Features

Giant LEGO monuments come to Boise's mall

Giant LEGO monuments are taking over Boise Towne Square for the next few weeks.

GGP, the mall's owner, is sponsoring a Great Americana Roadshow through July 16th - with massive monuments built out of the toy bricks.

The show technically opens Saturday - but the monuments are already in place. A toy racing exhibit and other pieces will be in place this weekend.

On July 15th and 16th from noon-4 p.m., kids can come to the mall and build a mini Independence Hall to take home.

The impressive sculptures dot both levels of the mall, and helps GGP lure folks into the building for something other than shopping or food (and with a closed river and 100-plus degree temps... it's not such a bad afternoon idea).

The featured sculptures are: 

  • US Capitol - lower level at center court
  • White House - lower level near Banana Republic
  • Washington Monument - lower level near Michael Kors
  • Independence Hall  - lower level near American Eagle
  • Liberty Bell - lower level near PINK
  • Old North Church - lower level near Abercrombie
  • US Supreme Court - lower level at main entrance
  • Lincoln Memorial  - lower level near Vans
  • Jefferson Memorial  - upper level near Build-A-Bear
  • Statue of Liberty - upper level near Starbucks
  • ski resort - upper level near center court
  • mall sculpture - lower level near Kohl's

WinCo planned for Chinden & Linder, Costco possible

This farm land will soon trade hay bales for food sales

This farm land will soon trade hay bales for food sales

Plans are in for the Linder Village development at Linder Rd. & Chinden Blvd. in Meridian. 

The massive development sits on a 78-acre property on the southeast corner of the two major roads - directly across from a Fred Meyer store.

WinCo Foods rendering

WinCo Foods rendering

Application documents filed with the City of Meridian and requested by BoiseDev show the project would include a large "grocery use" - and renderings have been included that depict a WinCo Foods store.

Looks like the corner of a Costco store. Walks like the corner of a Costco store... 

Looks like the corner of a Costco store. Walks like the corner of a Costco store... 

Nearby, a larger unnamed box store is included - but the site plan design and layout all match the specifications for Costco stores, with the "triangle cut" corner entrance. An adjacent area is also formatted similarly to Costco fuel centers.

In April, Meridian Press reported a meeting between the developer and city officials - in which reps for Costco and WinCo both attended. Costco officials have repeatedly refused comment to media outlets when questioned.

Next to the WinCo store would be a variety of small retail shops, plus space for a medium sized box store retailer. A pair of future drive-thru buildings are also noted in the plan.

Closer to the intersection, the plans show a mixed-use office and retail environment.

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Four restaurants coming to Chinden & Linder

As many as 17 buildings are depicted in the plans filed with the city.

Linder Village flier

Linder Village flier

"Buildings will be designed in a traditional modern theme and will incorporate a variety of high-quality materials including stone brick, stucco and timber," Craig A. Slocum with CSHQA wrote in the application to the City of Meridian. "These natural materials will be trimmed or accentuated through the use of more finished material such as chrome, aluminum or gloss painted trims. " 

A new stoplight is planned Chinden Blvd. at Bergman Way - and has been approved by the Idaho Transportation Department.

Future development could include more big box-type stores and residential development for as many as 60 homes, according to the filings.

The project will have to be annexed into the City of Meridian.

This will be Boise-based WinCo's third Meridian store. The second location is currently under construction on Overland Rd. between Eagle Rd. and Locust Grove Rd. It will be the 8th in the Idaho portion of the Treasure Valley (a ninth store is branded Waremart by WinCo in Ontario).

The new Costco, if it comes to fruition, would be the Treasure Valley's third - after locations on Cole Rd. in Boise and in Nampa.

The area has a heck of a lot of villages. Vista Village came first, followed by Cole Village, Columbia Village, Village at Meridian and now Linder Village. It takes a village of villages.

Sun Valley conference brings big names to Idaho

It's one of those quirky parts of life in Idaho: the Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley.  The state's largest resort becomes a playground for the big politicos, big money and big deals for a week each summer.

There's a funny mystique about Sun Valley: Hemmingway and his book writing in the Lodge. The hokey pokey being 'invented' in the Ram Bar. The Olympians. Ahhhhnold.

