Nampa Town Square will emerge from Old Brethren Church renovation

The former Church of the Brethren building (left) and former Nampa Chamber of Commerce building (right) will become part of a new Nampa Town Square redevelopment. Photo courtesy of Mike Mussell.

Mike Mussell is about to get going on his next downtown Nampa historic renovation project with the Church of the Brethren structure and former Nampa Chamber of Commerce building on the same half block on 11th Avenue South.

The $640,000 sale to Mussel closes Sept. 18 on the Nampa Development Corp. property that was originally pegged as the site for the new main library.

Mussell, owner of Mussell Construction, expects to start work Oct. 1 on a $3-million creation that he’s calling Nampa Town Square.

Mussell intends to keep five of the six buildings on the block, including the 1930s church, and freshen up the other building facades in a French village style. He will lay small pathways between the buildings on the property to create a more pedestrian-friendly setting.

In addition, the Nampa Town Square plan includes a new structure with drive-thru for Taco Time, which has been at its current location on the same block for 50 years. Mussell will renovate the current Taco Time for another restaurant user.

One corner of Nampa Town Square will feature a “Welcome to Nampa” sign supplied by the city of Nampa and possibly a fountain.

“It is the first (stop) light you come to to go left into downtown,” said Mussell.

Mussell is also the developer behind the major renovations of the 1922 Masonic Lodge building that he acquired in 2007, where Brick 29 Bistro is, and the 1919 Nampa Library building, which is the new home of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce.

Nampa Town Square is at the same intersection as the new library and its public garage, where Mussell will encourage Nampa Town Square visitors to park.

Mayor Debbie Kling, before taking office, was the CEO of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce and had her office in the building that Mussell is renovating.

“Mike Mussell is so creative, and he has an amazing vision for how to maintain and restore historic integrity,” Kling said. “The work he did with the old library building is absolutely beautiful. We are very fortunate to have Mike Mussell in our community.”

Mussel does not have tenants nailed down for the church or chamber buildings yet.

“I’m just feeling it out,” he said.

Three options are in play for the church: another church, a performance arts center or a brewery/pizza establishment. The chamber building and neighboring building could have a bicycle shop, candy store or floral shop.

Mussell owns five-eighths of the block bounded by 11th and 10th avenues and Third and Fourth streets, and the Cornerstone Worship Center owns the other three-eighths and is also doing façade renovations. Mussell sees the entire block as Nampa Town Square.

“We try to save a few historic buildings,” he said.

The Old Brethren Church is the third downtown Nampa historic restoration within a block or two of each other for Mussell.

Mussell was awarded the old library building for $1 in 2015 from the Nampa Development Corp., the city’s redevelopment agency, and finished $2.5 million in renovations in October 2017. The building is now 95 percent occupied by the chamber, Chatterbox Pediatric Therapy Center, One11 Press, Edward Jones and the Dickerson Land Group.

For Mussell, renovating the Old Brethren Church building comes full circle for him and his wife, Patty.

“I got married in that building 30 years ago,” he said.

Downtown Meridian to get four-story apartments

Downtown Meridian could get two four-story apartment buildings with retail on ground level across from City Hall. Image courtesy of city of Meridian.

A man who is already a fixture in downtown Meridian won approval Aug. 28 from the Meridian City Council to fill most of the block across from City Hall with 103 apartments and 15,700 square feet of office/retail in two four-story structures.

The 120,987-square- foot project would be the largest private downtown project yet built in Idaho’s second largest city.

Developer Josh Evarts and city leaders believe the project will be a catalyst for more downtown development in a city where developers have waited for someone to go first with a downtown project.

Evarts hopes to start construction in May and have people move into his apartments in November 2020.

The project is on the block bounded by Main Street, Meridian Road, Idaho Avenue and Broadway. Evarts already owns the 1902 Heritage Building at Main and Idaho as well as the 703 Main building at Main and Broadway, former home of the Treasure Valley Children’s Theatre. He is also in a development agreement with the city to acquire the building next door a 713 Main, where the library’s unBound is located. He owns the 1905 Meridian Bank Building, too, which he now calls The Vault.

Josh Evarts

Evarts previously received approval for his proposal Aug. 21 from the Board of Commissioners of the Meridian Development Corp., the city’s redevelopment agency, which owns the city’s old city hall. The city hall was the leaping-off point for Evarts’ proposal. The First Interstate Bank building at Broadway and Meridian would remain.

