Boise Centre bond rating improves to A+

photo of boise centre
The new Boise Centre elevated concourse connects the existing convention center to the Boise Centre East expansion. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Boise Centre’s bond rating has improved from an A to an A+.

The Greater Boise Auditorium District, which owns the Boise Centre, was recently notified by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services that it was upgrading the Centre’s lease revenue bond rating. The rating, considered an investment grade bond, is now viewed as an upper medium grade. S&P ratings continue through AAA.

The good news about such a ratings increase is that it could help the district save money on bonds. The bad news is that it wouldn’t help with any bonds the district already has.

photo of pat rice
Pat Rice. Photo by Pete Grady

“The bond rating really has an impact moving forward, not retroactively,” said Pat Rice, Boise Centre executive director, in an email message. “So if we decide to participate in any major project beyond our cash position, and the Board looks to go to the bond market instead of using up cash reserves, then theoretically (and depending on the type of project, scope etc.) the new rating should help with a lower interest rate.”

But the primary effect of the new rating is to let the district, as well as Boise itself, know it’s doing a good job, Rice said.

“Really, the gist of the new rating is a positive indicator for the District as it pertains to the fiscal management of Boise Centre, its continued success, strength of the hotel market (related to lodging tax collections) and overall positive business environment within the Community,” he said. “While it’s a positive reflection of the District’s overall business position, it also recognizes the overall continued strength of the Boise economic climate.”

Idaho hotel room rates outpace neighboring states

The Hampton Inn & Suites (left), the Grove Hotel, Marriott Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center and Inn at 500 Capitol make up Idaho’s largest cluster of hotels. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Idaho hotels lead the northwestern states in increases in the average daily rate at hotels but also had the largest decrease in room occupancy over the past year, according to a hospitality research report.

The Marcus & Millichap Hospitality Research Report noted that average daily rates (ADR) at Idaho hotels increased 4.5 percent to $101.96 from July 2017 to July 2018, the largest increase among Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Specifically in Boise, ADR increased 5.2 percent from $102.61 to $108.02, according to Greater Boise Auditorium District statistics.

The Marcus & Millichap report also cautioned that Idaho room occupancy “plummeted” 1.9 percentage points to 63.2 percent compared to a .3 percentage point increase to 64.2 percent across the five states. GBAD notes Boise occupancy dropped 2.7 percentage points to 72.0 percent.

The occupancy rate is moot because Idaho has added some 3,000 new rooms at about 40 new hotels in the past couple years, said Pat Rice, executive director at GBAD, which is funded by transient occupancy taxes charged at hotels.

Downtown Boise alone has added four new hotels with 580 rooms in less than two years.

“I would say nothing plummeted,” Rice said. “The occupancy rate is driven purely by supply. You add that kind of supply to the market, you might have more occupancy.”

But Rice said Boise has absorbed nearly all the new rooms, considering the vacancy rate is similar with more than 600 new rooms across the city. He noted that room nights increased by 66,925 to 1.56 million rooms filled over the course of a year.

“We’re up simply because of the number of conventions we can do,” Rice said.

Boise Centre events and conventions spiked following the August 2017 opening of the 36,000-square-foot Boise Centre East expansion. The number of total events at Boise Centre increased from 270 in 2016 to a projected 368 for 2018, bringing 42,000 more people to the convention center, and the number of conventions grew from 47 to 68, Rice said.

Room revenue also increased 7.3 percent to $170.4 million in July 2018 in the GBAD area, which is generally east of Eagle Road, Rice said.

Jared S. Barr built the largest hotel among the current generation of new hotels, the 185-room Marriott Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center. He is also building a 108-room Marriott TownePlace Suites in Twin Falls that is expected to open in June next to his 92-room Marriott Fairfield Inn.

“We put a massive amount of supply on the market,” Smith said. “We all need time to understand how it will affect all of us.”

New hotels aren’t the only factor taking a bite out of occupancy rates. Airbnb’s presence in Idaho more than tripled from 7,300 vacation home rentals in 2016 to 24,000 in 2018, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce.

“The vacation rental element made a much bigger impact,” said Matt Borud, Commerce’s chief marketing and innovation officer.

Borud said he has watched hotel room rates climb over the past two to three years.

“New high-end properties coming online is a driver of that,” Borud said.

Unlike neighboring states, where a lion’s share of tourism generally focuses on one or two general areas, Idaho has seen hotel construction all over the state in nearly all significant population centers. Idaho visitation is up 4 percent from 2015, according to Borud.

“Visitation is up across the state,” Borud said. “The growth is not limited to one or two pockets. Every area around the state has a unique travel opportunity.”

Marcus & Millichap also mentioned that “more flights are being added to and from Boise, giving visitors more flexibility to visit the state from some of the nation’s largest markets.”

Since June 2017, Boise Airport has seen several airlines launch service to new cities — Southwest Airlines offers flights to San Diego and San Jose, American Airlines to Chicago O’Hare and Allegiant to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Frontier entered the market with service to Denver. American added a flight to Dallas, and Alaska Airlines increased plane size on some flights to Seattle, airport spokesman Sean Briggs said.

Passenger traffic increased 11 percent through July 2018 to 3.69 million.

“Last year was a record year, and we’re blowing it out of the water this year,” Briggs said.

Stadium supporters and detractors square off at GBAD board meeting

Greater Boise Auditorium District Chairman Jim Walker noted he has not seen such a large crowd at a GBAD board meeting. The board was hosting presentations in favor and against a downtown stadium. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Greater Boise Auditorium District Chairman Jim Walker noted he has not seen such a large crowd at a GBAD board meeting. The board was hosting presentations in favor and against a downtown stadium. Photo by Teya Vitu.