But perhaps SV's biggest impact on the world are the deals that come together here. When you put together titans of industry - with a concentration of tech and media - and let them relax under blue Idaho skies and with a few drinks... business magic seems to happen. Like: 

  • Verizon & AOL
  • Comcast & NBC Universal
  • Jeff Bezos & the Washington Post
  • Disney & ABC

Though not hashed out in Sun Valley, the home shopping mega-merger of HSN & QVC will likely be a big topic. Maybe we'll get a Verizon & DIsney tie-up.

This year, the names expected at SV (via Variety) include Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Roger Goddell, Adam Silver, Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose... and others.

Summer camp for billionaires is next week.

Parked vehicles pose danger in downtown bike lane

Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Downtown Boise famously is low on bike lanes.  But one stretch of road, controlled or influenced by the Capital City Development Corporation - does have a lane. It's painted green, blocked off from traffic, and relatively wide.

The lane travels on 8th Street from Main St. to Bannock St., and also picks up on an ACHD-controlled stretch from Broad St. to Myrtle St.

But on numerous recent occasions, we have observed the lane blocked by all manner of vehicles - including delivery trucks,  utility vehicles and even a fire truck.

BoiseDev illustration

BoiseDev illustration

In some cases (the fire truck), that's justified.  But most of the time, trucks blocking the bike lane causes a major issue.  Many of the violations are from delivery trucks - which are supposed to only make deliveries on the street between 6am and 10am - and park in the metered space area on the other side of the street (or on the case of the area near Broad St. - in the pullout by PF Chang's). 

The lane is what is known as "contra-flow" - meaning it is supposed to be used by cyclists riding against traffic on the one-way road.  Cyclists who want to go the other way are supposed to share the vehicle lane.

But when trucks block the contra-flow lane, cyclists are often forced out into the lane of travel - with cars coming the other direction.

BoiseDev requested public records of enforcement actions by either the Boise Police Department or the City of Boise's Downtown Parking Enforcement group.  The public records requests took about two weeks to fully fulfill.

Boise Police has not issued any tickets this year.

The Parking Enforcement team has - with six bike lane violations, seven bike lane warnings and seven fire lane parking violations since January 1st - an average about one each per month.

"Bike officers as well as parking enforcement personnel actively patrol and watch for problems on 8th street and other popular biking thoroughfares," Boise Police Department Communication Manager and Public Information Officer Haley Williams said. "This is a high use area for a number of people and for that reason we are constantly working with stakeholders to find a balance between safety and usability in the downtown core. "

After BoiseDev's initial inquiry on June 16th, and at least one constituent letter and several social media queries, BPD dispatched officers to check for issues.  Williams said they did not find anyone in the bike lane while out patrolling on June 21st - but they plan to keep watching.

"Currently our Neighborhood Contact Officer for downtown, bike officers, and other downtown police officers are patrolling 8th street on a daily basis," WIlliams said. "They are also in contact with the businesses who make and accept deliveries there."

Boise's political leadership has advocated for increasing the number of bike lanes downtown -- with most streets controlled by the Ada County Highway District.

Williams echoed the thoughts of city leaders - and said her department believes handing out tickets doesn't solve the problem.

"Officers address the issue of blocked bike lanes when they see it either by citation or education but long term the solution is not enforcement. It’s about finding the best way to have bike lanes going through the city."

Drivers who get one of the citations will pay $40.

 

 

Developer and others: Boise Circulator should skip rail and go driverless

Autonomous electric bus, Courtesy Protera.

Autonomous electric bus, Courtesy Protera.

Should Boise invest in a transportation mode out of the past - or look to the future for options? It’s a question being asked by members of the City’s Circulator Analysis steering committee.

BoiseDev.com reached out to each member of the group in May for comment on the process — and of those who replied, a recurring theme emerged: the need to investigate a driverless bus system.

Just a few years ago, such an idea might have seemed futuristic and farcical - but it’s a concept that is growing in traction.

In Helsinki Finland, the RoboBusLine has been promoted from trial to full-time service.  The electric-powered vehicles carry folks along a fixed route - traveling at about 7 miles per hour.  For now, each bus has a driver on board in case of emergencies - but that could change over time.  

This 3D printed bus is known as Olli, and is already on the streets of Washington, DC. Photo courtesy Local Motors.

This 3D printed bus is known as Olli, and is already on the streets of Washington, DC. Photo courtesy Local Motors.

In Washington, DC - two futuristic technologies have come together - with a driverless 3D-printed bus roaming the streets. Olli, as it is called, has places for twelve people and is built by Arizona-based Local Motors. Unlike the fixed-route example in Finland, Olli can be summoned with an app much like Uber.

