Boise’s East End neighborhood will lose one of its favorite connections to Downtown if St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center goes ahead with a $400 million plan to expand its Boise campus.
The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve the St. Luke’s proposal, which calls for the closure of Jefferson Street between Avenue B and 1st Street. People who live in the East End loudly opposed the plan, largely because of Jefferson closure.
But they might soon have a consolation prize. As a condition of approving the St. Luke’s expansion, council members required St. Luke’s to surrender a 28-foot-wide easement between Avenue B and 1st Street where Bannock Street once lay until it was closed in the 1990s.
The council intends to reopen that section of road to cars if, through public engagement, the city can come up with a plan the council likes.
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“There is an opportunity on the design to hit it out of the park,” Councilman Scot Ludwig said.
Elaine Clegg was the only member of the council to vote against the approval. Earlier at Tuesday’s meeting, Clegg proposed a different path for allowing the St. Luke’s expansion, one that also included reopening Bannock Street to cars. Clegg added other conditions, too.
Her list of conditions would have required St. Luke’s to tear down any building blocking the Jefferson Street right-of-way if St. Luke’s were to stop using those buildings for hospital purposes; work with the city to save as many existing trees and other plants on the Downtown campus; and work with neighbors, the city and other stakeholders to develop a broad plan for a Downtown health district.
Councilwoman Lauren McLean joined Clegg in pushing for a condition that requires St. Luke’s to use at least part of the ground floors of any new parking garages for things other than parking cars, such as retail shops and office space.
St. Luke’s executives were happy with the decision. Chief Operating Officer Chris Roth said the hospital is open to allowing cars on Bannock again, even though its own experts haven’t endorsed the idea so far.
Before St. Luke’s can move forward with the expansion, it must also get approval for the Jefferson closure from Ada County Highway District, which controls public roads throughout the county.