BOISE - Gardner Company Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist says developing City Center Plaza in downtown Boise has been one of the company's most ambitious projects yet.
"I've been accused of being too ambitious several times and this will certainly be at the top of the list," said Ahlquist.
Gardner Company has already been credited with completing such projects as Eighth and Main in downtown Boise, Library Square in Nampa, and The Portico in Meridian. Future plans for the Utah-based company include developing Parcel B in downtown Boise and 800 acres off the Ten Mile-I-84 interchange. City Center Plaza will likely be one of the company's most impressive projects to date.
AN AMBITIOUS PROJECT
Building City Center Plaza in between the shadows of the U.S. Bank Building at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Main Street required installing 3,200 tons of steel, pouring 11,182 cubic yards of concrete and removing 50,000 cubic yards of earth to make way for the underground transit center.
The private-public partnership involved a collaboration between Gardner Company, Capitol City Development Corporation, The Greater Boise Auditorium District, Valley Regional Transit, Boise State University, Clearwater Analytics, and the City of Boise.
"We spent so much time engineering it and putting it together," said Ahlquist. "I think we just feel fortunate that it all worked."
'LIVE, PLAY, WORK'
City Center Plaza is comprised of three areas. The Clearwater Building is a nine-story office-retail building. Its top floors are home to the world headquarters of Clearwater Analytics, one of Boise's top technology companies. Boise State's entire computer science department is also located in the Clearwater Building. Computer science is one of Boise State's most in-demand programs.
"This move will place Boise State's computer science students and faculty in the heart of Boise's downtown technology community," said Boise State President Bob Kustra. "It will provide our students an unparalleled opportunity for internships and interactions with industry, spur creative and collaborative research of mutual interest and allow local business greater access to our programs."
Ahlquist says the Boise State students create a new energy in downtown that has helped push a demand for a "live, work, play" mantra in downtown Boise.
"It's really going to be interesting to see how the housing in downtown changes now because there's so much work here now," said Ahlquist. "There's this core of business, kind of this energy around business that then drives the rest of the economy."
Ahlquist foresees downtown Boise continuing to develop with retail, office and housing projects, which Gardner Company plans to be part of.
"You kind of needed to have that energy, the office, the employment component, the retail component," said Ahlquist. "Then it drives the housing. And that's what we're going to see. There's so many residential projects going on now. And I think that's only going to grow."
A PLACE TO MEET
Also located in the new Clearwater Building is new convention and meeting space for The Greater Boise Auditorium District. On the fourth floor of the building are four large meeting rooms that can be divided into smaller rooms. The floor to ceiling windows overlook the downtown Boise skyline, Idaho Statehouse and Boise Foothills. Ahlquist says this space will be completed this week.
"This entire fourth floor, we wanted it to be very open," said Ahlquist. "This is where you meet for your conferences. A lot of natural light. And you'll notice the floor heights are a lot taller on this floor to accommodate the meeting rooms."
The fourth floor of the Clearwater Building connects seamlessly to the four-story building known as the District Building, which includes more convention and meeting space along with a 15,000 square foot grand ballroom. Construction in this area is expected to be completed the week of September 23, according to Ahlquist. The fourth floor of the District Building will also include an enclosed glass walkway to connect the new convention space to existing convention and exhibition space in the Boise Centre.
"You can kind of see how the whole thing flows together, fits with what they had already, reuses what they had already," said Ahlquist.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
The fourth floor of the District Building overlooks the Grove Plaza, which is also currently undergoing a facelift. Ahlquist says it was important to keep the feel of the old Grove Plaza while adding modern amenities, like a new water fountain, permanent shade areas, along with planting mature trees.
"There's a lot of history with The Grove," said Ahlquist. "It was one of the first things designed back when this whole thing was put together and it kind of stayed the same. We wanted to be true to that design, but also bring in some modern features."
Ahlquist says construction of the Grove Plaza is ahead of schedule.
THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION
Underneath the Clearwater Building, District Building and Grove Plaza is the new transit center known as Main Street Station.
"The transit center is just amazing. I can't even describe it," said Ahlquist. "It should just transform that experience for people and make public transportation cool."
Valley Regional Transit buses will enter the underground transit center off of Capitol Boulevard. The underground space is large enough to accommodate eight buses at once. They will exit the transit center on another ramp back up onto Main Street.
"Public transportation is where we're going in the future with our city and to have that contained right underneath our project in the heart of the city is just wonderful," said Ahlquist.
Passengers will access the underground Main Street Station through a set of stairs that empties to a ticket counter. The area will be well lit at night and will close once the last routes of the day are completed. Boise Police will also have a police substation in the underground area.
Ahlquist says Main Street Station will be completed and turned over to Valley Regional Transit for operations the week of September 23.
'IT ALL GOES TOGETHER'
City Center Plaza will also include restaurant space, an outdoor fire pit area, two levels of parking, and a covered walkway to the Basque Block that will feature local artwork on the walls. The walkway will maintain the openness from the historic Basque Block to the Grove Plaza.
City Center Plaza may just be one of Gardner Company's most ambitious projects yet, but worth it, according to Ahlquist.
"It all goes together," said Ahlquist. "An ecosystem and an economy goes together. And it all goes down to families, jobs, education. So that's what really motivates us most of the time," said Ahlquist.