MERIDIAN, Idaho — Take a drive on Interstate 84 through the heart of the Treasure Valley, and at least one thing — other than the traffic — will stand out: Development is booming.
I-84 begins in Portland to the west and ends near Salt Lake City. The three states that host the interstate — Oregon, Idaho and Utah — have seen population growth in the previous two years, according to the U.S. Census.
But Idaho tops the list — the state is tied with Nevada as the fastest-growing state in the U.S. Along about a 9-mile stretch of I-84 — the majority of which lies within the fastest-growing city in the fastest-growing county in the state — that growth is most apparent, according to a report from the Idaho Press.
In Meridian, skeletal building frames rise on either side of the interstate from what once was farmland. Once fleshed out and christened with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, some of these buildings will be home to thousands of future employees in the technology, finance and health care industries. There will be new recreational opportunities, shops and eateries and a new parking lot for Meridian’s growing medical school. Just down the road in Nampa, a new Amazon warehouse will sort and ship the Treasure Valley’s online purchases.
All of these developments are due, partly at least, to the interstate.
“Idaho is obviously growing, and it makes sense to grow along the freeway,” said Camille Blaylock, director of marketing for Ball Ventures Ahlquist, or BVA, a local developer with several ongoing projects along I-84.
A recent BVA study found that about 133,000 vehicles pass the developer’s office, located at Ten Mile Crossing in west Meridian, every day. Blaylock compared the physical marketing of having a business along the freeway to buying a billboard.
“We’re giving that to our tenants for free for just being in our development,” she said. “It adds up.
“If you take a snapshot of the whole valley and drop a pin in the center, it’s Meridian,” Blaylock said. “As our companies are growing, especially the ones that are coming to Idaho and making a bigger name here, it’s important for them to have that visibility.”
Let’s take a tour down this short stretch of freeway, where bulldozers, excavators and graders are leveling foundations and cranes are setting the framework for the future of the I-84 corridor.
1ST STOP: EAGLE VIEW LANDING
Travel west on I-84 from Boise and look left just before Eagle Road to see our first stop.
The phrase “Famous Potatoes” and images of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head once were sketched into a cornfield on this property. It was home to The Farmstead Corn Maze & Pumpkin Festival, which relocated to Kuna last year.
Today, a bird’s-eye view will reveal two steel frames, erected on the construction site of Eagle View Landing.
This mixed-use development, managed by BVA, will host two major companies by this fall, along with a medical office, retail shops, restaurants and a golf entertainment venue sometime in the future.
The first office to open at Eagle View Landing will be Idaho Central Credit Union, or ICCU, the Pocatello-based credit union with branches throughout the state.
In 2018, ICCU acquired the former Farmstead land from Idaho Elks Rehab. BVA entered an agreement with ICCU to purchase the roughly 50 acres and develop the site, including the credit union’s new campus. Construction started in May.
Tommy Ahlquist, CEO of Ball Ventures Ahlquist, said in an interview on Tuesday he has been eyeing the land for 15 years.
“We’re really happy about that one,” Ahlquist said of Eagle View Landing. “As you come up and down the freeway you can’t get much much better visibility, proximity to the airport, proximity to downtown (Boise).”
ICCU will be the primary occupant of a 175,000-square-foot office building and is scheduled to move in by the end of the summer, according to Blaylock.
The credit union will take up two floors, or about 65,000 square feet, and the remaining space will be leased out to other businesses, Blaylock said. The Meridian location will be ICCU’s Treasure Valley headquarters and its second-largest office, behind its Pocatello headquarters.
In addition to visibility for potential customers, Eagle View Landing’s easy-access location along the freeway is a selling point for potential employees of businesses like ICCU, Blaylock said. With a low unemployment rate — 2.6% in Ada County and 3.3% in Canyon County — when workers “get to be more choosy about where they work,” a central location is an attractive quality, she said.
Another company that will take advantage of that location is Americor, an Irvine, California-based finance technology company. The company moved 25 to 30 employees into a temporary Boise location last year, and plans to eventually create 500 to 800 jobs in Meridian, the Meridian Press previously reported.
In September, BVA broke ground on a three-story, 75,000-square-foot office building at Eagle View Landing, where Americor will be the primary occupant. The company is expected to move in this fall.
Upon completion of Americor’s building, Eagle View Landing will have over 200,000 square feet of commercial office space, with more than 300,000 additional square feet to follow in the next several years.
2ND STOP: ISU MERIDIAN
Continuing west on I-84, our second stop is between Locust Grove and Meridian roads. Here, on the right, is Idaho State University-Meridian, the Pocatello-based institution’s health science education hub, which shares a campus with the West Ada School District’s headquarters, Renaissance High School and the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM).
In 2019, ISU-Meridian celebrated its tenth anniversary. The same year, the campus saw a 26% increase in overall enrollment and 22% increase in full-time graduate students, according to Patricia Marincic, associate vice president of health sciences and director of ISU-Meridian.
To accommodate that growth, along with the addition this year of new professional programs and remodeled clinics, ISU-Meridian is building a new 475-stall parking lot, west of the campus, for students, faculty and staff.
The parking lot is nearing completion — once the weather warms, contractor Knife River will lay asphalt, Marincic said. The lot and a new shared driveway along East Central Drive are expected to open in the spring, she said.
“That will improve traffic flow on our campus for all parties,” she said of the driveway.
Like other businesses along the busy freeway, Marincic said “visibility is huge” for the college. With ISU-Meridian’s growing campus, ICOM, St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center, a future urgent care clinic at Ten Mile Crossing and more than a dozen health care facilities throughout the city, Meridian is quickly becoming a health hub of the Treasure Valley.