Just across Idaho’s southern border, Reno is testing a fleet of electric driverless buses from a company known as Proterra. These buses look similar to traditional human-driven coaches, and for now will still have a driver in place as backup.  They can travel 600 miles on a charge - and can hold dozens of passengers.

If Helsinki, Washington and even Reno can do it — why not Boise?

Prominent Downtown Boise developer Clay Carley raised the concept to BoiseDev.

“Autonomous vehicles are sexy and inviting,” Carley said. “They have very low initial cost and low cost to operate and maintain.”

Carley notes that such systems aren’t quite ready for primetime, but could be ready to in the three to five-year timeframe that Boise will need to attain funding.

The current idea bouncing around the City of Boise would rely at least in part on overhead catenary systems — basically wires hanging over a rail route, snaking along the street where the streetcar might travel.

Carley says he’s not in favor of such a system.

“If we choose that path, by the time we get done it would be an antiquated system,” he said. “I’m not for that, I think it would be a mistake.”

He says an autonomous bus concept would have lower initial cost and lower ongoing cost than a spendy train concept.  

If it is $120 million for a rail system, I would vote no - and I would rally other business owners to vote no
— Clay Carley, Boise developer

Carley owns a number of properties along the proposed circulator line - including The Owyhee, many of the buildings in Old Boise and others.  If a local improvement district is established to help pay for the system - business owners like Carley will be called upon to pay for it.

“If it is $120 million for a rail system, I would vote no - and I would rally other business owners to vote no,” he said. “That affordability factor is crucial - and I don’t see it happening with a rail car the way it’s happening thus far.”

He says that such a system would need a sense of permanency - with stations, stops and possibly even a contract.

Carley's The Owyhee sits on a proposed Boise circulator route. One funding option mentioned by the City of Boise is a local improvement district, which would assess an extra tax for properties on the line like this one. Photo courtesy The Owyhee.

Carley's The Owyhee sits on a proposed Boise circulator route. One funding option mentioned by the City of Boise is a local improvement district, which would assess an extra tax for properties on the line like this one. Photo courtesy The Owyhee.

“I’m a property owner that would be on the route and I’d be more inclined to develop if an autonomous vehicle was going up and down that route for a contract 20 years.”

Architect Gregory Kaslo, who was also on the Circulator steering committee, brought up the self-driving idea last year as well.

“This is a perfect transportation ‘problem’ begging for a self-driving shuttle solution,” he wrote.  “If established, the feedback loop of fixed route, fixed stops and predictable demand would help the design of a responsive economical transportation network.”

ACHD Commissioner Sara Baker thinks that an autonomous bus route should be given more thought.

“It's an intriguing concept and one that should be explored in depth,” she said. “In the interim, partnering with BSU and their shuttle is a good way to go.”

The Boise State Shuttle has two routes during the school year which run every fifteen minutes between campus and downtown. Photo courtesy Boise State.  

The Boise State Shuttle has two routes during the school year which run every fifteen minutes between campus and downtown. Photo courtesy Boise State.  

The Boise State shuttle runs frequently from the campus to stops near Bodo and at City Center Plaza on Main St. - and is often packed with students.  The project is paid for out of student fees.

“The BSU shuttle, which runs on much the same route (as the circulator), is available to anyone, not just BSU students, and it runs frequently throughout the day,” Baker said. “If the circulator concept is the end goal, then the city should investigate partnering with BSU rather than reinventing the wheel.”

Baker said she felt the City’s end goal is a fixed-rail streetcar, but emphasized that the steering group didn’t actually endorse it.

“I think it was obvious the goal on the part of the city was a fixed streetcar,” she said. “Rather, the route was endorsed but mode of transit was left open as was the need for the public's approval.”

IMG_9272.PNG

In the material put in front of Boise City Council before a vote on the circulator proposal last month, city staff emphasized an older focus group from 2014.  That group was a pre-selected batch of decision makers, and 54% favored rail.  The agenda packet provided to Boise City Council before its decision did not include the result of a more recent March Open House on the circulator which showed public opinion is mixed on mode between bus and rail according to documents obtained via a public records request by BoiseDev.  At least one media story also showed a different survey, making support for rail seem more robust than the most recent feedback opportunity showed.

Baker’s ACHD colleague Jim Hansen hopes that some type of solution can be brought into reality - though he didn’t advocate a specific idea in an interview by email. 

