Developer planned these all-bike, no-parking apartments Downtown. That is changing

When a developer last month proposed an eight-story apartment building Downtown, it planned bicycle parking but no car parking — an unusual idea for Boise.

The Ithaca, New York, developer of what is called The Vanguard is now reconsidering that decision.

“Even though our research shows the demand for more Downtown residential projects where people wouldn’t need cars to commute, a few tenants might still want to park their cars nearby,” Laura Mattos, Visum Development Group’s vice president of development and strategy, wrote in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “Thinking about that, we started some conversations with nearby parking owners.”

The 75-apartment building at 600 W. Front St., now home to BizPrint, would sits outside a zone that requires parking for residential projects. Street parking and parking garages are nearby. It would have bike racks and a bicycle repair station.

A Home2Suites hotel is under construction just east of the site. That building, with 138 guest rooms, will have 550 parking spaces that potentially could house Vanguard tenants. Some of the hotel’s parking spaces will be leased to Boise’s urban-renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp., which operates several Downtown garages.

The Vanguard, which would include ground-floor businesses, is the company’s first project in Boise. It comes following Visum’s decision to move beyond Ithaca, a city of 31,000 people in upstate New York that is home to Cornell University and two other colleges. Ithaca doubles in size during the school year.

As the company looked at other markets, Visum searched for cities with active downtowns, strong high-tech scenes, large nearby universities and public transportation. The company eyed Detroit and Pittsburgh, along with Albany, New York; Sarasota, Florida; and Boise.

“Downtown Boise checked all the boxes,” Mattos wrote.

Boise, she said, is a lot like Ithaca.

“It seems to be a very progressive and open-minded community,” she wrote. “We love the arts scene as well as all the local shops and restaurants.”

Company executives have enjoyed staying Downtown when visiting Boise and like how many places are within walking distance of their hotel, she said. Visum wants to provide the same opportunity for its tenants, which it expects will be a combination of Downtown workers, students in Boise State University’s computer science department in the City Center Plaza building on the Grove (a three-block walk), and BSU students from the main campus about 10 blocks south.

“Our site couldn’t be more ideal: Trader Joe’s is across the street and all of the best local restaurants and shops are steps from The Vanguard,” Mattos said. “Allowing tenants to live in Downtown, within walking distance to work, study, shop and dine, is our goal.”

The company doesn’t have any other projects lined up in Boise but is looking for opportunities.

“We are looking at some other markets in the Midwest and in Salt Lake City,” Mattos said. “We are also looking for condo development opportunities, and Boise would be a great market for that.”

The company focuses primarily on new construction, though about 5 percent of its projects involve remodeling existing buildings, she said. Visum has completed several apartment buildings in the past couple of years near Cornell University and other locations in Ithaca.

Nothing on parking for The Vanguard has been worked out, but the conversations are continuing, Mattos said.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.