For people involved in soccer, a downtown Boise stadium is a must-have.

But for the Concerned Boise Taxpayers, there are deep reservations about investing public money in the project, a proposed soccer/baseball stadium at Shoreline Drive and Americana Blvd. The group is also concerned about parking, traffic, noise and lighting.

The president of the Idaho Youth Soccer Association and former CEO of Albertsons Inc. presented contrasting views Oct. 26 at the Greater Boise Auditorium District board meeting on stadium. Greenstone Properties proposes a 5,500-seat stadium that would include surrounding office, retail and residential components.

“This is just a hig- risk project and the wrong place,” said Gary Michael, the former Albertsons boss leading the Concerned Boise Taxpayers. “We feel strongly this project has no place for the District. We are opposed to any public funding. I hope you do your homework and understand the high risk.”

Greenstone Properties has made no formal requests for funding from GBAD, the city of Boise or the Capital City Development Corp. It is anticipated CCDC would issue a bond to pay for the estimated $40 construction cost of the stadium. Repayment would come from $1 million annual lease payments by Agon Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team.

GBAD has not given any consideration to a dollar amount. The district considered a $5 million investment toward a stadium a few years ago, before Agon Sports bought the Hawks.

“Nobody has come to us asking for $5 million to do this (downtown stadium),” GBAD Executive Director Pat Rice told the Idaho Business Review.

GBAD Chairman Jim Walker backed a stadium when he ran for office.

“The sports park fits the mission for what the District stands for,” Walker said. “As a concept, I’m in support.”

The city of Boise has earmarked $3 million for a downtown stadium in its five-year capital improvement plan, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

“There has not been any appropriation,” Journee said. “It’s still up in the air what amount we’re talking about and when. The developer has not brought a proposal.”

The Concerned Boise Taxpayers have been vocal in the past month, attending the three City of Boise open houses about the stadium and mixed-use project in October at the Boise Centre, Payette Brewing and City Hall.

The open houses offered a stadium survey to participants with the same survey available online and via email.

Residents turned in 906 surveys with 727 online, 152 at the open houses and 27 by email, Journee said.

He added that 76 percent had positive feedback, 22 percent negative and 2 percent neutral.

Boise is a soccer town

Bill Taylor, president for seven years of the Idaho Youth Soccer Association, said a huge number of the online surveys came from soccer enthusiasts. He spoke at the GBAD meeting on behalf of the Better Boise Coalition, a collection of private and public officials that banded together six years ago to promote building a downtown stadium.

“The rhetoric has been that this is a massive project, a massive stadium,” Taylor said. “This is akin to going to a high school football game. To think of parking problems and traffic problems is kind of silly. High school football fields have lights not conducive to neighborhoods.”

The Boise stadium design calls for a sunken field and bleacher overhangs to keep most noise and lighting contained within the stadium, Greenstone managing director Chris Schoen has previously said.

The stadium would primarily serve the Boise Hawks and a projected USL minor league soccer team in a league just one level down from Major League Soccer. The USL in past interviews has said it is eager to place a team in Boise. Along with the two teams, the stadium is being promoted as a site for community events.

“IYSA will use it for championship games. High schools will use it for championship games,” Taylor said. “To me, this is a unique project, not one typical across the country.”

Michael said there have been meetings among government entities and Greenstone in the past couple years that were out of the public view. He said the project was assembled without public involvement.

Taylor dismissed that notion. He said the soccer community banded together to get Kristin Muchow elected to the GBAD board this year.

“The people want this,” Taylor said. “The soccer community came out. The thought of taxation without representation is a silly thought.”

One of the leaders of Concerned Boise Taxpayers is Bill Ilett, former managing partner of Idaho Stampede, the NBA D-League basketball team that moved out of Boise in 2016. Michael had made a reference to the difficulties of operating the Stampede and the Hawks.

Taylor said soccer enthusiasm is growing exponentially in America. Even in Boise, the three high-profile matches in the past two years (the Basque Friendly, the USL and the indoor international friendly) drew large crowds.

“Look at the (soccer) fan base in Portland and Seattle,” Taylor said. “That’s the fan base we have. This is not D League basketball.”

An Austin, Texas, urban renewal and economic development consultant said the plan to build a downtown Boise soccer and baseball stadium with public financing is “highly speculative and risky.”

Sean Garretson
Sean Garretson

“As an urban planner, I love the concept,” said Sean Garretson, owner of Pegasus Development planning and development company. “What can the market support (in regard to the proposed housing, retail and office components)? It’s a question I have.”

Garretson was hired by a group called Concerned Boise Taxpayers in early October to look over the city’s feasibility study for the 5,000-seat stadium and office, residential and commercial complex. Concerned Boise Taxpayers is opposed to the stadium plan.

The project would be a public-private partnership with the city of Boise and Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties.

Garretson acknowledged his analysis is based on limited information. He toured the area where the stadium is proposed on a bicycle Oct. 26-27 during a two-day visit to Boise. He has worked on three Meridian projects: an economic development strategy; a housing study; and a study for a downtown multi-purpose performance center. He wrote also a strategic plan for College of Western Idaho.