“Urban areas that offer real transportation choices are better positioned to meet market demands in the future,” he said. “If we don’t invest in those choices today, we end up building more and more limited mode infrastructure that does not trigger private investment and ends up costing future taxpayers too much to maintain. 

He also criticized his own agency.

“The challenge in our area is that the one local government entity in Ada County that is empowered to invest property taxes in transportation (ACHD) has chosen not to invest very much in transportation choices.”

I think it was obvious the goal on the part of the city was a fixed streetcar
— Sara Baker, ACHD Commisioner

Local entrepreneur Jeff Reynolds works downtown and recently purchased a home near the city center.  He also thinks Boise would be well-served to look at autonomous bus solutions to the downtown transportation challenge.

“The City seems to only be seriously considering a rail-based system, even as we sit on the precipice an autonomous vehicle revolution,” Reynolds said. “Instead of rail, the City should seriously consider an autonomous vehicle circulator — dedicated lanes that allow self-driving buses and cars to move swiftly through downtown and beyond."

Carley agrees.

“I think there’s a better solution on the horizon and we just can’t see it yet,” he said. “It has to be affordable, and it has to be fixed, and it has to be smart, and I don’t think rail is in the ground is very smart.”

While Boise Mayor Dave Bieter told the circulator committee that his “preference is for a fixed rail system," his spokesperson said he is open to the role autonomous vehicles could play in Boise’s transit system  

“The mayor and others involved in developing TAP (Transportation Action Plan) have been thinking about autonomous vehicles and their place in the mix,” City of Boise spokesperson Mike Journee said.

BoiseDev in-depth: Boise Circulator:

Idaho... has... the nation's... slowest... internet

This slow GIF probably took you longer to download if you live in Idaho.

This slow GIF probably took you longer to download if you live in Idaho.

Idahoans love a good list.

But the Gem State landed at the bottom of a list that is less-than-a gem: Internet speeds. Dead. Last.

Here's some data:

  • The fastest U.S. state, Deleware, has speeds at about 25 Mbps. That might not sound ripping-fast... but that is the average speed.  (District of Columbia is a little faster, but it gets an advantage since it's entirely comprised of one big urban area).
  • The average speed across the whole country is 18.7 Mbps.
  • Idaho's average speed is... hold on -- you gotta wait a minute to read this part. Wait for it. OK -- you get the point: It's 12.0 Mbps.  AKA - half as fast as the zippiest state, and downright annoyingly slow.

In the state's largest urban area, Boise, there is a duopoly on home broadband - CenturyLink or CableOne. According to Ookla, CableOne will get you an average speed of 52.21 Mbps down, while CLink fetches 18.1 Mbps.

But the real problem, of course, is Idaho's rural area.  Much of it has no real broadband. Nada. Twenty-two percent of Idahoans can't get their hands on an Internet connection that is greater than 25 Mbps.

Idaho won't get ahead while our Internet lags behind.

 

 

The Appletons and Axiom: what's next for the popular gym chain?

Are changes afoot at Boise's Axiom Fitness gyms?

Late Micron Founder Steve Appleton founded Axiom in 2011, after converting several Gold's Gyms he owned.

The holding company for Axiom, Fitness Holding LLC, is still listed under the ownership of Steve's widow Dalynn Appleton and the Appleton Family Trust.

But several new entities have been created with the Idaho Secretary of State - Axiom Fairview LLC, Axiom Meridian LLC, Axiom Village LLC and Axiom Parkcenter LLC. Each of those is registered to Shannon Cook of Eagle.

Fitness Holding LLC  is still listed on Axiom's membership signup page, and is controlled by the Appleton family as of Friday.

Separately, Parkcenter LLC is listed by the Ada County Assessor as the owner of the land under the Axiom facility on ParkCenter Blvd.  Control of Parkcenter LLC was transferred from Thomas Manschreck to Cook on March 9th, according to the Secretary of State.  The land under the gyms on Fairview and Meridian, as well as The Village, are owned by a variety of development companies.

Cook is also listed as the owner on Callier Riverwalk, which owns Boise's Riverwalk Apartments - among other businesses.

BoiseDev reached out to the following people, none of whom replied to messages sent:

  • Chris Appleton, Steve's brother - who is listed as an agent on the holding company
  • Mark Jackson, the attorney for the Appleton Trust
  • Shannon Cook, principal in the newly created entities
  • Annie Ostalosa, VP of operations for Axiom
  • Dale Kajer, VP of sales for Axiom

Cartoon map gives glimpse of early 1990s Boise

Our friend Keleka found this incredible piece of Boise history - and you might find it familiar if you've been around a while. The cartoon map shows Boise development frozen in amber circa 1990. Dirk Kempthorne was mayor, Big Jack was on the airwaves with your 90s pop tunes and Club Wholesale trumped Costco.

