City Center Plaza or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gardner Co.

Not even before Eighth and Main was complete, the Gardner Company announced plans to transform a surface parking lot–sandwiched between the Grove and the U.S. Bank Building–into a modern transit center, convention center, and 9-story office tower. 

Here are the latest official renderings:

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The ambitious $70 million proposal aims to begin construction later this year. They’ve not only secured many of the crucial permits required, but they also have Clearwater Analytics and multiple retail franchises lining up to occupy the buildings.

 

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There’s loads of renderings and information publicly available through the Boise Planning & Development Services (PDS) online.

ccpofficial-6It goes without saying that this project has generated immense buzz, and for good reason: this project be the most game-changing development for downtown Boise in decades. It satisfies the need for a transit center, more convention space, and could trigger a new hotel in the future.

Plus after filling Boise’s infamous “Hole” the Gardner Co. has developed a track record for “getting s*** done.”

Except in Nampa, I guess. :(

– –

One thing we haven’t seen too much of are some good context renderings. Seeing as there was plenty of data available to do it, I went on my 3D model and built City Center Plaza as best as I could. It’s important to take these with a grain of salt. A) It’s currently going through design review which usually lends itself to a few changes, and B) It’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution to build something in Boise without any brown, and I don’t see any brown… yet.

The view from the Aspen Lofts and BoDo Parking Garage:

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Aerial view:

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Looking south down 8th Street:

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Close-up showing its impact on the Grove. (Note: Shadow on Grove is from U.S. Bank Bldg, from satellite image)

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– –

Let’s take a breath. For better or worse the Grove is undoubtedly going to feel different. There’s lots I’m enthusiastic about:

  • The added density
  • The exciting design, especially relative to its surroundings
  • Lots of glass
  • We’re FINALLY getting a Transit Center
  • And it’s underground, which I think is a smart, out-of-the-box decision.
  • We’re also getting a high-quality Convention Center expansion right in the heart of the city. It should make the Boise Centre more competitive.
  • 9-stories should be a good (perhaps the maximum) scale for this particular parcel while still keeping the area people friendly.

But then there are questions:

  • How is this going to impact the Basque Block? Sure, there’s a pedestrian connection, but I can’t help but wonder how much, if at all, the CC’s sheer presence is going to psychologically sever the Grove-Basque Block connection.
  • Is the presence of the building going to hurt the Grove’s open-space atmosphere? (Keep in mind it’s entirely possible, though not necessarily ideal, to build a second “Grove” in another part of downtown)
  • What will be the impact of the buildings’ shadows, if any? (To be fair the U.S. Bank already casts a pretty sizable shadow over the Grove, and most events in the evening will have light coming from the opposite direction)

I did a quick before-after comparison showing the impact on the Basque Block:

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Something really neat planned for that pedestrian corridor is the Signs of Our Times art project, seen in this Gardner Co. rendering:

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I have to commend whoever thought of that idea. Simple, interesting, and helps create a sense of place.

– –

Truth be told, I’m quite excited about this project. I’m trying to play devil’s advocate for the sake of fairness, and if I don’t I’m going to sound like a shill for the Gardner Co…

But from my vantage point: From what I’ve seen in the 3D model, and thinking about the jobs, the economic impact, and the big boost for street life, for alternative transportation, and as an amenity for visitors and people who live nearby; there’s far more to be giddy about than to be bummed about.

But I’d love to hear from you! Agree? Disagree?? Filafel??????

!!!

7 thoughts on “City Center Plaza or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gardner Co.

  1. N!

    Couple of assumptions in your post I would challenge: The “need” for a transit center and more convention space.

    Do we actually need more convention space in the valley, and if so does it have to be right downtown? We’ve already got the Boise Center on the Grove, the Grove Hotel/Century Link Arena and (soon) JUMP. Not too far off is the BSU Taco Ballerina, SPEC, SUB, and Morrison Center. For really big things we’ve got the Idaho Center in Nampa. What needs are these spaces not meeting?

