Downtown Boise residences could double by 2020

Michael Hormaechea is the developer of The Afton in Downtown Boise.
Michael Hormaechea is the developer of The Afton in Downtown Boise. Provided by The Afton

Boise may still be catching up when it comes to Downtown housing, but that is rapidly changing.

“It’s a very hungry market with very few products,” said Bryant Forrester of Urban Concepts and Keller Williams Realty. “To satisfy that, we have two projects coming out of the ground as we speak, and both are experiencing a very high interest level.”

The two projects he is talking about are the One Nineteen and The Afton. The One Nineteen is in the heart of Downtown at 10th and Grove streets. Six stories tall with more than two dozen units, it is expected to be ready in June. The Afton covers more than an acre between 8th and 9th streets and River and Fulton streets near the Boise Public Library. The first phase of this 60-unit project is well underway and should be open by this time next year.

“On one hand, you’re in the thick of the Downtown urban experience and, on the other hand, you’re across the street from one of the best natural beauties, the Boise River — one foot in the city and the other in nature,” said Realtor Julie Oliver of Keller Williams. She’s representating The Afton with regard to sales. “It’s also in the cultural district, so we’re attracting people who appreciate and support the arts.”

“It just struck me right away as a good location for residential,” developer Michael Hormaechea said. “We’re going to add to the neighborhood and improve things, and bring something to the market that was needed.”

“My phone is ringing quite a bit from all types of buyers,” Forrester said. “Condos range from $190,000 to well over $2 million today. A $1 million condo sold in two days (in late January). It will be nice to have homes for buyers to view this summer.”

“More and more people are getting more interested,” said Realtor Elijah McNeeley of Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Group. “They want to travel. They want a second home. They want to have turn-key maintenance. Boise is growing — it’s getting more restaurants, better entertainment, and all that combined is creating an urgency for people to at least inquire about that lifestyle, and that’s where we’re seeing the uptick in the condo market. Especially with the influx of people coming in from out of state who have already lived that kind of lifestyle.”

“Downtown Boise — like other downtowns — is seriously going through a big renaissance with added cultural economic drivers acting as a catalyst and adding confidence to the buyer that investing in Downtown Boise is safe and secure,” Forrester said.

Forrester was a council member of the Urban Land Institute’s study “The Next 1000 — Stimulating Housing in Downtown Boise.” While Downtown has an unofficial count of about 1,000 residents, this research paper looks at creating the next 1,000 residences in the area by about 2020. With the rate of baby boomers and millennials who are increasingly interested in living in urban centers, the demand on Downtown housing is not expected to peak for another 10 years.

“Boise Downtown is well below the national average of jobs to housing ratio,” Forrester said. “We can absorb a lot more housing Downtown, and a thousand was just a start. We just want to get people living Downtown, whether it’s for sale or for rent.”

“Downtown Boise has a supply problem, not a demand problem,” the study says. “What is badly needed are several new projects that create new benchmarks for rentals, sales prices and absorption rates.”

And the city has become a big circle of development projects, which has created the idea of the building crane as the state bird in recent years. Along with the state’s tallest building; a new convention center and transit hub; Simplot’s headquarters and JUMP complex; and new hotels on the horizon, the city’s core also creates a people magnet with parades, events, city and farmer’s markets, music festivals and periphery neighborhoods like the Linen District.

“It’s all kind of coming at once,” Hormaechea said. “As you grow the office space, and you grow the retail base and grow the convention capacity and grow the hotel base and add housing, they all start to feed on each other. Exciting times.”

Hormaechea also sees that everyone seems to be on the same page, from the city to developers.

“The city and the planners and the redevelopment agencies are instrumental in it,” he said. “They are providing very clear guidelines as to what and how they’d like to see the city grow. I think they have good people in the right places … they’re really trying to focus their efforts and resources to grow resources. I’m optimistic that we’re going to grow responsibly.”

Another project that has begun to rise out of the ground is The Fowler, a 159-apartment building in the Central Addition area on 5th Street between Myrtle and Broad streets. LocalConstruct, the company that renovated the Owyhee Hotel, broke ground for the building in January.

You can find condos and apartments scattered all over Downtown — the Royal Plaza, The Jefferson, Tower Plaza (the Chase Bank building), Gem Noble Lofts, Cityside Lofts and many more tucked here and there, along with more projects on the horizon.

One of the more visible condo buildings is the Aspen Lofts, located smack in the middle of everything on Front Street. Sitting 17 stories tall, it is across the street from the Grove Plaza, CenturyLink Arena and JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place). The views from the upper levels stretch from the Foothills to the north past the Depot and the Owyhees to the south.

The skinny appearance of the building belies its spacious residences. One of the two higher-end properties for sale checks in at 2,345 square feet; the other has more than 4,000 square feet over two floors. These two units in the 7-year-old Aspen Lofts building have been remodeled and are on the market. (More photos and contact information on the previous pages.)

While other projects are rising out of the ground throughout the Downtown core, don’t expect many of them to look like this one.

“These are a really unique opportunity. I do not think we will see high-rise condos again for some time,” said Melissa Galli of Keller Williams’ Galli+Seidl Real Estate. She is one of only a handful of Realtors who have specialized in condo/urban living in recent years.

“You can start walking from here and, within two blocks, you can find a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops and entertainment,” she said.

Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and print journalist who has been working in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.

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