Below, I've listed all the businesses who are shown (that I could identify - there are a few I couldn't make out.  Of the 113 logos, only 38 businesses remain intact - or about a third.  In a few cases, the businesses still exist under a new name (for instance, KF95 is now 94.9 The River), or have moved out of the area (Ore-Idaho) - those are technically defunct in the Boise area.

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What strikes me is how few local retail businesses are still around - McU Sports is a standout example of a business with longevity, as is Dragonfly. Pojo's, M&W, Hillcrest Floral and Lock Stock & Barrel are also still going strong.

Spend a few fun minutes exploring the map - click on it to view larger.

  • 8th Street Deli & Pizzeria - DEFUNCT
  • A Small World Center for Creativity - DEFUNCT
  • Acapulco Restaurant & Cantina - DEFUNCT
  • Ace Hardware - OPEN
  • Albertsons - OPEN
  • Art Attack Callery - DEFUNCT
  • B&D Automotive - OPEN
  • Basque Museum - OPEN
  • Baurian Foods Deli - DEFUNCT
  • Bear River Valley - OPEN
  • Bench Law Offices - DEFUNCT
  • Big-O Tires - OPEN
  • Blockbuster Video - DEFUNCT
  • Bogus Basin - OPEN
  • Bogus Basin Beverage - DEFUNCT
  • Boise Bible Book - DEFUNCT
  • Boise Cascade Corporation - OPEN
  • Boise City 200 - DEFUNCT
  • Boise Consumer Co-Op - OPEN
  • Boise Gifts 'N' Guns - DEFUNCT
  • Boise Hawks - OPEN
  • Boise Rose Corner - DEFUNCT
  • Boise State University - OPEN
  • Boise Tour Train - DEFUNCT
  • Brown Wrapper - DEFUNCT
  • Burger N Brew - OPEN
  • Burns Bros Truck Strop - DEFUNCT
  • Cellular One - DEFUNCT
  • Central District Health - OPEN
  • Club Wholesale - DEFUNCT
  • Copy Cat Printers - DEFUNCT
  • Davies Reid - DEFUNCT
  • Dewey's Hallmark Cards & Gifts - DEFUNCT
  • Discovery Center of Idaho - OPEN
  • Doctors emergency medical - DEFUNCT
  • Dollar Rent A Car - OPEN
  • Dragonfly - OPEN
  • El Gringo - DEFUNCT
  • Fairview Pawn Inc. - DEFUNCT
  • Fitness Source - DEFUNCT
  • Floral Cuisine - DEFUNCT
  • Foodways/Weight Watchers - DEFUNCT
  • Fred Meyer - OPEN
  • Fred's Service & Repair Sinclair - DEFUNCT
  • Fresh Pasta - DEFUNCT
  • Golden Wheel - OPEN
  • Hair Doctor Too - DEFUNCT
  • Hillcrest Floral and Gifts - OPEN
  • Idaho Famous Potatoes - OPEN
  • Idaho Historical Museum - OPEN
  • Idaho State Penitentiary - OPEN
  • Idaho T's T-Shirt Shop - DEFUNCT
  • ITEX - DEFUNCT
  • Joker's Wild - DEFUNCT
  • Julia Davis Fun Depot - DEFUNCT
  • Kay's Hallmark Cards & Gifts - DEFUNCT
  • KF95 - DEFUNCT
  • King's - DEFUNCT
  • Koppel's Browseville - DEFUNCT
  • Life Flight - OPEN
  • Little Professor Book Store - DEFUNCT
  • Lock Stock & Barrel - OPEN
  • M&W Market - OPEN
  • Master Rooter - DEFUNCT
  • McDonald's - OPEN
  • McU Sports - OPEN
  • Mini World - DEFUNCT
  • Molenaar Jewelers - DEFUNCT
  • Morrison Center for the Performing Arts - OPEN
  • Mountain State Tumor Institute - OPEN
  • Nam King Chinese Cuisine - DEFUNCT
  • Northview Assembly - OPEN
  • Northwest Voyagers - DEFUNCT
  • Optic One - DEFUNCT
  • Ore-Ida Foods - DEFUNCT
  • Overland Immediate Medical Care - DEFUNCT
  • ParkCenter Mall - DEFUNCT
  • PDQ Directories - DEFUNCT
  • Peterson Motors - OPEN
  • Phase II Fashions - DEFUNCT
  • Physicians Immediate Care Center - DEFUNCT
  • Pojo's Electronic Amusements - OPEN
  • Powers Assembly - DEFUNCT
  • Premiere Home Video - DEFUNCT
  • Quality Custom Cameras - DEFUNCT
  • Quinns Restaurant & Lounge - OPEN
  • Rax Restaurants - DEFUNCT
  • Ronald McDonald House - OPEN
  • Round Table Pizza Restaurant - DEFUNCT
  • Roundtree Chevrolet Isuzu - DEFUNCT
  • Rudy's Mini Golf - DEFUNCT
  • Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center - OPEN
  • Shaklee - DEFUNCT
  • St. Luke's Regional Medical Center - OPEN
  • Star Photo Service - DEFUNCT
  • TCBY - DEFUNCT (In Boise)
  • The BUS - DEFUNCT
  • The Flicks - OPEN
  • The Printers Ink - DEFUNCT
  • The Toy Crafters Outlet - DEFUNCT
  • The Wig Image - DEFUNCT
  • Third Dimension Cuts - DEFUNCT
  • Tri-State Beauty Supply - DEFUNCT
  • Trim 'n' Tan - DEFUNCT
  • Tuxedos Inc. - DEFUNCT
  • Valley Gym - DEFUNCT
  • Vic's Gourmet Popcorn - DEFUNCT
  • Victor's Lounge - DEFUNCT
  • Weldcraft - DEFUNCT
  • Westy's Garden Lanes - OPEN
  • Wheels R Fun - DEFUNCT
  • Wright Patterson Real Estate - DEFUNCT
  • Zach's Frozen Yogurt - DEFUNCT