The Concerned Boise Taxpayers and Garretson don’t see any certainty that the Boise Hawks and a potential United Soccer League high-tier minor league professional soccer team will deliver the financial success to pay off the bond for the stadium. “Is it a given the Boise Hawks will have an attendance increase? I don’t know,” said Garretson, a former vice chairman of the Austin Urban Renewal Authority. “USL, they don’t have that. It’s very speculative.”

Of studying the stadium proposal, Garretson said, “It’s been a struggle getting the documents we requested. I really think the city should be much more open on this thing. I’m shocked at how much is redacted. This is information that should not be redacted.”

Boise city officials rejected the idea that information was withheld improperly.

“Often in economic development deals, a redaction or denial of records is not uncommon,” said Nic Miller, the city’s economic development director. “Open records law says proprietary information can and should be redacted.”

Miller noted there has been no formal proposal for the stadium.

The 30-team United Soccer League, just one rung below Major League Soccer, has closely monitored Boise’s bid to land a team.

“Boise remains a desired market for the next and final phase of USL Expansion,” USL spokesman Leonardo Santiago said in an email. “At this time, USL approval primarily hinges on a successful outcome for the stadium development project under consideration.”

Boise must meet professional soccer Division II standards for fan and player atmosphere.

“We believe the proposed stadium project in Boise meets and exceeds that criteria,” Santiago said.

As for paying off stadium construction bond debt, Miller stressed that the far larger share of bond payments would be made by Greenstone’s accompanying, privately funded, mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium.

“We looked at a lot of deals similar to this,” Miller said. “One of the things we found, the way this is structured, if the private development does not get built, the sports park doesn’t get built.”

Information about Concerned Taxpayers consultant Sean Garretson was added to the end of the story Oct. 31, 2017.

Room tax collections, hotel room rates hit record highs in Boise

Hyatt Place is Boise's newest hotel. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Hyatt Place is Boise’s newest hotel. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Record hotel room occupancy and room rates are driving the Greater Boise Auditorium District’s lodging room tax collections to a record high for the fifth year in a row, statistics show.

GBAD expects to collect $6.95 million in room taxes by the time its fiscal year ends at the end of November, Executive Director Pat Rice said.

Through August, the 5 percent tax added to hotel and Airbnb bills generated $4.97 million – more than the entire fiscal year 2014.

“The continued positive economic climate and strong demand have contributed to this upward trend,” Rice said.

Average hotel rates in August soared to $120 per night, up from $104 in August 2016. Since then, three new hotels opened in Boise: the 113-room Inn at 500 Capitol, the 150-room Hyatt Place and the 104-room Holiday Inn Express near Boise Airport.

These new hotels increased the number of people booking in downtown Boise who used to stay in Meridian and Nampa because there were no downtown Boise rooms, Rice said.

“The demand is allowing the three new hotels to bring people to downtown that couldn’t be here but wanted to be here,” Rice said.

Even with all the new rooms, room occupancy was 83.6 percent in August. A 185-room Residence Inn Boise Downtown City Center is expected to open sometime in October.

Group questions impact of proposed downtown Boise stadium

Before any formal submittals have been made regarding a potential downtown Boise baseball and soccer stadium, a local group has raised questions about a stadium’s impact on the Americana Boulevard/Shoreline Drive area.

Concerned Boise Taxpayers on July 16 submitted a letter to the Greater Boise Auditorium District asking the district to require an in-depth analysis of a stadium’s traffic, noise, lighting, environmental and true economic impact on property value. The letter was signed by former Albertsons Chairman and CEO Gary G. Michael.

“Concerned Boise Taxpayers… respectfully request that more solid information be provided to the taxpaying citizens of Boise before any money is paid for the acquisition of any land in a public/private partnership for a baseball multi-use field,” Michael wrote.

GBAD officials said it was premature to address the matter as Greenstone Properties, which is proposing the stadium, has not made a formal presentation to GBAD.

“We have not been asked to consider a project yet,” GBAD Board Chairman Jim Walker said. “There’s nothing on the table for us to discuss.”

A downtown stadium will involve approvals from the city of Boise, the Capital City Development Corp., and likely GBAD.

GBAD Executive Director Pat Rice said Concerned Boise Taxpayers had asked GBAD to help pay for the study.

“I’m not sure that’s our role in this,” he said.

GBAD owns and operates the Boise Centre. The district, which can incur debt, is authorized to build, operate, maintain, market, and manage public auditoriums, exhibit halls, convention centers, sports arenas and similar facilities.

Greenstone is still negotiating with St. Luke’s Health System to acquire 11 acres at American and Shoreline. The property includes St. Luke’s Business Center, which is located in a former Kmart, the Shoreline Center property across Shoreline Drive and the former Beehive Salon and Total Woman Fitness properties across Spa Street. Chris Schoen, managing principal of Greenstone, has said he wants to start construction in late spring 2018 on a 5,000-fixed-seat stadium expandable to 7,000 seats for soccer. Games would start in 2020.

Schoen is also co-owner of the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team, which would be a tenant of the new stadium.

Concerned Boise Taxpayers has not sent similar letters to the city or CCDC. City and CCDC officials said the groups’ concerns are within the entitlement process to allow the stadium project to proceed.

“All those things that they are concerned about are things that are going to be part of this process,” said Mike Journee, spokesman for Mayor David Bieter.  “As part of the due diligence by the development partners, all those questions are going to be answered for people.”

CCDC is in the early stages of creating a new urban renewal district – the Shoreline District – that would include the stadium and surrounding commercial, office and residential development that Greenstone proposes.