“This is the first-ever project like this for downtown Meridian,” said Evarts, managing member of Novembrewhisky Properties. “I want to make sure what we’re doing is 100 percent in line with what the city wants.”

Evarts had planned to build a pair of four-story, mixed-use buildings at 703 and 713 Main, but he intends to fold those prior redevelopment ideas into this new one to build one larger structure that wraps around the corner of Main and Broadway.

He expects to have 55 one-bedroom units and 48 two-bedroom units with monthly rents from $990 to $1,160.

The city of Meridian asked for requests for proposals to redevelop the old city hall. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Evarts is partnering with Eagle-based Pacific Companies, which has developed some 200 projects across the western states. Evarts will take charge of commercial leasing and recruiting and Pacific is the project developer.

The city and Meridian Development Corp. on May 3 issued a joint request for proposals to redevelop the old city hall building on Idaho Avenue, which the city vacated in 2008. New Ventures Lab now occupies the building.

The next step is for Evarts to reach agreement with MDC to build the project and the city to transfer ownership of the old city hall building.

Two proposals considered

Josh Evarts’ proposal would redevelop the old Meridian City Hall (left) and 703 Main Street (far rear). Photo by Teya Vitu.

Two proposals submitted by the July 25 deadline reached beyond the 1-acre boundaries of the 10,000-square-foot former city hall building. A steering committee appointed by City Council and MDC commissioners recommended the Novembrewhisky proposal.

MDC approved the Novembrewhisky proposal at the Aug. 21 joint meeting with the City Council but some council members also wanted a presentation of the second proposal from a team headed by Eugene- and Boise-based deChase Miksis.

This led to a second special meeting Aug. 28 to hear the deChase Miksis proposal. Because the Novembrewhisky proposal was the only one under official consideration, all the council could do was approve Evarts’ approval or scrap the RFP process and start all over, City Attorney William Mary said.

The council voted 4-1-1 with Councilmember Ty Palmer opposed and Councilmember Joe Borton abstaining.

Council members stressed that they liked the deChase Miksis proposal but it required establishing a new urban renewal district to build a parking garage that could delay construction as long as a year. deChase Miksis also wanted $15 million in city assistance for its $40 million project.

Evarts asked for no city assistance for his $20 million project and he believes he can start construction as soon as May.

“In this instance, downtown needs some action to happen quickly,” MDC Commissioner Nathan Mueller said. “The city needs speed of development.”

Josh Evarts’ redevelopment proposal also includes 713 Main, which houses the library’s unBound. Photo by Teya Vitu.

City Councilmember Treg Bernt led the council discussion.

“There are so many things that can come from this RFP,” Bernt said. “This project will be the catalyst for future projects. I believe there are developers waiting on the sidelines. They have been waiting for years for something to happen.”

The City Council and MDC Commission invited deChase Miksis to bring other downtown proposals.

“We have at least two other properties,” Mueller said. “It is possible for this downtown to have two projects, not just one.”

“We are excited to have continuing conversations,” Mayor Tammy De Weerd concurred. “There is a lot of opportunities. This is the beginning of a conversation.”

“We look forward to the future opportunities,” deChase Miksis partner Dean Papé said.

Caldwell may get a downtown hotel

A downtown Caldwell mixed-use redevelopment could involve a hotel and one or two other retail and office/residential buildings. Image courtesy of city of Caldwell.

Caldwell may get a new hotel  on the site where the Saratoga Hotel burned down in 1990.

The Gardner Company’s Boise office is negotiating to build a hotel and separate retail space, plus office or residential, on 1.4 acres owned by the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency.

The Creekside development is bounded by Main Street, Sixth and Seventh avenues and Indian Creek near the city’s recently opened Indian Creek Plaza, which includes a stage and a plaza that converts to ice skating in winter.

Gardner is also working on the Trolley Square Plaza redevelopment project on the other side of Indian Creek Plaza. It includes the 11-screen Luxe Reel Theatre and, so far, one 4,000-square-foot retail building that is nearing completion.

At Creekside, Gardner is considering a 50- to 120-room limited-service hotel, but the company wants a development agreement in place before opening discussions with hotel operators, said David Wali, Gardner’s executive vice president.

For the retail, office and residential components, Wali is considering a three-story building with 1,000 to 6,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and office or residential on top. Or there could be two buildings.

“It depends on what somebody wants,” Wali said. “Caldwell is interesting. It has a number of outlying communities that this is the closest place to come into. There is the College of Idaho, the city and county offices. It has a potential of improving dramatically quickly.”

