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Going up? Three high-rises proposed in the Boise area

Even in Garden City, known for its art studios and craft breweries, city leaders are looking to a more urbanized future.
Credit: knowlesgallery/thinkstock
Beauty shot of Boise skyline.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Idaho Press.

Two proposed high-rises in downtown Boise could alter the city's stretching skyline. Meanwhile, another future tower — one that aims to be the state's third-largest — is not downtown, but in Garden City, Ada County's second-smallest city.

Three different developers have proposed the high-rises. They each describe their formidable structure as "a landmark," "the first of its kind," "innovative" or "dynamic." But not everyone is sold by the lofty ballyhoo. Tall building opponents call them "eyesores" and complain of impeded views; they're bird-killers and heat-collectors, they argue.

Regardless, high-rises are coming to the Treasure Valley. And not just in downtown Boise, home to the vast majority of Idaho's tallest buildings. In Meridian, new business parks have elevated the suburban community, and two 100-foot structures are being erected in its quaint downtown. Even in Garden City, known for its art studios and craft breweries, city leaders are looking to a more urbanized future. 

Where Veterans Memorial Parkway intersects the Boise River, Vida Properties, a development company established in Boise in 2019, plans to build a three-structure apartment complex. The tallest of the three buildings would scrape the sky at 252 feet, dwarfing every other building in Garden City and nearly the rest of the Treasure Valley, save Eighth and Main (home of Zions Bank and standing at 323 feet tall) and U.S. Bank Plaza (263 feet tall), both in downtown Boise.

The Boardwalk Residences, an 18-story, 111-unit condominium building, is part of a more than 712,000-square-foot development plan. The shorter two buildings, 87 and 61 feet, will include another 272 apartments along with commercial space and parking garages. The site is located at 510 E. 41st St.

Credit: Garden City
A rendering shows plans for the Boardwalk Residences, a planned 18-story condominium building in Garden City, which would become the third tallest building in the state.

Some neighbors oppose the development. James Herbert, a 40th Street resident, sent the city a list of more than a dozen objections. Among them were "excessive height," intrusiveness on his property, traffic, overcrowding and a concern that the project will set a precedent for new development that could displace the neighborhood's current low-income residents.  

"This has the effect of intentional displacement and gentrification of a vulnerable community by increasing demand and value of land that has for generations housed the working class of our community," Herbert wrote.

Garden City originally approved the tallest structure as a nine-story, 148-room hotel building. But the developer recently changed the plans to 18-story condos. Garden City officials are re-evaluating the revised project to determine if it's code compliant. 

It's not the only project in the works on the riverfront near Veterans Memorial Parkway. Jenah Thornborrow, director of Garden City's Development Services department, said the Boardwalk project is within a "node of development" that could become a local destination hub. It's one of the few areas Garden City — which spans just over four miles — could grow. 

Thornborrow said she doesn't want to give the impression that there will be more structures in Garden City with the Boardwalk's magnitude — and the project has yet to be approved — but if the city grows, it may need to grow up, and that can be a positive for Garden City, situated between Idaho's two largest cities.

"To have the urban center of the valley that's a little more dense certainly helps create that destination location," Thornborrow said. "It also helps with the cost of services for municipalities to be able to provide adequate services for the growth that's coming into the valley."

For developers, the benefits of building tall include maximizing space and ultimately saving money on land and excavation costs. Urban planners say there are community benefits, as well. Blueprint Boise, the city's comprehensive plan, proposes more downtown housing, which has been primarily viewed as an office and commercial center. Downtown housing density provides close live-work opportunities and could grow the size of downtown's workforce.  

Along those lines, Hovde Properties, a Madison, Wisc.-based development company, is planning a 19-story apartment building, modeled after another built in Madison in 2015. Located on the northeast corner of Broad and Sixth streets, Ovation will reach 224 feet, making it the fourth tallest in the state, if the Boardwalk Residences are completed. With commercial space and parking on the first five floors, the upper 13 will support 209 apartments. In total, the development will be just under 30,000 square feet.  

Credit: City of Boise
A rendering shows plans for Ovation, a 224-foot apartment building, which would become the third-tallest building in downtown Boise.

It's not the first venture in Idaho for brothers Steve and Eric Hovde. They're also the proprietors of Sunwest Bank, which has four locations throughout the state. 

The plans for Ovation are currently being reviewed by city planners. It's unlikely to see any push back from the city on height, because there are no height restrictions in the central business district, where it's proposed. Its neighbors will be Trader Joe's, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Boise Brewing, among other commercial properties.

That's not the case for another planned tower a few blocks northeast. ICCU Tower, proposed near Idaho and 4th streets, has raised the question: Where does downtown end?

At 200 N. 4th St., Idaho Central Credit Union with Ball Ventures Ahlquist and Brighton, Meridian-based developers, are planning a dual tower. The tallest wing would be 13 stories, or just under 200 feet. It's too tall for the zoning on the parcel, but the height wouldn't be a problem one block away in the central business district and it follows the guidelines of Blueprint Boise.  

The 250,000-square-foot building would house an Idaho Central Credit Union branch, medical offices, retail and commercial space, 100 residential units and a parking garage. 

Credit: City of Boise
A rendering shows how a 13-story mixed-use development, ICCU Downtown Tower, would alter Boise's east downtown area.

That's all contingent on the project surviving an appeal, led by Eastside Downtown residents who last year formed a coalition, Better Change for East Downtown, to oppose the project. They argue, the height and other design elements of the ICCU Tower don't conform to the rest of the neighborhood. 

The Boise City Council narrowly approved the plans in March, with three council members siding with neighbors, BoiseDev reported

"We're in a transition period," said Mayor Lauren McLean, who voted in favor of the project to break a tie during a March 16 meeting. "…We need housing. We do have a lot of coming on, we do not have enough housing…Anything we can do to ensure that we have housing, both in our downtown core and throughout our neighborhoods, in a built environment and style that's reflective of our past but also the future, of where we're headed, is so incredibly important."

Neighbors appealed an approval of the project design, arguing the city did not have enough information when the project was approved. The appeal will be considered Aug. 2.

Ryan Suppe is the Boise City Hall and Treasure Valley business reporter for the Idaho Press. Contact him at 208-344-2055 (ext. 3038). Follow him on Twitter @salsuppe.

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