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This Downtown Boise parking lot? A Los Angeles developer wants to put apartments on it

More multifamily housing may come soon to Downtown Boise. A developer plans to build an apartment building with seven or eight stories on a parking lot at 4th and Broad streets

LocalConstruct, which developed the 159-unit The Fowler apartments and the 37-unit Watercooler apartments Downtown, applied Tuesday for a change in the parcel's zoning from Residential Office to C-5 Central Business. The change would allow greater density and a taller building than is allowed under current zoning.

"A zone change is necessary for us to be able to bring another genuinely walkable, urban, mixed-use housing project to the Downtown core," Patrick Boel, the company's construction director, wrote in the application.

Co-owner Casey Lynch said plans for the building, called The Cartee at least for now, will be similar in size to The Fowler, which has seven stories, although the number of units has not been determined. The new building will not be a clone of The Fowler one block west, he said.

"It will likely have a unique look and feel," Lynch said.

Both projects are in the Central Addition neighborhood. The Central Addition was one of the first subdivisions outside Boise’s original townsite. Civic and business leaders lived alongside working-class renters after the neighborhood was platted in 1890. After the Union Pacific Railroad laid track on Front Street in 1903, the area declined rapidly.

Most of its grand homes, some of which were architecturally unique in Boise, have since been demolished or relocated. Local Construct paid to relocate three of them and tore down a fourth to make way for The Fowler.

The Fowler 532.JPG
The seven-story Fowler apartments opened at 505 W. Broad St. in March. Construction was substantially completed in late March, nearly nine months after the date specified by the construction contract. Developers of the 159-unit building are suing Andersen Construction of Portland, the builder. John Sowell

The proposed project is named for Lafayette Cartee, a Boise pioneer who owned the property and lived nearby at 4th and Grove streets. He built the city's first greenhouse in 1871 and sold trees, shrubs and flowers from the eastern United States, China, India and Japan, according to a 2015 Idaho Statesman column by Boise historian Arthur Hart.

Like The Fowler, The Cartee would have its own parking garage and ground-floor retail space. A proposed development agreement with the city would limit the height of the building to 95 feet.

If the zone change is approved, Lynch, whose company is based in Los Angeles but has a heavy Boise presence, said construction could likely start in summer or fall 2019. He said he expects it would take 18 to 24 months to complete.

"We think Downtown Boise offers a lot for people living there — walkability and exciting living conditions," he said. "We've had a great response to our other properties."

The Fowler, which opened in March, has 60 percent of its units leased, he said. One company new to Boise leased several units for its employees, who can walk to work, he said. Lynch said he's pleased with the occupancy rate.

"It's quite accelerated from what we expected," he said.

Rents at The Fowler start at $1,100 for a studio, $1,360 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,780 for two bedrooms. Lynch said the average tenants there pay about 20 percent of their income on rent, compared to a national average of about 30 percent.

Prices have not been set for The Cartee, but Lynch said they would be comparable to The Fowler.

"The key for living in Downtown Boise is affordability, and we think we provide that," he said.

That might apply to business executives and high-tech workers, but working-class people are finding it harder to afford rents Downtown. A typical one-bedroom apartment at The Fowler has 600 square feet, small and expensive for workers without high incomes.

LocalConstruct owns several other sites in Downtown Boise. If developed, they could add another 600 residential units, Lynch said.

The Cartee site is also a block away from a proposal from Boise City Council member Scot Ludwig for two high-rise buildings at 5th and Broad. His development would include an 11-story building on the northeast corner of the intersection and a 9-story building on the southeast corner, with the buildings linked by a skybridge.

The buildings would combine office, retail and residential units. In March, the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission denied the request by Ludwig, an attorney and developer. The city council is scheduled to hear his appeal on Tuesday, June 5.

Reporter Sven Berg contributed. John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell