Renovation of Boise’s Owyhee Plaza nears completion

Left: An artist’s rendering of the new Owyhee Place. Look on the back page to see a postcard of the  Owyhee Hotel from 1924.
Left: An artist’s rendering of the new Owyhee Place. Look on the back page to see a postcard of the Owyhee Hotel from 1924. Provided by Clay Carley

When the Owyhee Plaza Hotel was built in 1910 on the corner of 12th and Main streets, it had a large, elegant rooftop terrace. The rooftop garden was closed in 1940, but General Manager Clay Carley says he is bringing the terrace back to life.

This time, it will feature a large, glass-walled indoor area and deck available for rent. Picture wedding parties and corporate affairs. The hosts may even throw in a public bar.

Carley, best known for his renovation of Old Boise at 6th and Main streets a decade ago, took on the Owyhee Plaza project last spring. He closed what he says was an aging hotel that could no longer compete with chain and boutique hotels. With partner LocalConstruct, a Los Angeles urban-rehabilitation developer, he’s turning the original hotel and its four-story 1960 motel addition into an office, apartment and retail complex to be called Owyhee Place.

Today the renovation is a month behind schedule — “not bad for such a complex project,” he says.

Carley says this is his first experience with residential building. The building will have 36 apartments. Most are one-bedroom. Four will be studios. Carley says they’ll be finished in January and open for occupancy on Feb. 1. He says 22 people are already on the list to move in.

Most of the project will have a contemporary look. One exception is an office and retail space on the corner of 11th and Main streets. This is the only part of the building that will don historic decor.

It’s Carley’s goal to repair, replace and restore that space as close to its origin as possible, with help from a federal tax credit to help builders stimulate low-income areas. He says that work should be finished by early May. Carley expects the Beehive Salon to be a tenant in the street-level space.

The rest of the project will be modern and contemporary.

“Everything that had value was destroyed,” Carley says, “so we don’t want to create a sense of false history.”

The hotel was renovated several times. Workers demolished the marble mosaic floor and big, round marble columns. They took out all the original windows and wood paneling.

“There was a spectacular stained glass dome that was removed from the ceiling of the lobby and reinstalled at the Idaho State Historical Society” during a 1977 renovation, he says. “I called and asked if I could get it back. They said no way.”

The former Gamekeeper restaurant, which closed a few years ago, will be replaced by another fine-dining restaurant by mid-2014, he says. He also is working on a possible fitness center. Tapia Family Catering will work the Plaza Grill and cater for the ballroom and rooftop terrace.

The renovation will add event space. The new rooftop terrace will hold up to 150 people, and Carley has expanded the original ballroom from an occupancy of 220 to 350.