Wali doesn’t expect Creekside construction to start before summer 2019.

CTA Group of Boise is the architect. Okland Construction of Salt Lake City is the general contractor.

“They are integrating (Creekside) with Indian Creek Plaza,” said Keri Smith-Sigman, Caldwell’s economic development specialist. “You can cross over from one development to the next and have something different to do.”

Caldwell Urban Renewal bought the Creekside properties in 2015 and 2016 for $1.5 million and spent $318,856 to relocate utilities. The agency in an initial request for proposal in 2016 asked for a boutique hotel, but a chain hotel was proposed and ultimately fell through in 2017.

The current request for proposals asks for a mixed-use development.

“We’re offering a build-ready site,” Smith-Sigman said.

The city awaits a redevelopment appraisal to determine a sales price to Gardner or whether the property will be transferred at no cost if the appraisal comes back at negative value.

Downtown Caldwell has been under construction for the past 18 months with Indian Creek Plaza and Trolley Square. Wali said tenants haven’t been signed at Trolley Square, but the company is talking to a Mexican restaurant and yogurt shop. Construction on the second commercial building won’t start until the first is fully leased, he said.

Indian Creek and Trolley Square come a decade after Caldwell’s initial downtown revitalization in the mid-2000s. The city “daylighted,” or exposed, a section of Indian Creek that had been covered for decades.

“This is our ongoing effort to become the premiere northwestern gathering place,” Smith-Sigman said.


Boise brothers Oppenheimer spark downtown revival in Idaho Falls

The mixed-use redevelopment project The Broadway (rear) in downtown Idaho Falls will sit directly behind the city’s waterfalls. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Doug Oppenheimer and Philanthropist Steve Carr walked to breakfast a couple years ago in downtown Boise.

Carr, an Idaho Falls attorney, and Oppenheimer, president of Boise-based Oppenheimer Companies, had become friends while serving together on the board of the Boise State University Andrus Center for Public Policy.

“Doug, there’s a spot in Idaho Falls I want you to look at,” Carr recalls saying.

Just a few days later, Doug and his brother, Skip Oppenheimer, flew to Idaho Falls.

“When somebody of the caliber of Steve Carr says you have to take a look at something, you just go there, you do it,” recalls Doug Oppenheimer.

The Oppenheimers head up a national foods services and distribution company and a commercial real estate investment and development company.

Carr has lived off and on in Idaho Falls since he was born. Among his worldly ventures: he is only American elected to the Standing Commission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Geneva, Switzerland.

Back home in Idaho Falls, “I enjoy trying to connect the dots,” Carr said one July morning at La Vanilla Bean Patisserie, which sits across two streets from two historic renovation projects.

The Broadway in downtown Idaho Falls will have a three-story office building (rear), one-story retail building and a plaza in between. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Carr showed the Oppenheimers a .95-acre vacant lot at Broadway and Memorial Drive in the historic downtown.  It was once the site of the Savings Center bank and was still called the Savings Center property or Kelsch property after the family that owned the land.

Carr remembers one of the Oppenheimers saying “Holy Smokes.” Carr introduced the Oppenheimers to Idaho Falls Mayer Rebecca Casper, and right after that to the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency.

The Savings Center property sat across the street from the city’s riverfront Greenbelt and directly behind the short but wide waterfalls that give the city its name.

“I would hate to see that be Walgreens,” Carr said.

Carr and the Oppenheimers urged the city to buy the property and make it an urban renewal project. The redevelopment agency summarily did so for $1.5 million.

“The week after we closed on the property we got a call from a bank,” said Brad Cramer, the city’s community development director and also executive director of the redevelopment agency.

The city didn’t want a single-use like bank or Walgreens at that location. The city wanted a community focal point, a gathering spot with mixed uses.

IFRdA in (2016) issued a request for proposals for a mixed-use development including commercial, office and residential. It was a process open to anyone. Oppenheimer Development Corp. of Boise was the only party submitting a proposal.

Doug (standing) and Skip Oppenheimer.

“I don’t think a lot of local developers were striking out on their own,” Carr reasoned. “They have enough work from other owners. ‘We need a new high school,’ ‘We need a Costco.’ That spot is a little tricky for our western idea.”

The Oppenheimers ultimately dug out 25 million pounds of basalt for a 49-space underground garage. The project is their first in eastern Idaho.

