This small Boise subdivision could offer Thomas Kinkade-style ‘affordable’ houses

Six cottages on the same plot as one house

Architect Jeff Hatch explains the small-house, infill project on Chase Street near Overland and Maple Grove roads.
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Architect Jeff Hatch explains the small-house, infill project on Chase Street near Overland and Maple Grove roads.

A proposed subdivision of modest houses aims to remind Boiseans of the late Thomas Kinkade, famous for painting bucolic gardens and fairy-tale stone cottages.

Boise Developer Wendy Klahr’s six-house project would cover a mere half-acre. Yet it is drawing praise from city officials eager for attractive and affordable new housing. Klahr said she wants to sell the homes for less than $250,000 each. The median price of an Ada County home was $324,950 in December, up 18 percent from a year earlier and more than five times the county’s $60,151 median household income.

“This is a great product,” Mayor David Bieter told Klahr and her architect, Boise’s Jeffery Hatch, at a City Council meeting in late January.

The Chase Street Cottages would go up at 1503 S. Chase St., north of Overland Road and east of Maple Grove Road. At 848 to 1,198 square feet apiece, the houses would be aimed at small families and seniors.

The cottages are designed to look “like a Thomas Kinkade village,” Klahr told the Idaho Statesman in an interview. Kinkade, who died in 2012, was a popular American artist. A former gallery at Boise Towne Square sold copies of his works.

An animation Klahr commissioned seems to use elements of Kinkade’s style to present the development. The animation shows houses with light shining brightly from every window and colorful flowers blooming everywhere.

This animation shows what the architect and owner of the six proposed Chase Street Cottages, 1503 S. Chase St., Boise, want the project to look like. Owner Wendy Klahr says it would be "like a Thomas Kinkade village."

Charming as that may be, the project did not dazzle the neighbors, at least at first. They worried about more mundane matters: traffic and parking. Chase is a quarter-mile street of ranch houses that ends in a cul de sac, with no paved sidewalk extending past the site of one commercial building and its parking lot on the corner of Overland.

In response to neighbors’ concerns, the city Planning and Zoning Commission in December ordered Klahr and Hatch to include 10 off-street parking spaces in the project. Hatch had proposed eight. His goal, he told the commissioners, was to build “something that is quaint – something that, you know, that I could be happy putting my grandmother or grandfather in.”

“We kind of based this loosely off of a lot of Thomas Kinkade paintings, but I’ve never found a Thomas Kinkade painting with a parking lot,” he said.

Four of the houses will have one-car garages. The other two will have none.

Map of Chase Street Condos from Boise PDS 2-1-19 better copy.JPG
The red square marks the site of the proposed Chase Street Cottages. Provided by Boise Planning and Development Services

Hatch proposed a wavy, or meandering, sidewalk, separated from Chase Street by some grass. Wavy sidewalks offer aesthetic variety, but the city and the Ada County Highway District discourage them, in part because they’re harder to navigate and can cause problems for people with impaired vision.

The planning commission ordered Klahr and Hatch to include a straight sidewalk attached to the curb. But the City Council agreed to let them separate the sidewalk from street with a parkway, which Hatch said would be safer for elderly walkers.

Most of the cottages likely will have stucco finishes with asphalt roof shingles, and fiber-cement soffits and fascia, planning documents say. Klahr said some may have accent boards, shingles and bricks.

“We’re making it a product that will appeal with today’s markets and today’s materials,” she said, “but it has to be economical to build.”

Wendy Klahr cropped square 2-19.jpg
Wendy Klahr

City planners support the proposal. The proposed development “encourages residential infill that complements the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood” while providing “a transition between the intense commercial uses along Overland Road and the adjacent residential neighborhood,” they wrote in a report.

A rezoning of the property still awaits final approval from the City Council, which is expected. Construction then could begin this year.

It’s the second market-rate affordable housing project Klahr has proposed lately. The first is an apartment building 3 miles east on Overland. There, as with the cottages, she proposes to keep prices down in part by making units small: 393-square-feet apartments could rent for $650 to $700 a month.

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David Staats is business editor of the Idaho Statesman, which he joined in 2004. He has assigned, edited and reported business, politics, government and other Idaho stories since 2006.Get the top Idaho business stories of the week in a free email every Monday morning. Go here, then press the “Select” button under Idaho Business.