Ada County may soon be looking for a developer to partner with on more than three acres of downtown property.
Earlier this year, the Ada County Commission hired real estate companies Colliers and Clearwater Financial to carry out an analysis to recommend the “highest and best use” for four properties along Front Street. The report suggested Ada County create a joint venture with a private developer to build a mixed-use project along the busy corridor, complete with a parking deck, retail space, office, possibly administrative offices. county and labor or affordable housing.
[Another large apartment project proposed for currently quiet corner of Downtown Boise]
The plots, located at 102, 190, 208 and 374 Front Street, span the open land between Front St., the Ada County Assessor’s Office and Civic Plaza Apartments, and the location of the University of Idaho at Boise. About half of the space is grassy ground and the other half is surface parking. The original early 2000s plan for the properties called for an urban-style Albertsons grocery store, which never materialized.
The commissioners were receptive to the idea of the joint venture, but they asked Colliers to come back with another analysis taking into consideration the possible development of another land in the county: the triangle-shaped gravel parking lot of the other side of the courthouse at Front and 3rd St.
“In my mind, this property would be worth more if sold with the triangle lot,” Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said. “That triangular lot is sitting there and underused and those two rooms are so tight…I don’t think you can park there.”
Colliers will return to the stewards with a new analysis of how the other larger triangular car park can be developed in the coming weeks. Then, a request for proposals looking for developers to partner with can be posted.
Why is the county considering this now?
Currently, all four properties are leased by urban renewal agency Capital City Development Corporation, which pays annual rent to Ada County. This amounted to $241,000 for fiscal year 2022, but the amount changes from year to year depending on various factors.
The original plan was for CCDC to cede the development rights to the property to a private developer. Ada County approval would then be required for any future projects under a public-private partnership. But, CCDC said the private developer they were considering partnering with is “no longer a viable operating entity” and the project is dead. Because CCDC paid rent on a property it did not believe it could develop, the agency requested to terminate its ground lease and leave Ada County to develop the property.
The CCDC participated in the redevelopment of the courthouse complex in 1999. It transferred much of its interests to the county in 2015.
Colliers suggested that Ada County only terminate its ground lease with CCDC until it has developed a plan and found a developer to partner with at the site. This way, the county can still receive rent payments on the property.
Colliers’ report looked at a few options for Front Street property. This included an outright sale of the property to the highest bidder, a land lease to a private developer or a joint venture.
Colliers suggested a joint venture where the county owns a 15% interest in the project on a ground lease where a private developer owns the entire project due to state law. Idaho law prohibits counties from leasing land to private developers for more than five years. And to renew the lease would require a unanimous vote by future commissioners, introducing uncertainty into the deal.
Ada County Bermuda Triangle
This isn’t the first time the commissioners have discussed the triangle-shaped parking lot west of the courthouse.
Currently the property is a gravel parking lot for Ada County employees, but at some point the CCDC had other ideas. A year ago, CCDC staff met with the Commissioners to discuss the possibility of redeveloping the entire superblock between Front Street, 3rd and 5th Streets into a mixed-use project with parking, housing, offices and commercial spaces.
The idea of selling the triangular lot to CCDC did not pan out, however, after Ada County Commissioners became concerned, CCDC did not have the same view of parking on the site as they did. For example, Ada County Commissioners wanted on-site parking to accommodate their employees, but CCDC Commissioners, including Mayor Lauren McLean, weren’t so sure that ample parking was what. they wanted for the site.
When BoiseDev asked Monday, March 14, why talks to sell the land to CCDC had failed, Ada County spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan said she couldn’t answer until the next day. When she didn’t respond, BoiseDev followed and Duncan said she was still working to gather information, but still didn’t provide any additional details.
CCDC spokesman Jordan Neerdaels declined to comment on why talks with the county regarding the triangular lot have ended. However, she told BoiseDev that her agency is potentially open to working with Ada County to revitalize the area along Front Street.
“Our vision for a new multi-block mixed-use public-private partnership still remains a possibility and although we as an agency are currently focused on (two parcels near the YMCA along Jefferson Street) and on this catalytic transformation of this neighborhood, but we are available to help the county and adjacent landowners.
[New Downtown Boise YMCA, hundreds of apartments, large parking garage, and ‘jewel box’ gets go-ahead from CCDC]
But now it looks like circumstances have changed, the Ada County commissioners have changed their tune. Commissioner Rod Beck intervened with Kenyon at Monday’s meeting to support his proposal to also develop the Triangle lot with Front Street properties, as larger land would attract more offers.
The commissioners also discussed the idea of working with the CCDC in some capacity on the project, but the district will expire in 2025 and the agency will no longer be able to spend funds in the area.
“I think adding the triangular lot would be more of an all-encompassing approach,” Beck said. “I think it adds a lot more value for the county.”
The Urban District area that includes the courthouse grounds is expected to be completed by 2025, leaving a short window for the agency to participate in any projects.