Scot Ludwig said he has no plans to walk away from his proposal to build two high-rise buildings in Boise’s Central Addition neighborhood, even though the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission just rejected it.
Ludwig, a developer and attorney who moonlights as a city councilman and commissioner for Boise’s urban renewal agency, said he will talk to his investors and decide whether to change his project to meet some of the criteria the planning commissioners wanted, or to appeal the denial to the City Council.
Though he disagreed with the decision, Ludwig told the Statesman that he “took to heart” commissioners’ comments, including their desire to see more residential space in the project. The commissioners also said the proposed buildings’ heights would be out of character with the surrounding area and in conflict with the neighborhood’s master plan — comments that echoed recent public criticism.
The master plan lays out a vision for the Central Addition, a long trapezoid of land on Downtown’s southern edge that lies mostly between Capitol Boulevard to the west, Broadway Avenue to the east, Front Street to the north and Myrtle Street to the south. According to the plan, new buildings in the area around Ludwig’s property should have 3 to 6 stories, while new construction immediately west should have 7 to 10 stories.
Ludwig proposed an 11-story, 130,200-square-foot building on the northeast corner of 5th and Broad streets. The second building, on the southeast corner of the same intersection, would have 9 stories and 147,500 square feet. The project would include office space, a parking garage, condominiums and ground-floor retail stores.
A skybridge would connect a parking garage on both buildings’ fourth and fifth levels across Broad Street. Planning and Zoning commissioners said the skybridge also was out of character with the neighborhood.
Ludwig believes the commissioners applied the master plan’s height guidelines too strictly and ignored the fact that his project would eliminate two surface parking lots, complying with another goal of the plan.
“Throughout the [Central Addition], surface parking should be discouraged in favor of structured parking,” the plan reads. “New parking garages should not be single-use structures but should be integrated into new developments.”
Critics of Ludwig’s plan, including a popular Facebook group called Vanishing Boise, have accused him of violating state ethics law by pursuing a project in an urban renewal district while he’s sitting on the urban renewal board.
The law prohibits commissioners from taking part in “any urban renewal project,” which it defines as work by a city or county government. But Ludwig’s project does not qualify as an urban renewal project, because it would not receive public money from either the city of Boise or the urban renewal agency, said John Brunelle, the agency’s executive director.
Ludwig has until mid-April to appeal the Planning and Zoning denial. If he appeals, he must recuse himself from the council’s hearing.