Oppenheimer Development Corp., using McAlvain Construction of Boise as general contractor, started work on The Broadway in December. The project has a 27,000-square-foot, three-story office building at the rear and a one-story, 8,237-square-foot retail building along Broadway. There will be a 49-space underground garage and 22-space surface parking.

Carr, the Oppenheimers and project architect CSHQA of Boise set a plaza with a fountain between the buildings. The plaza will be an ice rink in winter.

The Broadway follows three basic rules for the Oppenheimers, and for Carr, a partner in the project.

“It has to be fun,” Carr said. “It has to give back to the community. It has to have positive cash flow. We wanted to make it a front door to downtown.”

The redevelopment agency sold the land upon which the buildings sit for $1, but the agency retains ownership of the plaza and underground garage. The property was assigned a zero-dollar fair-use appraisal for the type of project the city sought, Cramer said.

“We sold it to them for $1 as an incentive to get the property developed and pencil out,” Cramer said.

Idaho companies will fill The Broadway

The Broadway is 70 percent pre-leased  by Idaho Falls companies, with the exception of the Meridian-based Fin Concepts (Lucky Fins), which plans a Smokin Fins restaurant. The Oppenheimer brothers directly recruited Fin Concepts while having lunch at its Treasure Valley brand, Lucky Fins.

Bank of Idaho is moving its administrative office across the street into The Broadway; the law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer is moving from Snake River Landing; and The Idaho Falls-based Lucy’s Pizzeria, with four locations, will open its first downtown restaurant in The Broadway’s one-story building.

“The Oppenheimers are a gift to Idaho Falls,” said Catherine Smith, executive director of the Idaho Falls Development Corp, which advances downtown as a center for commerce, culture and leisure activities.

Doug Oppenheimer (left), Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper, Steve Carr and Skip Oppenheimer at the groundbreaking for the mixed-use complex The Broadway in downtown Idaho Falls. Photo courtesy of the Oppenheimer Companies.

“You’re creating a place. That’s what this project does, “ Cramer said. “When you can introduce a mix of business that can draw an outside crowd and the captive audience already there, it’s a step forward for downtown getting to its critical mass.”

The Oppenheimers built the 14-story One Capital Center in downtown Boise in 1975 and there hosted the first years of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in an era when widescale downtown demolition was more in order. Then in 1988, they built the 11-story triangular First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo Bank) tower.

“We love developing downtowns,” Doug Oppenheimer said. “We try to create projects that act as a catalyst for other projects. We think there is a surplus of opportunity, not a scarcity. Thanks to Steve Carr, we got to know wonderful people in Idaho Falls.”

Smokin Fins will likely be the first The Broadway tenant to open in mid-October, with the first office tenants expected to be in place by the end of the year, Carr said.

“The next step is higher-end downtown residential,” Carr said.


Meridian shops for ideas for its old city hall building

Meridian looks to redevelop its old city hall. Photo courtesy of city of Meridian.

Meridian is finally getting around to figuring out what to do with its old city hall, 10 years after moving into its new one.

The city and Meridian Development Corp. jointly put out a request for proposal May 3 for developer ideas for the roughly 10,000-square-foot structure on about 1 acre at 33 E. Idaho Ave. Proposals are due July 25 but none have been submitted so far, said Cameron Arial, Meridian’s community development director.

About 16 people showed up to the city’s June 18 pre-submission meeting and four potential applicants have called Arial, he said.

The building is now occupied by New Ventures Lab, a new business incubator. The city offices moved out when the current city hall opened in 2008.

“It could be a renovation, but I think we’re looking for more of an iconic redevelopment,” Arial said.

The Old Town zoning district has a 75-foot building height maximum but Arial believes taller buildings would be welcomed.

“The RFP would reward a more iconic signature piece,” he said. “The City Council and Meridian Development Corp. would be flexible with proposals.”


The Housing Company to redevelop historic Idaho Falls hotel

The Housing Company will freshen up the historic exterior of the Bonneville Hotel in Idaho Falls and redevelop the interior. Photo by Pete Grady.
The Housing Company will freshen up the historic exterior of the Bonneville Hotel in Idaho Falls and redevelop the interior. Photo by Pete Grady.

The Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency will enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Boise-based The Housing Company to redevelop, as affordable housing, the 80-year-old, five-story Bonneville Hotel building that has been beyond its prime since the 1960s.

The IFRdA Board on Aug. 25 selected The Housing Company from three proposals that also included Boise-based Thomas Development and Widmyer Corp. in Coeur d’Alene.

