Boise & Garden City

Gardner scraps hotel project in Downtown Boise for now

The Gardner Co. is still planning to develop Parcel B, the block of land to the west of the JUMP project.
The Gardner Co. is still planning to develop Parcel B, the block of land to the west of the JUMP project. Idaho Statesman file

In all the negotiations with all the relevant agencies, parking was the snag that derailed — at least for now — developer Gardner Co.’s plans to build two hotels on Parcel B, the 5-acre lot between Front, Myrtle, 11th and 13th streets in Downtown Boise.

At Gardner’s request Thursday, the board of directors for the Greater Boise Auditorium District removed conditions that Gardner build a convention-style hotel on Parcel B, which the district owns. The district wanted the hotel to serve Boise Centre, the convention venue it is expanding in City Center Plaza, another Gardner project Downtown. Parcel B’s sale price is $7.925 million — its value as appraised last spring.

Directors Jim Walker, Hy Kloc and Peter Oliver voted in favor of the new sale agreement. Judy Peavey-Derr and Steve Berch voted against it; they wanted to put Parcel B on the open market.

TWO IN THE BUSH?

Walker said the “bird-in-hand” argument weighed heavily in his vote. The risk of losing Gardner’s offer and ending up with something worse outweighed, for him, the chance of a better offer from someone else.

“Gardner spent $450,000 to study the hotel and do all their due diligence on that property,” he said. “To me, it’s unlikely that a different developer is going to come in, spend the same kind of money and come up with a different conclusion — that that property is ideal for a hotel with the conditions that are there.”

Peavey-Derr said she was torn. On one hand, she said, Gardner has shown integrity in its dealings and probably will put together a development that will make Boise proud. On the other, she wanted to know if “we could get more for (Parcel B), and still have a chance at getting our flagship hotel.”

Peavey-Derr said the tiebreaker was her concern that the public might think the district, a government body run by an elected board, was giving Gardner a private, sweetheart deal, even though the district’s attorneys believe the sale is legal.

“Perception is a bit of a reality sometimes in the public’s mind,” Peavey-Derr said.

ANOTHER OFFICE BUILDING?

Gardner might still build a hotel on Parcel B, the company’s representatives said Thursday. But it wants to scrap its old plans and start from scratch.

Gardner could have built a profitable hotel with a parking lot, as long as it was surface parking, company representatives said Thursday.

The city of Boise’s comprehensive plan calls for structured parking in the area around Parcel B, so Gardner proposed a parking garage. Parking garages are much more expensive than surface lots, with per-space costs running in the $25,000 range. Gardner couldn’t invest, say, $12.5 million for a 500-stall garage on its own and make the hotel project work financially, executive vice president David Wali said.

Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency, expected to pay for part of the garage, which would include space for the public. But Gardner and the renewal agency couldn’t come to terms on exactly how much the agency would pay.

Gardner will have one fewer complication — the auditorium district’s conditions — as it sets about designing its Parcel B project. Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist said building the parking component, including the renewal agency’s investment, into a new project will give it a better chance for success than starting with a hotel and trying to work out the parking and other parts later.

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