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Could a Downtown Boise parking lot near Boise Plaza give way to an urban park?

The north side of the parking lot that will be used for the Westside District Urban Park looks east toward Downtown Boise.
The north side of the parking lot that will be used for the Westside District Urban Park looks east toward Downtown Boise. jsowell@idahostatesman.com

A mist fountain, landscaping, high-end furnishings and play features could replace the cars that park across the street from the Boise Plaza on West Bannock Street.

The Boise Parks and Recreation Department is discussing the proposal with the owners of the property and a company with a decades-long lease to allow the park to be built, said Doug Holloway, Parks and Recreation director.

The development would take place on the parking lot on the north side of the lot between 11th and 12th streets.

Diana Nicholson, president of Rudolph Investments, which owns the nearly 1-acre lot, said her company is looking to retain ownership of the land while allowing the city to construct the park.

She declined further comment, saying her family likes to remain private.

Rafanelli & Nahas, the Boise real estate development company that owns the Boise Plaza and has the parking lease, also supports the project, Holloway said.

“It addition to some passive elements, where people in the general vicinity could go have a seat while they’re having lunch on a nice sunny day, it could possibly on a weekend turn into some kind of event space,” Holloway said. “It adds another component in a part of town that we don’t have any public space.

Holloway would like to see the park become a destination spot. He envisions the park having similar uses, but on a smaller scale, to the Grove Plaza at Eighth and Main and at the Boise City Hall Plaza, which is under renovation, and at small pocket park planned at Fifth and Idaho.

“People all the time say they want to go to Esther Simplot Park and check it out,” Holloway said. “We’re hopeful that with the budget we have to work with that we can create a design that will create that kind of energy in that area.”

The $16 million Esther Simplot Park, located on 55 acres on the Boise River along Whitewater Park Boulevard, opened in November 2016. It quickly became a town favorite, attracting people to its beaches and entertaining large numbers of bicyclists, walkers, joggers and anglers.

The space isn’t anywhere near as large, and the city doesn’t have the money for the Bannock Street park that it did for Esther Simplot Park, funded by the family J.R. Simplot Foundation. However, it’s putting up $2 million and the Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban-renewal agency, is putting up another $1 million.

The city hopes to have an agreement in place within the next few weeks with Rudolph Investments and Rafanelli & Nahas, Holloway said. If so, he said the park could be constructed next year.

Because the city is still working on those arrangements, no solid plans have been set for how the park will look. Holloway said he would seek ideas from the public if the project moves forward.

In its Downtown Parks and Public Spaces Master plan, published in February, the city identified a desire to create a large public gathering space near 11th and Bannock. The urban park would fit that perfectly, Holloway said.

Last week, the Capital City Development Corp. accepted proposals from four contractors interested in building the park, said John Brunelle, the urban renewal agency’s executive director. The group is evaluating those submissions.

In its formal request for qualifications, the urban renewal agency envisioned a total cost of $4 million to $4.5 million but said the project would have to conform to available funding. It said some of the features contemplated might have to be eliminated, diminished or planned as a future second phase.

The park plan was first reported by BoiseDev.com.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell

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