Passions are running high about CVS’s plans to build a pharmacy at State Street between 16th and 17th streets on the west end of Downtown Boise.
The proposed development would mean tearing down five buildings, including three houses and the Arcade Building at 1615 W. State. Its 23 studio and one-bedroom apartments are home to families, single parents and seniors on inexpensive short-term leases, and some say they have nowhere else to go.
The proposal has inspired hundreds of Boiseans to sign a petition opposing it and prompted a small weekend protest by a newly formed Facebook group. At the same time, others, including a social-service agency whose very mission is helping people in need, favor the development.
Some say the pharmacy would irreparably tear the fabric of the neighborhood. Others say there’s not a lot of fabric left to tear in an area that’s primarily commercial.
The site is zoned for commercial use, so CVS wouldn’t even need to go before the city Planning & Zoning Commission to build there, except that it wants a drive-thru window. Because of that, the proposal will go before the commission Monday, Dec. 4.
‘They will have to arrest me’
About a dozen supporters of Save Boise Neighborhoods, the group that sprung up on Facebook, held signs with messages like “CVS, the Grinch Who Stole Boise” at Saturday’s rally. Some object to razing the building, especially at a time when the city is recognizing the lack of affordable housing and just broke ground on a 40-unit development for the chronically homeless.
Arcade resident Caleb Miller, 25, watched the protest from his front door. He and his partner, Cassandra Hackney, 25, and their 6-year-old son have lived in their one-bedroom apartment for more than a year. Miller and Hackney are expecting a baby in March. They first learned about the proposed development from neighbors who visited the apartments to collect signatures against CVS.
He and Hackney are graduates of drug court, the alternative program that offers offenders a rehab program in lieu of jail time. Both have full-time jobs at a publishing company where he is a training manager and she is a sales rep. Miller also does handyman work on the side. “But we’re barely making it,” he said.
Losing their $460-a-month apartment could mean moving into a homeless shelter.
“There’s nothing else that’s affordable,” he said. “We’ve tried budgeting, but we can’t afford anything higher than that.”
Another resident, Eric Kasten, 28, who works as a caregiver, has lived in his $420 studio apartment with his partner, Kaila Taylor, 22, and their black Labrador retriever, Bear, for a year-and-a-half. Kasten said he is determined to stay put.
“They can’t tear it down if I’m in it,” he said. “They will have to arrest me.”
The Arcade Building is owned by Andrew J. Scoggin, a senior executive at Albertsons Co., president of the board of the Interfaith Sanctuary, a homeless shelter, and a member of the Idaho State Board of Education. Messages left for him Monday were not returned.
The CVS would be across State Street from an Albertsons that has a Sav-On pharmacy inside. A Rite-Aid pharmacy is less than half a block east of the CVS site.
‘A very fair offer’
Jannus, a social-service nonprofit, owns one of the houses and uses it for offices. Jannus, formerly the Mountain States Group, runs several health and human services programs, including the Agency for New Americans, which occupies the house at 1614 W. Jefferson St. The agency resettles refugees.
The sale would give Jannus money it needs to upgrade from a building it has outgrown to a larger site near groups with similar missions, said Karan Tucker, the executive director.
Indianapolis-based developer T.M. Crowley & Associates made Jannus “a very fair offer,” Tucker said, declining to disclose the amount. Jannus has signed a purchase agreement with the firm and hopes to close the deal in January. The firm did not return calls from the Statesman.
Tucker works in a building across the street from the one Jannus is selling. She has worked for almost two decades in the neighborhood.
“It really doesn’t have the traditional North End or East End neighborhood feel,” she said. “As someone who has worked here every day and parked on the streets and wandered through, I don’t think it will change the feel of this block.”
The other properties on Jefferson that would be affected are a mix of residences and businesses.
‘Everything in microcosm’
“The only winner here is the corporation,” said Lori Dicaire, a Boise State graduate student and former Americorps volunteer who created Save Boise Neighborhoods. “It seems like they crunched numbers and decided Boise is ready. Is this what we want as a community? That a corporation can come in and level a block and put in something we don’t want and don’t need?”
Many of the letters of protest that residents have submitted to the city note the presence of three nearby pharmacies — the Albertsons, the Rite-Aid and Customedica, three blocks west on State.
North End resident David Klinger, one of Saturday’s protesters, met Miller and other Arcade residents while collecting signatures. “They had no clue this was happening,” he said.
Klinger also acknowledges that the area, and several blocks surrounding it, is zoned commercial and is thus vulnerable to development. It is not a historic district.
“Clearly, if it’s not CVS, it will be someone else,” he said. “This has brought home the human impact of what is a seemingly run-of-the-mill zoning decision. This project has everything in microcosm: cutting into a neighborhood, the demolition of craftsman homes, more traffic in the area.”
But CVS would help Don May, a part-time resident of Boise who owns two residential investment properties near Whitewater Park. His health insurance covers prescriptions only through CVS. He drives to Nampa to fill his prescriptions.
“Having a large national pharmacy close to an investment property is a very nice amenity to offer prospective tenants,” May said. “I typically let tenants know about the YMCA and the hospital, for instance. People rent close to Downtown in large part for the conveniences offered of being physically close to things.”
Cody Riddle, planning manager with Boise Planning & Development Services, said the city has received a “significant” number of letters, nearly all of them against the project. Opponents include four neighborhood associations: West Downtown, East End, North End and Downtown Boise. Documents include a petition with 550 signatures opposing CVS.
The public will be able to appeal Planning & Zoning Commission decisions to the City Council.
CVS at first planned to build a pharmacy on the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Ann Morrison Drive but withdrew its application some months ago. The company is planning its first Boise pharmacy in the Westgate Shopping Center near the intersection of Fairview Avenue and Cole Road.