Canyon County

Nampa, state eye transformation of city’s eastern gateway

The view from Ridgecrest golf course

Hotel guests could someday enjoy this view, looking eastward over I-84 and northeast Nampa.
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Hotel guests could someday enjoy this view, looking eastward over I-84 and northeast Nampa.

Few Idaho cities have seen a project as big or complex as the 615-acre mixed-use behemoth the state of Idaho and its consultant, The Land Group, are planning in northeast Nampa.

Nampa community planner Karla Nelson said nothing of this scope has come across her desk in five years working for the city. If the project unfolds as planned, it would bolster a transformation of Nampa’s eastern gateway that’s already underway. A grocery store, apartments and a nursing facility are in the works south of Interstate 84, and the city is putting together a high-level plan to encourage commercial development northeast of the freeway-Garrity Boulevard interchange.

On Tuesday, The Land Group and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will take the first step in seeking city approval for the project. They’re scheduled to appear before Nampa Planning and Zoning commissioners and present their plan to authorize office buildings, apartments, single-family houses, a retirement community, restaurants and retail stores on land Health and Welfare owns north of I-84 and west of Idaho Center Boulevard.

Golfers are familiar with this piece of ground. It’s the home of the Ridgecrest and Centennial golf courses. Health and Welfare leases the courses to the city, which operates them through its Parks and Recreation Department. The state is considering selling the land to private developers who would turn the two golf courses into one — Centennial Ridge — making room for the residential and commercial projects.

“Ultimately, what we determined is that there’s a number of holes on both golf courses that maybe aren’t prime for development, and they’re really great golf holes,” said Doug Russell, principal of The Land Group. “So we decided to kind of utilize 18 of the existing golf holes. There’s obviously going to be some modifications and some things that have to take place to make that work.”

Russell said he didn’t know how long the existing golf courses would be closed during construction.

MAKE MONEY

Both the city and state have financial incentives to see this project through.

The state can increase the value of its holdings without moving a shovel. Rezoning the land, subdividing it, changing Nampa’s comprehensive plan and winning a multiuse entitlement would make it more attractive to private developers. Health and Welfare thinks the property could be worth more than $125 million, spokesman Tom Shanahan said. That’s almost 20 percent of the amount of state taxpayer money the department received for this budget year.

If the development goes forward, Nampa will lose income from the golf courses. The city typically takes in more money from the user fees than it spends to maintain them, spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook said in an email. But that money goes back into improving the golf facilities, Holbrook said.

A private development, on the other hand, would swell tax receipts the city and other governing bodies take in. Besides increasing the value of the property, simply putting it in private hands would boost collections, because Health and Welfare doesn’t pay property taxes.

The Land Group estimated that, after a decade, the development would generate close to $7 million per year in city taxes if owned by private entities. Millions more would go to the county and school districts.

$17.3 millionAnnual tax receipts a development on Idaho Health and Welfare-owned property could generate after 11 years for the city of Nampa, Canyon County and other governing bodies, according to estimates by The Land Group.

HISTORY

The state government’s involvement in the golf course property dates to 1911.

That year, the state bought 80 acres in what is now northeast Nampa. Seven years later, it built the Idaho State Sanitarium. The facility, south of today’s Ridgecrest Drive, bore many names over the years, including Nampa State School. It is now called the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center.

The state bought adjoining land, and more was donated. By 1935, Idaho owned more than 600 acres in the area. That’s almost exactly the same size as Syringa Valley, a 2,000-home development CBH Homes wants to build in Southwest Boise, and more than half the size of Boise’s Harris Ranch, a multiuse development that occupies its own section of city code.

That land is now prime real estate, thanks to easy access to power lines and proximity to the freeway, and the state doesn’t really need it anymore. Any government facilities could easily be moved, Shanahan said.

“It is just fate that it happened that way, but we’ll try to put the money to work for taxpayers,” Shanahan said.

Several years ago, as Idaho grappled with falling tax revenue from the Great Recession, a legislator — Shanahan wasn’t sure who — remarked offhandedly that the state could sell its Nampa holdings for $50 million to relieve pressure on its strained budget.

That sale didn’t happen, but it got people at Health and Welfare thinking. If the relatively undeveloped land was worth tens of millions of dollars, how much could it be worth if the state went through the trouble of preparing it for development?

Legislators figured it was worth looking into. In 2012, they sent an extra $250,000 to Health and Welfare to start the planning process. The department hired The Land Group, which so far it has paid $382,000 to work up a design proposal and start the application process for developing the golf course properties.

TRAFFIC AND ECONOMICS

The Land Group filed its first applications last summer but withdrew them when Nampa’s public works experts raised concerns about increased traffic the development would bring.

Fully built, Russell said, the development is estimated to contribute an 3,500 additional car trips on existing and proposed roadways during peak afternoon hours.

The Land Group has proposed a pair of overpasses connecting the development to the south and west that they believe will relieve congestion at “several key intersections,” Russell said. One would go over I-84 between the Garrity and Franklin interchanges. The other would cross the railroad tracks on the project’s west side and connect to the east end of Karcher Road.

Like all other roadwork associated with the projects, private developers would pay for the overpasses, Russell said.

The project’s conceptual master plan calls for an 18-hole golf course; 258 single-family homes; 200 apartments, condominiums or townhouses; three hotels; a new transit center where 11th Avenue North and the railroad meet; nearly 250,000 square feet of mixed-use or retail space; a retirement community with as many as 160 independent living units; and almost 2 million square feet of commercial office space.

The entire endeavor would cost somewhere around $600 million, according to the plan.

“The overall economic impact is tremendous if it is fully built out the way it’s envisioned in their master plan,” said Beth Ineck, Nampa’s economic development director.

Beyond the cold numbers, Ineck thinks developing the golf course ground would supply some of the real estate Nampa is lacking, such as high-end office space and a variety of housing types that will appeal to baby boomers and millennials alike.

It’s a great project for that piece of ground.

Beth Ineck, Nampa director of economic development

WHAT’S NEXT

There’s no firm timeline for turning the state’s and The Land Group’s vision into a reality, Shanahan said.

Doug Russell of The Land Group said construction could start in two to five years. Fully developing the project would take years more.

Also unclear is whether the entire piece of ground will go to one developer or the state will sell the ground piecemeal to a variety of private groups. That will depend on who shows interest, Shanahan said.

Neither the state nor the city of Nampa has heard from interested developers, Shanahan and Nelson said.

Health and Welfare also has to decide what to do with a Centennial Job Corps facility on Ridgecrest Drive that it leases to the federal government. The general idea is to make sure a private developer honors the Job Corps contract or to simply not sell the property.

The state also might build new facilities to replace the Juvenile Correction Center and the Department of Corrections’ Community Work Center on 11th Avenue North. Otherwise, it likely would not sell those properties.

Health and Welfare would replace the existing Southwest Idaho Treatment Center, which houses about 25 people who have severe developmental disabilities or behavioral problems, with several facilities elsewhere designed to meet a variety of treatment needs.

Attend the hearing

The city of Nampa is expecting a big crowd Tuesday for the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing on the state of Idaho’s request for authority to develop the 615-acre piece of ground where the Centennial and Ridgecrest golf courses are located.

That’s why the hearing will take place in the Nampa Civic Center’s Brandt Auditorium, 311 E. 3rd St. South, just west of City Hall, where the rest of the commission’s meeting will take place.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., and the hearing on the golf course project is expected to begin about 8:15 p.m.

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