“We’re hoping to fly our ISU banners … along the interstate there and really increase our footprint here in Meridian,” Marincic said. “What we’re doing here in education at ISU and the health sciences — and also ICOM — is ultimately contributing to the provision of quality health care services across many disciplines for the citizens of Idaho. That’s a big deal for Meridian.”
3RD STOP: VERTICAL VIEW
Across the freeway from ISU-Meridian is our third stop. Here, on the south side of the freeway at 1334 E. Bird Dog Drive, is a concrete structure with a jagged facade. The medieval-looking structure may appear sinister, but the building will host a lot of fun.
The 32,000-square-foot, three-story building is the future home of Vertical View Climbing Gym, one of two climbing gyms scheduled to open in the Treasure Valley early this year.
Vertical View will feature 18,000 square feet devoted to climbing and about 160 roped and bouldering routes at any one time.
The climbing gym will host a grand opening on Jan. 31, according to its Facebook page. The gym is expecting a surge of customers in the first month.
“In the beginning, it’s going to be a madhouse,” the gym’s administrative director Tyler Pape told the Idaho Press last month. “We’re expecting about 2,000 people in the first month, and that might be a little low.”
4TH STOP: TEN MILE CROSSING
Continue west on I-84 and, just before the Ten Mile Road overpass on the right, you’ll see a batch of sleek, glass office buildings surrounded by farmland and homes. Here is our fourth stop: Ten Mile Crossing.
The mixed-use development is managed in a three-way partnership among BVA, the Brighton Corporation and SCS Development. Its tenants include Brighton and BVA; Paylocity, a national human-resource technology company; AmeriBen, a third-party administrator of employer-sponsored health benefits; and Pivot Lifestyle + Fitness by Kristin Armstrong, a gym. There also are apartments, with more to come.
Ahlquist, a longtime Treasure Valley developer, formerly of Gardener Company and Ball Ventures, said he historically has leased office space to smaller companies, which take up 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. But recently larger companies are looking to expand their Treasure Valley offices or relocate here.
“What’s changed significantly in this last year and a half — with the economy booming like it is and Idaho being on everyone’s radar — is there are larger companies growing here ... or larger companies moving here from other locations, and we’re landing a lot of those in our projects,” he said. “What we’re finding in most of our office buildings is that we have one, big anchor.”
Ten Mile Crossing will have more than one of those anchors. Several buildings are under construction on the nearly 400-acre complex, which stretches from I-84 to West Franklin Road. Brighton, SCS Development and BVA hosted three groundbreaking ceremonies last year at Ten Mile Crossing.
AmeriBen is expanding into a new facility next to its current space. Officials broke ground on the four-story, 120,000-square-foot building in July.
The new space will create room for new employees at the expending company. AmeriBen employs close to 850 people, 500 of whom work in the Ten Mile building, the Meridian Press reported. The new facility is expected to open this summer.
Also in July, BVA broke ground on a 270,000-square-foot medical complex, including two four-story buildings. Saltzer Health, a health care organization acquired by BVA last year, will open a 24-hour urgent care clinic at Ten Mile Crossing. When finished this fall, the complex will have an ambulatory surgery center, physician clinics, rehabilitation, physical therapy, imaging, lab, pharmacy and the urgent care clinic run by Saltzer Health.
In November, BVA broke ground on a five-story, 125,000-square-foot office building named La Salle.
The primary occupant of La Salle will be Perspecta, an information technology management company that contracts with state and local governments and the federal government.
When La Salle is completed this fall, it will the bring Ten Mile Crossing to over 800,000 square feet of Class A commercial and medical office space.
FINAL STOP: AMAZON
For the next four miles, driving west on I-84, we have a lull in our development journey. Along this stretch, travelers can still enjoy views the Treasure Valley’s rich farmland, which is shrinking. A recent study by Boise State University’s Jodi Brandt, professor of human environment systems, found that by 2100, the valley is expected to lose 200,000 farmland acres.
Or, your passengers can use this time to add purchases to their Amazon shopping list. Those likely will be sorted and shipped at our final stop on the development tour.
Just over the Ada/Canyon County border, after you pass Star Road on the right, is the site of a future Amazon fulfillment center in Nampa. The 650,000-square-foot warehouse on the corner of Franklin and Star roads will be the Seattle-based technology company’s first fulfillment center in Idaho.
Amazon is ranked fifth on the Fortune 500 list of the top-earning companies on earth. Last year, the company brought in over $232 billion in revenue, nearly three times the gross domestic product of Idaho, and employed more than 647,000 people, nearly as many people as the entire population of the Boise metropolitan area.
The fulfillment center is expected to create more than 1,000 local jobs, and Amazon is slated to be Nampa’s largest employer. Currently, that title goes to Walmart (No. 1 on the Fortune 500), which employs 800 to 900 locals.
Quick access to the interstate is a key feature Amazon officials look for when choosing a location for a new fulfillment center — the Nampa location is expected to generate nearly 7,000 vehicle trips per day during peak operating season (holiday months). Amazon spokesman Zeshan Kazmi told the Idaho Press last month the company’s first priority in determining a center’s location is customer demand, followed by local support.
“Nampa checked off a lot of things we were looking for,” Kazmi said.
Amazon vehicles will likely rely heavily on Garrity Interchange as the closest access point to I-84 until Highway 16 is extended from Chinden Boulevard to the interstate, a nearly five-mile stretch.
Amazon’s new center is projected to boost traffic by up to 10% at the Garrity Interchange during the peak season.
Idaho Press reporters Erin Bamer and Thomas Plank contributed to this article.
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