“We have not begun the master plan for the new urban renewal district,” CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said. “That’s when all of those things will be addressed. Those are all great questions. Those are questions that need to be answered in the master planning process for the new district.”

Muchow, Kloc win seats on GBAD board

Event-goers enter the original Boise Centre. The Boise Centre was recently expanded with an extensive east wing. File photo.
Event-goers enter the original Boise Centre. The Boise Centre was renovated and expanded last year with an extensive east wing. File photo.

Election newcomer Kristin Muchow outdistanced both Greater Boise Auditorium District incumbents to capture the most votes in the May 16 election for two seats on the GBAD board of directors.

Muchow will join incumbent Hy Kloc for six-year terms on the board, which governs operations of the Boise Centre convention center. They will be sworn in June 26.

Kristin Muchow
Kristin Muchow

Incumbent Judy Peavey-Derr finished a distant third and was voted off the board where she had served since 2011. The fourth candidate, Scott Mecham, garnered 8.1 percent of the vote.

Muchow and Kloc fought a tight race, with Muchow collecting 39.6 percent or 5,294 votes and Klock getting 38.3 percent or 5,110 votes.

Muchow carried most of west Boise, the Chinden corridor in Garden City, the southeast side and the Bench south of the connector. Kloc dominated in the North End and on the Bench north of The Connector.

Peavey-Derr, a veteran politician, won only two precincts, both framed by Five Mile and Cloverdale roads, with one in the Franklin Road area and the other in the Lake Hazel Road area.

Hy Kloc
Hy Kloc

Kloc, a District 16 representative in the Legislature, ran on his GBAD record, which included the Boise Centre East expansion and Boise Centre renovation. Kloc wants to support sports facilities, such as the proposed downtown baseball/soccer stadium, as long as it is scaled to meet existing and future community needs.

Muchow stressed she was the only candidate who worked in the tourism industry. She is general manager of Meeting Systems, Inc., a professional meeting and event management firm. Muchow said in her campaigning that she would use her strong financial and strategic planning experience to maximize the potential of the Boise Centre.

Voter turnout was only 5.4 percent in an election that included only one other item, a Warm Springs Water District director.

Four GBAD hopefuls face off in a candidates forum

Scott Mecham (left), Judy Peavey-Derr, Hy Klock and Kristin Muchow are candidates for two seats on the Greater Boise Auditorium District board of directors. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Scott Mecham (left), Judy Peavey-Derr, Hy Klock and Kristin Muchow are candidates for two seats on the Greater Boise Auditorium District board of directors. Photo by Teya Vitu.

With early voting already underway, the four candidates for two seats on the Greater Boise Auditorium District board of directors addressed questions about the proposed downtown stadium and other matters in a 90-mintue candidates forum May 3 hosted by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Election day is May 16. The top two vote-getters will join or rejoin the GBAD board. The ballot has two incumbents, Judy Peavey-Derr and Hy Kloc, and two newcomers to election politics, Kristin Muchow and Scott Mecham.

Kloc and Peavey-Derr, both on the GBAD board since 2011, presented their track record, which revolved around investing a large, unused reserved fund to build the $29.5-million Boise Centre East expansion that opened in September.

“A lot of money was sitting at Bank of the Cascades at zero interest,” Peavey-Derr said. “We hired a controller that morped into a financial director. It led us to a position where Gardner Co. came in and said let’s do a public-private partnership.”

That led to the recently completed City Center Plaza project at Grove Plaza. The project included the nine-story Clearwater Building, which was attached to Boise Centre East, the CenturyLink Arena and the main Boise Centre.

“Take a look at what has been happening around Boise (Centre) the last couple years and judge me on that,” Kloc said.

Per state statute, GBAD can be involved in the operation of a stadium, but the district has not been approached with any specific request from the Boise Hawks ownership group proposing to build a baseball/soccer stadium at Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive, GBAD Executive Director Pat Rice said.

All four candidate spoke favorably about the stadium.

“I think a stadium downtown would be a wonderful thing,” said Mecham, owner of KMS Financial Services in downtown Boise. “I think the district’s role is to basically broker conversations with the parties (Boise Hawks owners, city of Boise, Capital City Development Corp., GBAD). I would like to see the stadium stand on its own financially.”

Candidates were all eager to see a feasibility study for a stadium. The Boise Hawks owners are currently negotiating with St. Luke’s Health System to buy 11 acres at American and Shoreline, where the St. Luke’s Business Center currently is located in a former Kmart building.

“I see the stadium is another arrow in our quiver to attract hospitality business,” said Muchow, who is general manager of Meeting Systems, Inc., a Boise professional meeting and event management firm. “I do believe GBAD plays an important role in the stadium overall.”

One topic brought up from the audience was expanding marketing internationally for the Boise Centre, which is the only facility GBAD owns and operates.

“I would like to see more international flavor in Boise,” Mecham said. ”I’m in favor of international marketing.”

Peavey-Derr focused more domestically, referencing the nonstop flight between Boise and Houston.

“We should market something closer, like Texas,” she said. “We have a flight there now.”

Muchow said: “The Idaho Department of Commerce does a lot of international marketing. I think the (GBAD) board’s role is to put the metrix around that.”


St. Luke’s, Boise Hawks announce deal for downtown Boise stadium

The Boise Hawks owners propose a stadium near downtown Boise at American Boulevard and Shoreline Drive. Image courtesy of Boise Hawks.
The Boise Hawks owners propose a stadium near downtown Boise at Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive. Image courtesy of Boise Hawks.