    As for the Transit Center: Boise has a pretty piss poor public transit system. Limited routes and service, Bus service stops at 645p on weekdays, only runs once an hour during the middle of day, very limited Saturday service and no Sunday service at all. What is a new transit center going to do to improve public transportation? What will it provide that the current transfer stations downtown are not? While the notion of an underground transit center sounds cool, I don’t see what it will do to improve service or increase ridership and would rather see funds directed in that direction.

    1. Anthony Harding

      Hey.. N!

      Thanks so much for your comment! Gosh, there’s so much I want to say. You raise great points that deserve a better response than I can give right now, so I’ll plan on writing an article about it next week. But here are my feelings:

      Regarding convention space:

      It’s important to remember that when Boise is trying to attract conventions, it’s competing with a huge number of cities. It’s all about what we can offer that other cities can’t, bolstering our strengths, and mitigating our weaknesses. After that, it’s about our ability to weigh it against other cities and sell it to conventions. The City Center Plaza proposal offers, in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck option of expansion. It’s a great balance of filling future needs at the most reasonable price, with a setup that’s far more “sellable.”

      One of the biggest strengths about Boise’s current convention space is location. It’s not only right in the heart of downtown, but most importantly it’s within easy walking distance to roughly a thousand hotel rooms. Conventions need hotel space, and nowhere else in the valley are there so many is such a small radius. Conventions are attracted to places where their attendees won’t need a car after getting to their hotel rooms. It greatly helps that the Grove is a lively public space to spend time before/after a convention.

      More hotel space is on the way downtown the addition of Eighth and Main and JUMP which will increase business traffic to downtown. By keeping the new convention center downtown, it’ll take advantage of a critical mass of hotel rooms which boosts Boise’s attractiveness to conventions.

      As far as needs not being met: Despite all of the venues you listed (Many of which can’t be used because conventions don’t want to be split between different venues at once) we’re currently only capable of hosting about 20-30% of the nation’s conventions. The City Center Plaza is a relatively small scale, inexpensive expansion that will jump that figure to 70%, while taking full advantage of our current strengths.

      The fact that the convention center will sit right on top of the biggest transit hub in the city is a very sexy selling point to conventions that only a handful of cities can say. And the fact that it couldn’t possibly be more in the core of the city, next to a major arena, hotels, and a large public plaza, is exactly what will make Boise more competitive in the national convention market.

      But maybe it’s best said with the great US Navy principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. With the Transit Center, Convention Center, Grove Hotel, CenturyLink Arena all on the same 4 city blocks, it keeps everything extraordinarily simple. For out-of-towners and conventions who are thinking “Why would I go to Boise?”, simplicity is the best possible selling point that will keep Boise competitive.

      – –

      Regarding the Transit Center:

      In addition to the reasons above, I must also state that I think the new Transit Center alone is not enough to make ValleyRide realize its full potential. Better schedules are absolutely needed. However, it’s great, relatively inexpensive step in the right direction that permanently fixes some of the big issues why some don’t ride the bus: it’s complicated, confusing, and it’s there’s no pizzazz to it compared to car. Cars “keep it simple, stupid” and buses, right now, don’t. But if we can simplify it as much as we can. add some “jazz” to the experience, more riders will ride leading to better schedules.

      It also helps the proposed Transit Center will take unsightly buses off of the street.

      In an ideal world I would love to see similar Transit Stations proposed for Caldwell, Nampa, and Meridian. But that’s for another day.

      But there’s so much I want to say on that matter alone, so again I’ll schedule an article as I really sit down to think about it.

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  3. Michael Ware

    This would be an amazing change for the downtown Boise landscape. In the past 5 years I have lived in Fort Worth, Phoenix, and now Columbus, and I will say, along with JUMP, this would set Boise apart and give it an extremely unique and inviting downtown, setting it apart from so many cities. Boise is growing and has the opportunity to set the stage, not catch up, but say, hey, here is the future and we are leading the way!

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