Business

Seattle developer plans to convert rooms at a Downtown Boise hotel into apartments

Here’s what’s going up now, and soon, all over Downtown Boise

Builders are putting up new apartments, condominiums, retail and restaurant spaces, hotels and offices in Downtown Boise as the boom stretches deep into 2019. Here's what's going up now, and what's planned.
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Builders are putting up new apartments, condominiums, retail and restaurant spaces, hotels and offices in Downtown Boise as the boom stretches deep into 2019. Here's what's going up now, and what's planned.

A Seattle developer plans to convert 45 rooms at the Safari Inn in Downtown Boise into upscale apartments.

Revolve Development bought the two-story 1905 Smith Block building at 1015 W. Main St. and an adjacent three-story building for an undisclosed price from 11th & Main LLC, based in Ketchum.

The two buildings sit across South 11th Street from The Owyhee, the former hotel that is now an upscale apartment building, and is two blocks north of Jack’s Urban Meeting Place and the headquarters for the J.R. Simplot Co. The Ada County Assessor’s Office assessed them at $3.2 million.

The second and third floors of the three-story building, located at the southeast corner of 11th and Main streets, contain 45 rooms that are part of the Safari Inn. An additional 60 hotel rooms are located in a separate building across the alley at 1070 W. Grove St. that is linked to the Smith Block by a second-floor skybridge.

That building, built in 1966 on the site of the razed Grand Hotel, was not included in the sale but until recently was listed for a long-term lease.

“We do a lot of development in Seattle, and for a little while we’ve been looking to grow into other markets, particularly in the Pacific Northwest,” John Schack, one of Revolve’s two founders, said in a phone interview.

John Schack Revolve.JPG
John Schack

His mother’s family lives in Boise, and Schack said he has visited here for several years.

“We have a particular interest in Boise and its growing development,” he said. “We felt we could utilize a lot of the building in its current form and then be able to do a product that is unique and attractive.”

The building has seven ground-floor businesses, which Schack said will remain. They are the Art Source Gallery, Walkwell Labs, Foot Dynamics, Iron Wolf Tattoo, dv8 Salon, Prestige Skateboards and the Atlas Bar.

Plans call for 41 to 42 apartments to be created, Schack said. Some space will be lost in creating a lobby on the Main Street side of the building along with stairs and an elevator to the upper floors. Currently, guests of the hotel enter the Union Block side by the skybridge or through a door in the alley.

Safari Inn map.JPG
The main portion of the Safari Inn is the rectangular building at left center, along with the office next to the swimming pool. It also includes 45 rooms in the building above the rectangular one. That building and the smaller one to the right of it are under different ownership and were sold to Revolve Development of Seattle, which plans to turn those hotel rooms into apartments. Google Maps

Schack said his company plans to spend the next four months drawing up plans for the interior renovations. He said it was too early to say what changes would be made and how much apartment tenants will pay in rent.

The work, he said, will be more complicated than construction from the ground up.

“We want to be sensitive to our retail tenants and make sure that while we’re doing work they’re still able to have properly functioning businesses,” he said.

Revolve has built several small apartment buildings in Seattle. The Craft Apartments in the First Hill neighborhood features 32 apartments in a building with 3,500 square feet of retail space. It was completed in 2016.

The Yardhouse, completed in 2014 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, offers 35 apartments.

The company is renovating the 129-year-old Seven Seas Building, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Seattle. When finished, it will have 43 rooms and 6,500 square feet of restaurant and bar space.

The Smith Block, made of steel, brick and stone, was built in 1905 for Roscoe W. Smith, the first druggist licensed in Idaho. He operated drugstores in Boise, Mountain Home and Weiser. Smith also built the Grand Hotel, in 1914.

Smith block.JPG
A classified ad in the Idaho Statesman in January 1906 advertised the sale of a 16-unit rooming house in the Smith Block. Provided by the Idaho Statesman archives at the Boise Library

The building replaced several wooden structures that were some of the first buildings in Boise. Those buildings were built by Smith’s father, Dr. Ephraim Smith, Boise’s first mayor and Idaho’s first territorial treasurer.

Boise developer David Hale, who developed the Modern Hotel, the Linen District and Idaho Street Townhomes, said he considered redeveloping both the Smith Block building and the Safari Inn building on Grove Street but couldn’t see a way to make a profit.

Hale was interested in creating micro apartments in the Smith Block, but said the $5.4 million asking price was too high. Micro apartments have less space than a studio, typically 200 to 400 square feet, but use an open space design with high ceilings and large windows that create an illusion of more space.

One of Hale’s clients, who develops small boutique hotels, looked into the Grove Street property but found it problematic because it was being offered for lease and not for sale. The listing, from Colliers International, sought monthly rent of $19,583 and a long-term lease of 50 to 100 years. The property, assessed at $2.1 million, was to be available on Jan. 1, 2020.

The listing said the owners were open to redevelopment or renovations at the tenant’s expense. The property is owned by the Lori Barnes Girdner Trust. Lori Barnes Girdner is the daughter of the late Larry Barnes, who operated Larry Barnes Chevrolet in Boise for 28 years.

“if you were to go in and spend $100,000 improving it and it didn’t work, then the owner of the business that you’re renting from gets all of the improvements,” Hale said.

It’s unclear whether a lease for the property was reached. The listing is no longer active, and the leasing agent, Scott Raeber, did not return calls placed over the past week.

Philip Murelaga, who operates the Safari Inn under the current lease, could not be reached for comment.

Schack said the improvements his company will make at the Smith Block fit with Boise’s growing Downtown.

“We want people to be a part of it, as a place to live, work and shop,” he said.

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.

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