St. Luke’s Health System has agreed to sell 11 acres of land at Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive to the owners of the Boise Hawks minor league baseball to build a downtown stadium for the Hawks and a professional soccer team.

St. Luke’s, Agon Sports and Entertainment, Greenstone Properties and the city of Boise jointly announced the deal March 27.

The acreage includes the former Kmart property that now houses the St. Luke’s Business Center and includes all the land bounded by Americana, Shoreline, Spa Street and 14th Street along with the Shoreline Center property across Shoreline Drive and the former Beehive Salon and Total Woman Fitness properties across Spa.

St. Luke’s is making an effort to move its employees closer to its main downtown hospital, and would move its business center workers to the Washington Group Plaza. St. Luke’s is in a sales and purchase agreement to acquire Washington Group Plaza, with the sale scheduled to close in April 2018, but the closing could be earlier, said Anita Kissée, a St. Luke’s spokeswoman.

The St. Luke's-Boise Hawks deal includes the former Kmart property (center), the Shoreline Center (left bottom) and the former Total Woman Fitness and Beehive Salon properties (top right). Image courtesy of St. Luke's Health System.
The St. Luke’s-Boise Hawks deal includes the former Kmart property (center), the Shoreline Center (left bottom) and the former Total Woman Fitness and Beehive Salon properties (top right). Image courtesy of St. Luke’s Health System.

A sales date for the Americana/Shoreline property is unknown. The assessed values of the combined 10.94 acres of St. Luke’s properties is $14.2 million, according to Ada County Assessor records.
“Next is negotiating the details of the agreement,” Kissée said.

Agon Sports, which owns the Boise Hawks, and Greenstone Properties, also owned by an Agon partner, wants to build a 5,000-fixed-seat stadium for the Hawks for $40 million to $45 million. With bleachers on the field, capacity could be expanded to 7,500 for soccer, said Jeff Eiseman, president of Agon Sports.

The United Soccer League has told the Idaho Business Review it has keen interest to have a team in Boise. The USL is a second level professional league directly below Major League Soccer.

“We would like to open a stadium in February 2019,” Eiseman said in an interview. “Working backwards, we would have to start construction in the next six to 10 months.”

The stadium would be part of a larger, $200-million mixed-use development proposed by Agon Sports and Greenstone with commercial, office and residential.

The Boise Hawks owners are not building a baseball stadium. They want a stadium that is optimal for baseball and soccer. They brought on Tad Shultz, president of Boston-based International Stadia Design, to design the Boise stadium. Shultz also designed the stadium now under construction for the other minor league baseball team that Agon Sports owns, the Augusta GreenJackets in Augusta, Ga.

“When the stadium is used for soccer, the left field wall pads are removed to expose an open-air Club Lounge at field elevation,” Shultz said in a news release. “It will be filled with passionate fans as players pass through on their exit from the locker room to the pitch.”

Along with finalizing the sale with St. Luke’s, Agon Sports still needs to work out agreements with the city of Boise, the Capital City Development Corp. and the Greater Boise Auditorium District before construction moves forward.

“There are still some milestones to achieve on the way,” Eiseman said. “The next milestones are with the three government entities.”

Agon Sports likely will seek $41 million in stadium bonds from CCDC, which has the authority to issue bonds backed by tax increments generated by new tax revenues.

CCDC has already done preliminary work to create a new urban renewal district in the area that could be in place by 2018, said John Brunelle, CCDC’s executive director. CCDC would be the bond issuers with tax increment gains generated by Greenstone, Brunelle said in an interview. “They would need to create the value to generate tax revenue.”

CCDC would issue a 20-year bond, during which time CCDC would own the stadium, just as CCDC owned the Ada County Courthouse until that bond was paid off in 2016 and CCDC now owns Boise Centre East. Both projects were built with CCDC bonds.

CCDC is the city’s urban renewal agency.

“What’s nice about working with sports-oriented developers is they take the fan experience into account,” Brunelle said. “Public event venues have been proven to be beneficial in an urban setting. They have to be done in a certain way. They need to be active as many nights as possible.”

The Boise Hawks season runs June to Labor Day and the USL soccer season is March to October. Concerts and other family events will also be scheduled, Eiseman said.

GBAD Executive Director Pat Rice said the district can “participate” in the stadium. GBAD owns and operates the Boise Centre.

“Nobody has said exactly this is what we want from the district,” Rice said. “Can we participate with cash? Maybe. There’s certainly been a suggestion of cash. Maybe we run the concessions. Do we help operate it? There’s a lot of generalities out there.”

Boise City Council member Scot Ludwig acted as a middle man during the negotiations among the parties.

“The Boise Hawks, Greenstone Properties, and St. Luke’s Health System have stepped-up in their own respective and important way to make this multi-use Stadium closer to reality,” Ludwig said in a news release.” Now it is time for the city of Boise, CCDC, and GBAD to do the same in keeping with our commitment to preserve and enhance the quality of life Boisean’s cherish as we grow and seek new economic development opportunities.”

Boise Mayor David Bieter has long sought a downtown stadium.

“This public space has the potential to be an epicenter for athletics, festivals and community events all our residents can enjoy and celebrate,” Bieter said in a news release.  “With retail, restaurants and office space, this multi-use urban stadium and surrounding development will be the cornerstone of our growing River Street neighborhood in Downtown.”

Baseball and soccer will be equals at downtown Boise stadium

The Boise Hawks propose a stadium ideally suited for soccer and baseball. Image courtesy of Boise Hawks.
The Boise Hawks propose a stadium ideally suited for soccer and baseball. Image courtesy of Boise Hawks.

