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A wish list for real estate in 2014

LeAnn Hume, principal at Cushman & Wakefield Commerce, would like to see building owners start planning an area downtown with a high density of retail clothing stores in 2014. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

LeAnn Hume, principal at Cushman & Wakefield Commerce, would like to see building owners start planning an area downtown with a high density of retail clothing stores in 2014. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

It’s been a busy year in 2013 for commercial real estate in the Treasure Valley.

Major projects such as The Village at Meridian and the Eighth & Main building in downtown Boise have made significant progress, with retailers open at the Village and tenant improvements underway at Eighth & Main. Residential construction also ballooned in 2013.

Brian Ballard

Brian Ballard

“There’s certainly been a resurgence in the residential real estate market, and commercial follows rooftops,” said Brian Ballard, an attorney in Hawley Troxell’s real estate group. “One is borne of the other.”

“I think everybody is so happy to see cranes in downtown again and to see projects moving,” said Laurie Reynoldson, a real estate development attorney from Holland & Hart. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re just going to sort of continue on the same path that we’ve started on this year.”

Idaho Business Review asked local real estate professionals what they’d like to see in 2014 to keep up the momentum from 2013. Here’s their wish list for 2014.

Transportation

“We need to really invest in our infrastructure,” said LeAnn Hume, principal at Cushman & Wakefield Commerce. “I think our transportation, long term, could be so much better to get people where they need to be.”

Hume pointed out that eventually, there could be 1 million people in the Treasure Valley, and planning entities need to start preparing for that.

“As Boise/Treasure Valley continues to grow, I think it’s important that our transportation and our transportation infrastructure grows along with it,” Ballard said.

“Certainly development needs to pay its own way, but I don’t think we can expect the developers to do it all,” Reynoldson said.

Local option tax

Idaho lawmakers have been kicking around the idea of a local option tax since at least 2008, and Reynoldson, Ballard and Hume agreed it would help move things along.

Laurie Reynoldson

Laurie Reynoldson

“I think the more tools that we can give businesses from an economic development standpoint … I think that’s going to be good for all of us,” Reynoldson said.

Ballard said that in the past, he was in favor of using local option taxes for a limited purpose, such as transit, but that he now appreciates the desire to use local option taxes for a wider range of projects.

“It’s a tight, tight market for trying to find funds available for all kinds of good projects,” he said.

Ballard said he’s looking forward to proposals from Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, and Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, in the 2014 Idaho legislative session.

Hume said she likes a formula used in Oklahoma, which allows voters to choose the projects they want to see, and then save up the tax money to pay for those projects.

“I thought that was a great idea,” she said. “You get the public really invested in growing, in particular, Boise.”

Downtown density

Reynoldson, Ballard and Hume all said maintaining a vibrant downtown in Boise was on their list of priorities for 2014.

“It would be nice to see more housing downtown,” Reynoldson said. She pointed out that there’s a wide variety of restaurants and retailers downtown, and she said more residential space would help keep those businesses going.

Ballard, who lives downtown, said he’s interested to see what sort of infill development projects will come to downtown.

Hume said she’d like to see downtown building owners work together to bring apparel retailers into a more concentrated area. She said that apparel stores in downtown locations nationwide tend to have lower sales than their stores’ average numbers.

In Boise, part of the issue is that the apparel stores downtown are so scattered that it’s inconvenient for shoppers to park in one spot and visit all the clothing stores, especially when they have to cross multiple streets with small children in tow, Hume said. She’d like to see a particular area developed where those retailers are located close together for better access by shoppers.

“If we could just have some greater density … I think they could drive more sales, which would keep them downtown,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Hume also said she’s crossing her fingers that whatever goes in the ground level of the old Macy’s building will be a good fit for downtown. She said the space will have an effect on national retailers looking at downtown Boise.

“I just think that it could affect the entire area if the wrong use is put in that building,” she said.

Collaboration

Ballard said his No. 1 wish is to see more collaboration between all entities that have a say in real estate development in the Treasure Valley.

“We shouldn’t be so much in competition with ourselves as we should be in competition with the rest of the United States,” he said. “We have quality of life, and we have so many things going for what we want to accomplish, and we get in the way of each other when we fail to realize that everyone has a place at the table.”

“There’s a lot of groups out there trying to do the same thing,” Hume said. If some of those groups worked toward common goals, she said, they might be more efficient.

“Now is the time that we can choose what it is that we’re going to become over the next few years,” Ballard said. “We need to be more competitive as a cooperative and collective group than we do individually, and together we’re going to do far better.”

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