“It was a very, very difficult decision,” IFRdA Chair Lee Radford said. “It came down to the money.”

The Housing Company’s proposal will cost the agency $440,000, while Thomas Development’s proposal asked IFRdA for $1.4 million, Radford said.

Radford said the Widmyer proposal called for market funding rather than tapping low income and historic tax credits that would inject more money into the local economy.

He characterized the Thomas proposal as “more certain, more expensive” and The Housing Company’s as “less certain, less expensive.” But he hedged this with the high success rate The Housing Company has had in winning competitive 9 percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), the source of the uncertainty.

The Housing Company will compete for an LIHTC in February.

Douglas Peterson
Douglas Peterson

“The 9 percent tax credits are very, very competitive,” The Housing Company Director Douglas Peterson said. “We have been extremely successful at obtaining 9 percent tax credits.”

The Housing Company seeks a $6.8 million tax credit payable over 10 years for the projected $10.9 million project. It will also seek a $1.6 million historic tax credit, a $650,000 conventional bank loan and The Housing Company will use $45,000 in its own funds.

The negotiations with IFRdA will involve the $440,000 in agency funding that could come in the form of cash and/or a variety of in-kind services such as building permit or utility fee reductions, Peterson said. He also anticipates $50,000 in city funding for sidewalk and utility improvements.

The Housing Company is partnering with the Pocatello firm Myers Anderson Architects and Bateman-Hall General Contractors of Idaho Falls, the largest general contractor in eastern Idaho. Myers Anderson has designed several historic renovations, including the Wilson Theater in Rupert, the Lyman Barn near Rexburg, and the Strand Theater and the Roundhouse, both in Evanston, Wyo., where Myers Anderson has a second office.

The Bonneville Hotel redevelopment in Idaho Falls will restore retail windows that had been covered over the decades. Image courtesy of The Housing Group.
The Bonneville Hotel redevelopment in Idaho Falls will restore retail windows that had been covered over the decades. Image courtesy of The Housing Company.

Myers Anderson has its main office in the historic Whitman Hotel building, which The Housing Company also renovated.

IFRdA has an option to buy the Bonneville Hotel and pass the ownership on to The Housing Company through the development agreement.

The Bonneville Hotel had 74 rooms. Today it includes 63 apartments, two commercial spaces/apartments and a vacant ground-floor restaurant/bar.

The Housing Company intends to remove about half the interior walls, leaving in place only corridor and structural bearing walls. It will create 36 apartments with four studios, 27 one-bedroom and five two-bedroom units with two units being market rate.

Rooftop decks for tenant and restaurant use are planned for the Bonneville Hotel redevelopment in Idaho Falls. Image courtesy of The Housing Company.
Rooftop decks for tenant and restaurant use are planned for the Bonneville Hotel redevelopment in Idaho Falls. Image courtesy of The Housing Company.

The design also calls for a 3,000-square-foot deck atop one-story sections at the rear of the building for use by the restaurant and by residents. The building has 6,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, including restaurant space that Peterson wants to fill with “new unique dining.”

The Housing Company will add new, enclosed staircases at both ends of the building because the original staircase is too steep and narrow for modern considerations. The elevator has a capacity of only about five people Peterson said.

A new elevator will be built in the space of the old elevator and existing, adjacent staircase.

Anderson is predicting a fall 2017 construction start and fall 2018 reopening.

Still the tallest building in downtown Idaho Falls, the Bonneville Hotel, built in 1927, started to fade in the 1960s, but it remained a popular lunch spot into the mid-1990s.

“Since then there have not been any strong uses,” Radford said.

The structure has remained active since then, however, with about 60 residents living there now. The Housing Company will work individually with each tenant to relocate them and offer each $500 for moving costs, $1,200 in rental assistance and $250 to cover security deposits at new residence, Anderson said.

One of The Housing Company’s regional managers in Blackfoot will work with the tenants.

“We want to find out what the tenants’ individual needs are,” he said.

Peterson oversaw the renovation of the 1905 Whitman Hotel in Pocatello and with it experienced the surprises and challenges that typically involve historic properties. That did not dissuade him from pursuing a request from the city of Idaho Falls to submit a proposal for the Bonneville Hotel.

“I have a real passion for these older buildings that have kind of fallen out of use,” he said. “They have good bones. They built an iconic building (in Idaho Falls).”

The Housing Company

The Housing Company is an 501(c)3 nonprofit  corporation that helps Idaho communities address affordable, workforce and senior housing issues.