The Boise Hawks envision building a stadium equally for two sports. On baseball nights, it will feel like a baseball stadium. On soccer nights, the hallmarks of a soccer stadium will be in place – not the common dynamic of a soccer stadium shoehorned onto a baseball field.

Agon Sports and Entertainment and Greenstone Development brought on Tad Shultz, president of International Stadia Design, to create a home field for soccer and baseball.

“The home plate entrance is designed as a new Boise piazza,” Shultz said in a news release. “It’s a living room for the city to hold concerts, events, and festivals.

“When the stadium is used for soccer,” he continued, “the left field wall pads are removed to expose an open-air Club Lounge at field elevation.  It will be filled with passionate fans as players pass through on their exit from the locker room to the pitch, directly on axis with the Hawks Nest tower across the park.

The Hawks Nest is beyond the right field fence for baseball and aligned directly for soccer.

“The 14th Street elevation of the ballpark is the Hawk’s Nest, anchored by the central, multi-level tower and dynamic “nest” structure,” Shultz said. “It is centered in the soccer pitch.  An open viewing terrace runs from the nest down the first base line and is conceived as flex space.”

Pioneer Crossing will reinvent a dirt lot between Front and Myrtle

Pioneer Crossing will be built just beyond the new Simplot world headquarters (left). Photo by Teya Vitu.
Pioneer Crossing will be built just beyond the new Simplot world headquarters (left). Photo by Teya Vitu.

Pioneer Crossing will stretch the downtown core two blocks to the south and west with a planned hotel, restaurant,  five-story office building and possible relocation of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce

The chamber could move into office space at the Pioneer Crossing parking garage that will be built at 11th and Front streets.

Gardner Company, the Pioneer Crossing developer, has used the Boise chamber name in its artistic renditions for the 644-space garage since earlier in summer, but Chamber CEO Bill Connors said no commitment has been made. He said he expects to know by the time his board meets the second week of September.

The chamber’s lease at C.W. Moore Plaza expires at the end of 2017.

“We’re very interested,” Connors said about the garage office. “Now that we have the Convention & Visitors Bureau with us, we need a concept of a streetfront and storefront location.”

The move could lead to a full-fledged visitor center, which Boise has not had since the Greater Boise Auditorium District cut funding by $1.3 million to the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2010 that ultimately resulted in a staff cut from 15 to three. Boise now relies on the small Concierge Corner & Visitor Services offered by the Boise Centre at the base of the City Centre Garage at Ninth and Front streets and various hotel brochure racks.

The signs for Pioneer Crossing have gone up. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The signs for Pioneer Crossing have gone up on site. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The BCVB does have brochure stands at its third floor office at C.W. Moore Plaza, but  BCVB Executive Director Carrie Westergard said the area needs more. She said the chamber is considering 13,000 square feet for the visitor center.

“I think it will be easier for visitors to find us on the ground level,” Westergard said.

A hotel returns to the Pioneer Crossing plans

Gardner Company bought the 5.02-acre Pioneer Crossing property – long regarded as Parcel B – from the Greater Boise Auditorium District in February.  Parcel B is bounded by Myrtle, Front, 11th and 13th streets.

GBAD wanted a convention hotel for the property as a condition for the sale. For months, Gardner offered two hotels with a combined 300 rooms but pulled the hotels off the table in January.

The GBAD board of directors in February debated whether to cancel the sale but ultimately agreed to Gardner’s $7.925 million offer even with no hotels in play.

GBAD/Boise Centre Executive Director Pat Rice greeted the return of a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn with lukewarm enthusiasm.

The hotel would be a 500-room branded property,” Rice said. “The fact that another hotel is being built, that is fine. It can’t hurt anything. What we would really like is something significant to drive weekend demand.”

Downtown hotels are business-oriented,  with heavier traffic Monday to Thursday.

Rice did say Gardner’s proposed Hilton Garden Inn is close to Boise Centre and could be appealing for larger groups willing to house meeting attendees in several hotels.

Pioneer Crossing will swallow up cheap parking

Pioneer Crossing will displace The Car Park’s 200-plus space convention dirt parking lot, which has the second lowest monthly parking rates among The Car Park’s 19 downtown Boise lots. The Car Park sent a notice Aug. 18 to permit holders saying permit parking would not be available beyond Sept. 30.

“We will put daily parking on there as long as we can,” The Car Park owner Jeff Wolfe said.

Wolfe is looking to place all the Convention lot permit holders at other The Car Park lots, and he’s trying to create new parking lots.

“The city has eased the standards on temporary parking lots,” Wolfe said. “We are working with a couple land owners to convert vacant lots.”

Office sector will boom at The Connector

Gardner Company proposes a five-story, 125,000-square-foot office building for Myrtle and 13th street. Across Myrtle on the same block, two buildings of Capitol Gateway Plaza (originally Pioneer Plaza) and the 11th & Myrtle medical office have been in place since 1993, 1999 and 2005, respectively, with a combined 87,611 square feet. The major tenants are New York Life and Regence.

Peter Oliver
Peter Oliver

“They did go out there before others but our downtown is growing,” said Peter Oliver, an owner at Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate. “Downtown really will encompass everything from Broadway to College of Western Idaho’s new campus to the river.”

Pioneer Crossing will also be across 11th Street from JUMP and the new J.R. Simplot Co. world headquarters.

