Business growth on upswing in Eagle
Tim Wallace spent two years searching for a spot in Eagle to build a Westside Body Works shop.
Wallace, 57, already operates three shops — in Boise at Emerald and Five Mile roads and 3321 S. Federal Way, and in Meridian at 210 E. Fairview Ave. The Five Mile shop has worked on many high-end cars such as Jaguars, Teslas and Range Rovers that belong to Eagle residents, so Wallace decided to open a shop closer to where those customers live.
He found a spot along East State Street as it heads northwest off Idaho 44 toward downtown Eagle. He plans to open it in February or March.
Wallace knew that the shop would be the most expensive of his company’s locations. That’s because Eagle requires commercial buildings to have distinctive exterior looks, chosen from among nine architectural styles. The city also requires the perimeter of the building to go higher than the roof line to hide heating and air conditioning units and, in Wallace’s case, his shop’s paint-booth stacks.
Wallace chose an Italianate style from the city’s list. “It’s going to be a really, really nice building,” he says. “It really stands out.”
He declines to say how much he’s paid in construction costs or how much the Eagle requirements added to them, but he says both were substantial.
“It will be my most expensive building in my smallest market,” he says. “I could never afford to do that everywhere.”
In the late 1990s, the Eagle City Council established “pretty strict” construction standards for commercial buildings, Mayor Stan Ridgeway says. Council members wanted the buildings to be more attractive than those in other cities.
“The McDonald’s and the Walgreens and the Albertsons were built to a higher standard than they are normally built in other places,” Ridgeway says.
Building owners must pick among Italianate, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival or Craftsman architectural styles that were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, or Colonial Revival, Prairie School, Tudor Revival, English Cottage or Mediterranean styles from the early to mid-20th century.
SLOW BUT SURE GROWTH
For decades, Eagle was a small farming community that most people came through on their way to somewhere else. In the 1970s and ’80s, you could still stop along State Street on the west side of town and buy corn picked from fields next to the road.
Eagle incorporated in 1971. As recently as 1990, the town had a population of 2,500. By 2004, the population had grown to 16,418, fed by new, high-priced housing and a desire by some people to live close to Boise and Meridian but not actually in those towns.
Today, the population is close to 28,000, Ridgeway says.
While some residents welcome the growth, others wish the town would remain smaller. It’s tough balancing act, Ridgeway says.
“We have a lot of people in Eagle, including myself, that think that preserving downtown Eagle and the feel of living in a small town is a good feel, and that’s why a lot of people move here,” he says. “They don’t want it to change. On the other hand, they want to get the services they need to live without having to drive to Boise or Meridian or somewhere else.”
With growth has come more traffic and congestion. In 1996, Idaho 44 was realigned, with a 2.5-mile section added farther south that bypasses downtown Eagle.
It was controversial at the time. Construction filled in some Boise River wetlands. Planners worried that businesses would be drawn to the high-traffic corridor; community activists feared the city would be overrun by a snarl of traffic without it.
And indeed, a number of businesses, including the Saint Alphonsus Eagle Health Plaza and Zamzow’s, have located along that corridor. So have several housing developments and Reid Merrill Park.
As the population grew, other parts of Eagle added restaurants, coffee shops, a Home Depot store and a WinCo grocery store. St. Luke’s built a medical clinic at Idaho 44 and North Horseshoe Bend Road. Fred Meyer built a store at Eagle Road and Chinden Boulevard.
Construction slowed when the recession struck in 2008 but has come back, especially in the past couple of years.
“A lot of the big shopping centers were initially developed before the recession, but some of the pad sites hadn’t built out, so we’ve seen those areas filling in with new commercial buildings since the recession,” says Zoning Administrator William Vaughan, who has been with the city since 1996.
The surge in commercial construction is something new for Eagle. In the fiscal year ending last September, the city collected $1.1 million in impact fees on commercial projects and $1.6 million from residential construction projects. “That’s the closest that number has ever been,” says Craig Quintana, spokesman for the Ada County Highway District, which tracks impact fees for all cities in Ada County. Just $43,187 in commercial impact fees were paid in 2012-13.
Two of the largest construction projects in Eagle are for apartment complexes for seniors. Apartments are considered commercial, not residential, construction. Riverside Senior Development Co. is building a $15.4 million, 154-unit complex on East Riverside Drive off of Idaho 44, south of Reid Merrill Park. The $5.5 million Cottonwood Meadows Senior Apartments have been going up near downtown, at 1801 E. State St.
A 5,976-square-foot building with restaurant and retail space is under construction behind a Starbucks at the southeast corner of Idaho 44 and South Edgewood Lane. A second building, a two-story structure with 17,400 square feet of office and retail space, is also going up.
Two buildings with space for eight businesses each were constructed recently at the Shops at Lakemoor retail center off Eagle Road, near the TSheets headquarters.
Barre3, a fitness studio that combines yoga, pilates and ballet barre, moved into one of the suites at the end of November. Other tenants are in the process of moving in, while other spaces are for lease.
Ridgeway says he is proud that Eagle was able to hold on to French-fry maker Lamb Weston when it was spun off by food manufacturing giant ConAgra into a separate company in late 2016. The company, the largest domestic frozen-potato supplier, chose to keep its headquarters in Eagle and relocated some former ConAgra executives who previously worked in Chicago.
Also in 2016, TSheets, a time-card software company, built a new, bigger headquarters at 235 E. Colchester Drive, off North Eagle Road north of Chinden Boulevard. The company was sold to Intuit last month for $340 million.
But Ridgeway says it’s tough for Eagle to attract light-manufacturing companies such as Scentsy, the scented-candle company headquartered in Meridian. They need ready access to transportation, which Boise, Meridian and even Kuna offer, Ridgeway says.
“They’re close to the interstate, and they have railroads,” he says. “Those clean industries would have a hard time locating in Eagle, because for a semi to get down Eagle Road to Eagle, it takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic.”
The city plans to hire its first economic development director this spring to help attract new businesses
“We hope that person can work to improve our commercial side and kind of balance our city out” from its mostly residential construction, Ridgeway says.