The Housing Company owns 31 apartment complexes with mixes of affordable and market rate housing and Section 8 rental assistance. Eleven are in the eastern Idaho cities of Blackfoot, Pocatello, Chubbuck, Driggs, Rigby, St. Anthony, Rexburg and Ashton. The Bonneville would be its first Idaho Falls property.

The Housing Company is a self-supporting, independent corporation, said Katrina Thompson, marketing and communications manager for the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. It is supported by rental income, property management fees, developer fees and investment earnings.

Boise, CdA firms want to redevelop Bonneville Hotel in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls wants to restore the Bonneville Hotel to its historic glory. File Photo.
Idaho Falls wants to restore the Bonneville Hotel to its historic glory. File Photo.

Two Boise affordable housing developers and a third from Coeur d’Alene are vying to redevelop the historic Bonneville Hotel in Idaho Falls.

Thomas Development, The Housing Company, both of Boise, and Widmyer Corp. in Coeur d’Alene responded to a Feb. 7 request for proposals from the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency, which owns the hotel. Selection expected in August, IFRdA Chair Lee Radford said.

IFRdA officials are targeting a mix of affordable and market-rate housing for the Bonneville hotel, which was built in 1927.

Thomas Development CEO Tom Mannschreck owns The Idahoan building and the Earl Building in downtown Idaho Falls. He restored both.

The Housing Company, established by Idaho Housing and Finance Association, owns 11 affordable housing complexes in eastern Idaho but none in Idaho Falls. The Housing Company undertook a similar project in Pocatello with the historic Whitman Hotel, Director Douglas Peterson said.

Widmyer Corp. purchased a 40-unit affordable housing complex last year in Idaho Falls, its first expansion beyond Coeur d’Alene, but the company is looking at other areas of the state, said Ben Widmyer, company president and son of Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer.

All three have similar proposals for the Bonneville that don’t stray far from the RFP. They all plan to restore the original façade by removing later alterations, such as stone that was placed over windows.

All of the potential developers are talking about creating restaurant or retail space with a mix of affordable and market-rate housing on the upper floors of the five-story hotel.

Idaho Falls seeks proposals to redevelop Bonneville Hotel

Idaho Falls wants to redevelop the Bonneville Hotel for affordable and market-rate housing. Photo by Pete Grady.
Idaho Falls wants to redevelop the Bonneville Hotel for affordable and market-rate housing. Photo by Pete Grady.

The Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency is seeking proposals to redevelop the historic Bonneville Hotel and a vacant downtown lot that was once the site of the Savings Center.

The ambition is to find proposals to convert both properties into downtown housing as Idaho Falls seeks to increase the number of people living downtown, IFRdA officials said.

Neither IFRdA nor the city of Idaho Falls own either property, but the agency has had an option since Oct. 1 to purchase the Bonneville Hotel and has agreed to purchase the Savings Center property.  Both sales are contingent on successful proposals and both would be for $1.5 million, said Lee Radford, chairman of the IFRdA board.

The request for proposals was issued Feb. 7 and proposals are due May 2. No proposals had been submitted as of Feb. 29, said Brad Cramer, the city’s community development services director and executive director of the IFRdA.

“After the RFP came out, I had a lot of hits, a lot from locals, some from Boise and out of state,” Cramer said.

Brad Cramer
Brad Cramer

The five-story Bonneville Hotel was built in 1927 in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The building now has 63 residential apartments with some short-term tenants as well as a vacant ground floor restaurant space.

The Savings Center property, also known as the Kelsch property, is a .95-acre empty lot at the entrance to downtown at Broadway and memorial Drive.

“It’s probably the prime property in downtown right now. It’s right on Broadway,” said Idaho Falls City Councilmember Tom Hally, who also serves on the IFRdA board.

IFRdA official are targeting a mix of affordable and market-rate housing for the Bonneville hotel with market-rate units on the upper floors and affordable units on the lower floors, said Renee Magee, the agency’s former executive director.

Radford said market-rate housing will be the likely tenant on the Savings Center lot.

A downtown housing study commissioned by Idaho Falls determined 231 people live downtown and there is a demand for between 450 and 500 more downtown housing units, Cramer said.

Part of the push for downtown housing is the millennial generation that Idaho National Laboratory and other local high-tech companies are recruiting.

“To keep downtown progressing into the future, you need to have people living downtown to have a vibrant community,” Radford said.