BOISE -- A proposed downtown sports park was a hot topic last fall, and it is heating up again in the spring.
We first told you about plans to build the sports complex on property St. Luke's owns at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard more than a year ago. Then in December, a new idea was thrown into the mix with talk about building on the College of Western Idaho's property off of Whitewater Park Boulevard.
The proposed downtown project has sparked lots of debate over the last year - and now it appears to be moving forward with the original plan. Things were a little quieter after word got out the developer was eyeing the CWI property and there were no real updates to report.
Then on Monday, a letter was sent out to neighbors and nearby businesses inviting them to an upcoming public meeting. The developer's attorney, Geoff Wardle, told KTVB the letter was sent to nearly 500 addresses beyond the scope of what's typically required of a neighborhood meeting notice.
With talk sliding away from a land swap with CWI, we asked the developer - managing partner of Greenstone Properties and co-owner of the Boise Hawks baseball team, Chris Schoen - what changed.
Schoen said: "An anonymous individual asked us to consider the CWI property which we were willing to consider. their offer has been withdrawn and we have therefore returned to our original St. Luke's site. We are beginning the rezoning process on that site."
"It would be a great boom for the community to be able to do both these projects," City of Boise spokesman Mike Journee said, "but at the same time, all along, we said this Shoreline site would be a great site for a stadium as well."
If they traded spots, the College of Western Idaho could have moved into already-existing buildings on the St. Luke's site.
But CWI says Schoen and Greenstone Properties never made a formal presentation. KTVB reached out for their reaction on Thursday; they sent us this statement:
"The Board of Trustees of the College of Western Idaho remain committed to finding the most efficient, responsible and sustainable approach to a Boise property that will serve our students and community. The college welcomes any interested parties to contact us and request to make a presentation."
Now, with sights set again on the original site, the developer is up to bat in what will be a months-long process. Greenstone Properties made the first official step in getting the Boise Sports Park built by announcing the neighborhood meeting. Greenstone is looking to re-zone 11 acres they're under contract to buy from St. Luke's.
"They have to ask for a rezone," Journee said. "They have to come before Planning and Zoning and City Council to ask for that piece of property to be put into a different zone."
"They're asking for a more dense zone to allow for construction of something that's more dense than what's there currently," Journee added.
Before that re-zone application process gets rolling, the developers are required to hold a meeting with neighbors to go over their plans, which is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the potential future site. That address is 688 S. Americana Blvd/1500 W. Shoreline Dr in Boise.
"It's important they have that meeting and get that feedback and do what they can to incorporate that feedback as part of their application. That's the reason why we have that requirement so they hear those concerns and take those concerns into account before they file their application," Journee told KTVB.
Wardle says this is the third neighborhood meeting the developer and his counsel have held with people who live or own businesses and property nearby. The previous meetings were in the fall.
Some residents tell me they didn't feel those gatherings were very helpful or that their input really mattered to the developer and city's planning process.
We have reported for months on the roughly $100 million project - and this spot in particular - drawing both support and backlash from Boiseans.
"I'm concerned about the city being on the financial hook for it because there are cities that have been severely damaged financially by these things. Projects like this do fail. And when they fail guess who's left holding the ticket? The city," one concerned Boisean, Mickey Myhre, said. "My primary concern really is the financial hole Boise may wind up finding itself in without having had a voice in choosing to go that direction."
Many locals say the development will spur too much traffic, noise and light pollution; the public-private funding model is too complex; it's a flat-out bad idea; or they feel government agencies are hiding behind closed doors.
"They're kind of jamming something through it seems without taxpayer input. That's going to have a very big effect on taxable economy of Boise and I just don't feel like we're getting any chance to be heard," Myhre said.
Other Boiseans we've spoken with in the past fully support the prospect of a sports park downtown or don't mind how it's being paid for.
The city and developer originally hoped construction would start in 2019 and first pitch would take place in 2020, but timeline details could be different now.