Oliver and Mike Greene, another TOK owner, are the leasing agents for Gardner’s Pioneer Crossing office building.

Mike Greene
Mike Greene

“Pioneer Crossing will be attractive because Gardner always does a terrific job with design and giving tenants what they want,” Greene said.

Instant access to and from The Connector, a 644-space garage and the Hilton Garden Inn on the same property are strong selling points for Pioneer Crossing, they said.

“The biggest trend we are seeing is an influx of technology companies into downtown,” Oliver said. “As we develop a base of those companies (like Clearwater Analytics), other companies will follow.”

Oliver and Greene have no estimate how long it will take to fill the Pioneer Crossing office building or reach the 50- to 60-percent occupancy Gardner Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist seeks before construction starts.

“Deals take a long time,” Oliver said. “Lightning can strike. Somebody comes in and says ‘I want two or three floors.”

Ahlquist said two of the five floors are in negotiations now.

The commercial real estate market is now more than two years out from the opening of Eighth and Main with its addition of 250,000 square feet of office. Greene anticipates a roughly 9 percent downtown Boise office vacancy rate once “the Simplot and Eighth and Main dust settles,” a rate he considers healthy.

“I think what people are faced with now are Clearwater and Simplot vacancies,” Greene said.

Simplot and Clearwater are vacating more than 150,000 square feet of downtown Boise office space with their respective moves this year.

Gardner comes back with an office proposal for Parcel B

The newest plan for the Parcel B parking lot calls for a six-story office across from the new Simplot corporate HQ. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The newest plan for the Parcel B parking lot calls for a six-story office across from the new Simplot corporate HQ. Photo by Teya Vitu.

With a hotel shelved for now, Gardner Co. is proceeding with a new office-garage-commercial complex for the Parcel B dirt parking lot just west of JUMP and the J.R. Simplot Co. headquarters construction site in downtown Boise.

Gardner officials revealed the company’s latest intentions March 7 to build a six-story, 145,000-square-foot office building at Myrtle and 13th streets, and a 600-space, four-level parking garage at Front and 11th streets. The office would go in at Parcel B’s closest spot to the inbound Connector.

“We build a whole lot of these in Utah,” said Geoff Wardle, Gardner’s general counsel and vice president of development. “Tech companies like large floor plates with open floor plans and big meeting spaces. We’re working with a potential user that would take a significant portion of the building.”

As drawn up now by Boise-based Babcock Design Group, the garage would have a 10,000-square-foot commercial space at street level along 11th Street, across from the Simplot HQ. A free-standing, 5,000-square-foot commercial space is envisioned for the corner of 11th and Myrtle, where the Pioneer Corridor bike/pedestrian path crosses Myrtle and enters the Simplot property, said Wardle.

The new designs are due to be presented to the city of Boise’s Design Review Committee April 13.

The new design for Parcel B has an office building at 13th and Myrtle and a garage at 11th and Front. Image courtesy of Gardner Company.
The new design for Parcel B has an office building at 13th and Myrtle and a garage at 11th and Front. Image courtesy of Gardner Company.

Gardner closed on Feb. 12 on the $7.925 million purchase of the 5.02-acre lot from the Greater Boise Auditorium District, which had sought a 300-room hotel for the property. The GBAD Board of Directors on Jan. 21 in a 3-2 vote agreed to drop the hotel obligation in the memorandum of understanding that had been in place between the district and Gardner since April 9.

Gardner had just announced on Dec. 17 that Embassy Suites, a Hilton brand, would be the 170-room larger hotel at Front and 11th and another 130-room Hilton brand would sit at 11th and Myrtle. Barely a month later, Gardner backed out of the hotel deal but offered to buy the property within two weeks. The GBAD board chose to take the $8 million over continuing to hold on to a property that the district had owned since 2000 without developing.

Gardner still has a $75,000 franchise deposit in place for an Embassy Suites.

“It’s still alive. We have not terminated,” Wardle said about the hotel franchise deposit. “We still think downtown is underserved by Hilton at this point. There are plenty of other sites downtown to be able to do a hotel.”

For now, Gardner has entirely altered its proposed layout for Parcel B since December. The garage has moved from 13th and Front to 11th and Front to win favor with the Capital City Development Corp., which had lobbied for that location while Gardner had the two-hotel proposal.

John Brunelle 2016
John Brunelle

CCDC expects Gardner to ask for urban renewal funds to underwrite at least a portion of the garage, said John Brunelle, CCDC’s executive director.

“It would be a good location with a portion of that garage available for the public,” Brunelle said. “It sure would be good for everyone to see a new 600-space parking garage.”

The garage apparently was the stickler in Gardner’s abandoned two-hotel proposal. Last year, Gardner had no choice but to place the two hotels along 11th Street because the distance from Front to Myrtle is slighter longer on 11th Street than 13th Street.

“Before, we were really limited with where parking could go,” Wardle said. “The hotels had to go on the east side.”

Now, the property’s showcase building, the six-story office building, has been moved from 11th and Front to 13th and Myrtle. Instead of shoehorning a second hotel into the 11th and Myrtle corner, where Myrtle dips slightly to the south, Gardner now plans a small, 5,000-square foot building, fronted by a small plaza, that could be a restaurant or café, Wardle said.

Wardle said Gardner would like to start construction on the estimated $60-65 million project by the end of 2016 and have the first elements completed in 2017.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with an artistic rendition at 10:05 a.m. March 9.

