hurlbutt said.
CWI is also hiring CTA Architects of Boise to do some conceptual, preliminary designs for how a campus would look. Hurlbutt said the drawings are meant to spotlight any problems the school could encounter.
In April, CWI officials envisioned a multistory campus and garage on the property. School officials say the preliminary design could provide a clearer picture of what the campus would look like and what would be needed to support programs there. Among the possible options is constructing the multistory building in phases.
School officials in April estimated the campus cost at $70 million. CWI officials now emphasize that they don’t have an exact cost yet.
Board chairwoman Mary Niland and CWI President Bert Glandon were not available for comment.