Boise & Garden City

Developer prepares to break ground on condos near Boise's main library

Idaho developer Mike Hormaechea originally hoped to finish 60 for-sale condominium homes on the 1.2 acres between 8th, 9th, River and Fulton streets by early next year.

That was the if-everything-goes-right scenario, though. As usually happens on major construction projects, reality has been a little slower.

Hormaechea said his latest timeline includes submitting applications for building permits in September, breaking ground in early October and finishing the first phase of his project by late 2016 or early 2017.

The developer also is taking a less aggressive approach to the size of the project, named The Afton. Instead of building all the condos at once, he’s broken it into two phases. The first phase will have 28 one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums, Hormaechea said.

Prices will start in the high 200s, he said, and escalate from there. It’s unclear when Hormaechea plans to build the second phase.

CONDOS AS CATALYSTS?

Capital City Development Corporation, Boise’s urban renewal agency, has owned the 9th and River lot for most of this century.

It’s had a humble existence during that time. The agency, as well as the city of Boise and Downtown Boise Association, used the building on the lot as a storage facility for things like building materials and furniture, CCDC executive director John Brunelle said.

Before the renewal agency came along, the property was home to a food brokerage and, at some point, a foundry for casting metal, Brunelle said.

In 2001, the agency bought the land with the goal of encouraging private development that would start a ripple of growth in an area that’s underdeveloped despite being within walking distance of Downtown, the library and the Boise River.

Last March, the agency’s board of directors picked Hormaechea’s project over five competing proposals for student housing, a hotel and for-rent apartments. Since then, the agency has monitored Hormaechea’s progress on the project.

“They’re hitting all the deadlines,” Brunelle said.

As part of the pre-construction process, Hormaechea paid to demolish the warehouse this summer. Besides getting the land ready for new construction, he said, the building needed to be removed so that the soil at the lot could be tested to make sure there are no contaminants that would stop the project or make it too expensive.

Those results are now back and they show minor amounts of contaminants, he said, but nothing that’s a deal breaker.

Brunelle said Oct. 15 is the deadline to transfer ownership of the property to Hormaechea. If, for some reason, Hormaechea hits a snag, he said, the agency’s board could extend that deadline. If not, the project would be in trouble.

Brunelle doesn’t expect any of that to come up.

DOWNTOWN DEMAND

For the most part, Hormaechea said, progress on The Afton is moving along as expected, though “there’s always some things that pop up.”

Specifically, the cost of construction has been soaring since he first proposed the project, largely because other developers are trying to cash in on a renewed demand for commercial and residential space in Downtown Boise.

“That’s certainly been a challenge to maintain our cost side of things,” Hormaechea said. “But I don’t think we’re alone in that. I think everyone’s facing that. Which is good news, bad news. I mean, the good news is there’s just a lot of new projects coming to life in Downtown Boise, so that’s, I think, feeding what we’re finding is really, really strong demand for the Afton. So we’re thrilled on the demand side and working hard on the cost side.”

Hormaechea wouldn’t say what he expects The Afton’s total cost to be. He said prospective buyers have already reserved “a number” of the condos, but he wouldn’t say exactly how many.

He said he’ll base the timing and shape of the project’s second phase on the success of the first. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll wait until every Phase 1 unit has sold to break ground, Hormaechea said, but he wants to see strong demand for additional condos before extending his investment.

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