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A visitor center returns to Grove Plaza

A visitor center was incorporated into the restroom structure added to the renovated Grove Plaza in downtown Boise. Photo by Teya Vitu.

A visitor center was incorporated into the restroom structure added to the renovated Grove Plaza in downtown Boise. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Boise’s visitor center has headed back to center stage.

After seven years tucked under a garage at Front and Ninth streets, the visitors center opened June 5 to the right of the main Boise Centre entrance on the Grove Plaza.

The visitor center is attached to a two-stall restroom attached to the convention center.

The visitor center was once at the Boise Centre. It was moved in 1990 to the convention center’s marketing office across Front Street and relabeled Concierge Corner and Visitor Services. It was staffed part-time by volunteers.

Boise Centre sales manager Kay Dillon assists a visitor at the new visitor center on Grove Plaza. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Boise Centre sales manager Kay Dillon assists a visitor at the new visitor center on Grove Plaza. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The new visitor center is staffed full-time by Boise Centre’s visitor services and sales staff and other part-time paid and volunteer Boise Centre staff, said Pat Rice, executive director of the Boise Centre.

Visitor center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday with extended hours for Alive After Five and other special events.

The center returned to Grove Plaza as a collaboration between Boise Centre and the Capital City Development Corp. CCDC owns Grove Plaza and built the new restroom and additional windowed space that holds the visitor center. Boise Centre manages the plaza.

Public restrooms were a high priority in public polls for the new plaza. CCDC consulted with Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland on plaza restrooms and was advised to have a “human interface” to reduce unwanted behavior, said Doug Woodruff, CCDC’s project manager for capital improvements.

“From the get-go, we needed attended restrooms,” said Woodruff said.

People get the key for the new Grove Plaza restrooms in the adjoining visitor center. Photo by Teya Vitu.

People get the key for the new Grove Plaza restrooms in the adjoining visitor center. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Woodruff and Rice got to talking early in the process.

“Suddenly, we had a good opportunity to have a visitors center with a full-time attendant,” Rice said. “I asked our visitors center staff and they were excited. They never felt it was as convenient (at Front and Ninth) as it was when we had it on Grove Plaza.”

Restroom users ask for a key in the visitor center.

CCDC and Boise Centre have a maintenance agreement for Grove Plaza, where Boise Centre paid CCDC $750,000 toward the reconstruction of Grove Plaza, including air rights for the elevated Boise Centre concourse and the visitor center space and restrooms.

Operating the visitor center is expected to cost $56,000 for the first 18 months with Boise Centre and CCDC splitting the cost, Rice said.

The new visitor center will have more materials on tours, restaurants, hiking, walking and biking trails as well as wineries, McCall and Sun Valley and Boise area events.

Before the redesign, Boise Centre had exterior restrooms next to the former location of Taters shop on the Grove Plaza’s south spoke. But they were open only during public events on the plaza. They were closed when Grove Plaza reconstruction started in spring 2016 and demolished when Boise Centre renovations started.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 8:25 a.m. June 9 to clarify the Boise Centre’s $750,000 payment to CCDC.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.