Boise & Garden City

‘What can I build for you?’ Garden City developer plans tiny homes near Greenbelt

On a spring day last year, Hannah Ball approached a small group of surfers hanging out near Whitewater Park and asked them, “What can I build for you?”

Ball wasn’t joking. As the founder of Urban Land Development, she and her partner, Richard Phillips, own 80% of the land along 34th Street between Chinden Boulevard and the Boise River Greenbelt.

Since 2016, the 34-year-old developer has been working with neighbors in Garden City and architects to develop a plan for 34th Street that would transform the neighborhood into a dense, urban playground for artists and entrepreneurs, adding 203 apartments and townhomes and 116,200 feet of commercial space.

“I’ve listened to the community, and I’ve designed for them,” Ball said in an interview with the Statesman.

Ball is pushing to launch as soon as possible. As she charges ahead with her grand visions for a high-density artist community, she has sometimes irked the city’s leaders, who may support revitalization of 34th Street but see it as their job to ensure that projects built comply with city standards.

City Council President Pam Beaumont said city leaders welcome change in Garden City. “We’re very pleased with the redevelopment that’s going on, and we’d like to see it continue,” Beaumont said.

Two women watch as surfers take on the waves at Whitewater Park. Many of the surfers park along 34th Street and change in the back of their trucks. Developer Hannah Ball wants to build showers and changing areas for them nearby. Kate Talerico

But Ball is a disrupter. She moves fast and considers her ideas more important than the shipping containers they come in — and that contrasts with the council’s version of How Things Are Done in Garden City.

Just this year, Ball went to the City Council seeking a permit to set up a farmer’s market on 34th Street. She faced more pushback than she expected.

Beaumont explained Council’s thinking: “We didn’t have a problem with the farmer’s market. Our No. 1 responsibility is public safety. And we were concerned about public safety in the form of parking.”

The lack of sidewalks plus traffic could make for dangerous walking conditions, she said.

A skateboarder in Garden City rides along the Greenbelt. Behind him, Hannah Ball’s 34th Street market is closed on a Thursday night. Kate Talerico

And there was another point of contention, Beaumont said: alcohol.

“Those are temporary structures that Hannah has down there,” Beaumont said. “We have a business community that has built permanent structures. I don’t think it’s fair to our business community to be able to throw up a temporary structure and serve beer and wine with a catering license when everyone else has permanent building.”

In the end, the council approved the project with some conditions.

Now, if Ball wants to see her major development along 34th Street to completion, she must win approval from those same Garden City council members.

Screen Shot 2019-07-05 at 4.41.27 PM.jpg
This proposed “parklet” would be designed with the needs of the surfers who use Whitewater Park in mind. McKibben + Cooper Architects

It’s all about the farmers market

Ball isn’t dissuaded by her fight over the farmer’s market.

“It was something I found was worth fighting for,” Ball said. “Designing with a farmer’s market in mind was my No. 1 goal.”

A community should be centered around food, she said. Her project would be anchored by markets on either end of 34th Street.

At one end, the northeast corner of Carr and 34th streets near the Greenbelt, Ball envisions an indoor public market in the style of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a permanent version of her temporary farmer’s market there now.

Screen Shot 2019-07-05 at 4.40.59 PM.jpg
Developer Hannah Ball imagines that her proposed “parklet” would be the “mud room” for the area. It would include bathrooms and showers for the nearby surf area. McKibben + Cooper Architects

At the other end, busy Chinden Boulevard, would be Roots Market, a zero-waste grocery store and cafe that has delayed its opening as it struggles to secure the proper permitting from the city and remodel the space.

On either side of 34th Street, Ball envisions spaces for other food stalls and small commercial kitchens.

Ball wants food stalls squeezed into even the smallest nooks — she calls them “micro-commercial spaces.” Have a business that could feasibly share a kitchen with a neighbor, like a smoothie stand or ice cream joint? Ball imagines renting out a 30-square-foot space, just big enough for a specialty snack joint.

Think tiny homes, but for restaurants.

Living in tiny spaces

There’d be tiny homes too. Some blocks would feature two-story live-and-work townhouses of 400 to 900 square feet each, where people can have an office in the front and living space in the back. She would also build classic residential townhouses — though they would be significantly smaller than the Waterhouse Row townhouses going up nearby on the Greenbelt.

“I don’t do large spaces,” she said. “I think it wastes land. You can accomplish a lot in a small space.”

The neighborhood would be designed for a new era of renters seeking greater connection with their neighbors rather than privacy. The townhouses would feature communal outdoor spaces and fire pits — places where Ball imagines artists and startup-types who live there would hang out, share ideas and collaborate.

Screen Shot 2019-07-05 at 4.41.40 PM.jpg
Developer Hannah Ball imagines that the area will feature several stone and granite benches where neighbors can gather. McKibben + Cooper Architects

A new solution for parking

When any major project is proposed, the question on the mind of city councils everywhere, and especially Garden City, is almost always the same: Where will they park?

For residents, Ball is planning to build nearly 200 private parking lots below the multistory, mixed-use buildings.

For those visiting the neighborhood by car, she imagines something a bit different. In addition to 75 on-street spaces, Ball would also build a “parklet” on the edge of the project. It would include space for 24 cars as well as bathrooms, changing rooms and showers for the surfers — a feature she added after discussions with them. She also imagines adding one of the micro-commercial spaces along the lot, so that even the parking become a destination.

In total, the development would include 403 private and public parking spaces.

Ball would also include a dedicated space for rideshares and scooters. For the most part, Ball envisions people walking or biking to the 34th Street area from the Greenbelt or surrounding neighborhoods.

The presence of cars should be minimized, she said. “The parklet is the first stop for people, and then you experience the rest of the neighborhood by foot,” she said. “It’s the mud room of the development.”

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 4.10.24 PM.jpg
Hannah Ball is hoping to include a market similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle inside of her development. McKibben + Cooper Architects

Next steps

Ball will bring her development plans for the area before the Design Review Committee at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 15 at City Hall, 6015 N Glenwood St.

From there, it will go before the eyes of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council, which is scheduled to review it Monday, Aug. 12.

“After approval, we’ll start designing the actual buildings themselves,” Ball said.

She’ll hold onto some of the lots, but will sell off others for separate developers to build on. By having council approve her master plan, developers’ projects will have to fall within those guidelines

“This is a 10,000 foot view,” Ball said. “Maybe other builders modify it — we’re open to that. But I want it to be the style and philosophy I imagine.”

Related stories from Idaho Statesman