Embassy Suites will be hotel on Parcel B

The new drawing for the Parcel B hotels shows Embassy Suites to the right, a less refined drawing of a second hotel to the left and new garage design lowered from nine to three stories. Image courtesy of Greater Boise Auditorium District.
The new drawing for the Parcel B hotels shows Embassy Suites to the right, a less refined drawing of a second hotel to the left and new garage design lowered from nine to three stories. Image courtesy of Greater Boise Auditorium District.

Embassy Suites, a Hilton brand, will fill the larger, 170-room hotel Gardner Company proposes to build in downtown Boise as part of a two-hotel package on Parcel B, a dirt parking lot at 11th and Front streets.

The Idaho Business Review first reported an Embassy Suites for that property on July 27. Gardner had kept the hotel brand under wraps until revealing it at a Greater Boise Auditorium District board meet on Dec. 17 while asking for an extension to satisfy conditions on a development agreement with GBAD, which owns Parcel B.

The GBAD board agreed to extend the conditions deadline from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1 and the closing date for selling the 5.02-acre lot to Feb. 29. Gardner agreed to pay $ 7.925 million for the acreage bounded by 11th, 13th, Front and Myrtle streets.

The south hotel at Myrtle and 11th Street will be a Hilton, said Geoffrey Wardle, Gardner’s general counsel and vice president of development.

One team will manage both properties. The second hotel will have 130 rooms, and the rooms will be less expensive than those at Embassy Suites.

Wardle said Gardner has paid a $75,000 franchise deposit to lock in Embassy Suites for the north hotel.

Geoffrey Wardle
Geoffrey Wardle

Construction will start some time in spring and take 18 months, Wardle said.

Before then, however, Gardner is focused on negotiations with the Capital City Development Corp. regarding the garage for Parcel B. Until now, Gardner had proposed a nine-story, 900-space concrete garage with the possibility to build condos atop the garage.

That plan has been scrapped to bring the garage cost down from $25 million to about $12.5, which Wardle said was more amenable to CCDC. Gardner and CCDC are negotiating the urban renewal agency’s involvement in the garage, which could include contributing to the construction cost, and CCDC operating and owning the garage.

CCDC likely would only contribute a portion of the garage construction cost but CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle anticipates a significant investment from his agency in streetscape improvement, utility relocations and garage construction.

“($12.5 million) is higher than we can afford right now (to build a garage),” Brunelle said. “We could get to $12.5 million for the whole thing (streetscapes, utility, garage).”

Brunelle said CCDC’s financial involvement in the Parcel B project will be based on the projected tax increment financing that CCDC can expect to receive from the Gardner project as it produces increased tax revenue from the property. Garage negotiations with CCDC led to the extension request with GBAD.

The new garage will probably have 500 parking spots and three stories so it can be built with steel, which costs less than concrete, Wardle said.

“We think the sweet spot is 500 stalls,” Wardle said.

The estimate takes into account 230 stalls earmarked for the 300 hotel rooms. The other stalls will be used by meeting attendees, other day visitors to the hotels, and overflow parking for the J.R. Simplot headquarters under construction across 11th Street, Wardle said.

Supreme Court validates Boise Centre’s bonding agreement

Boise Centre. File photo.
Boise Centre. File photo.

The Idaho Supreme Court has cleared the way to enable the Greater Boise Auditorium District to finance its Boise Centre expansion project.

The court on Oct. 15 overturned 4th District Judge Lynn Norton’s ruling in 2014 that denied GBAD’s proposed lease arrangement for the new conventions center facilities with the Capital City Development Group. This was crafted to create a way for GBAD to bond the Boise Centre expansion. GBAD owns the Boise Centre.

Public agencies cannot go into debt in Idaho without two-thirds approval of voters, and GBAD falls under that stipulation. CCDC, however, does not and is free to bond.

The two entities arranged a deal where CCDC would be the conduit for a Wells Fargo bond. That is, CCDC would “own” the Boise Centre East building now under construction and Boise Centre would “lease” it and, in the process, pay off the $22.5 million bond, conceivably over a 10-year period.

This led to litigation and first District Court Judge Melissa Moody’s September 2014 ruling and later Norton’s ruling that the GBAD-CCDC deal “violated the spirit and purpose of the [Idaho] constitutional limitation against indebtedness.”

The Supreme Court, however, ruled that “the Centre lease does not subject (GBAD) to greater liabilities that it has the funds to pay for in the year in which it was entered.”

The GBAD-CCDC lease is set up in an annual renewable format, which won favor with the court as “the Centre lease does not obligate (GBAD) for a period exceeding one year.”

The bond will pay for the $20 million, five-story Boise Centre East expansion that includes a ballroom and kitchen.

The bonding will free up cash to allow Boise Center to purchase the fourth floor space in City Center Plaza’s Clearwater Building for $6.5 million. Until the Supreme Court ruling, the convention center expected to lease the Clearwater space, Boise Centre Executive Director Pat Rice said.

The court ruling also frees the way for the $4.5 million elevated concourse that will link Boise Center and Boise Centre East alongside the CenturyLink Arena.

“This guarantees we can move forward with that,” Rice said. “I’ve been on pins and needles on buying a an escalator in December. Escalators have a 42-week turnaround.”

Rice hopes to have the new convention center facilities completed concurrent with the projected fall completion of nine-story Clearwater Building, which Boise Center will share with Clearwater Analytics and the Boise State University Computer Science Department.

Editor’s note: A correction was made on Oct. 30, 2015. The Supreme Court overruled District Court Judge Lynn Norton’s ruling against the Greater Boise Auditorium District.