Zoo Boise plans expansion, hopes to further conservation mission

A rendering of a portion of the new Zoo Boise expansion. Courtesy Zoo Boise.

A rendering of a portion of the new Zoo Boise expansion. Courtesy Zoo Boise.

For the first time in more than 35 years, Zoo Boise is expanding its footprint in Boise’s Julia Davis Park - with big plans to revamp portions of the existing facility in the process.

A young zoo visitor feeds animals during a visit this spring. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev.com

A young zoo visitor feeds animals during a visit this spring. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev.com

The zoo just completed a $9 million capital campaign and is in the process of putting together final plans with hopes of beginning construction in early 2018.

More than just a fresh coat of paint and new exhibits, the expansion is centered on the zoo’s evolving mission to help drive conservation funds and increase education for zoo-goers about the challenges the environment and many species of animals face.

“What we want when you come to the park - is yes, we want you to have a good time.  We also want you to learn about animals and ecosystems and all that,” Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns said. “Unfortunately it’s not enough anymore. The world needs more than that.”

A decade ago, the city-owned zoo added a small conservation fee to gate admission - the first zoo to do so in the country according to Burns.  It also added some upcharge experiences once inside - including the ability to feed the zoo’s giraffes or take a solar-powered boat ride - with those funds also going to conservation efforts. In all, more than $2.3 million has been raised for the effort.

“We have turned the act of visiting the zoo into a conservation action,” Burns said.

Site plan of the new Gorongosa area of the zoo. Click to enlarge.

The expansion will focus on two key conservation partnerships.  The first is the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique - an area ravaged by conflict.

“It was this incredible park that was destroyed in 25 years of war in that country,” Burns said. “In the process, that park was destroyed and pretty much all of the mammals were killed and most of them were eaten by hungry people - hungry soldiers.”

Idaho-born philanthropist Greg Carr has dedicated his life and wealth toward restoring the park.  Carr built a career in the high-tech industry by developing an early voicemail system and serving as chairman of internet service provider Prodigy.  He was born in Idaho Falls - and helped bring Zoo Boise into the effort to restore Gorongosa.

Now the zoo is planning to bring a piece of Gorongosa to Boise. The zoo will bump out into Julia Davis Park and add another 1.5 acres to its footprint on the side of the zoo furthest from the entrance.  The new area will be combined with an area currently used for events like Boo at the Zoo, allowing for the Gorongosa exhibit. New animals like Nile crocodiles, hyenas, baboons, warthogs and nyala will be featured.

Site plan of the new entry area of the zoo. Click to enlarge.

At the front part of the zoo, the current primate house and aviaries will be removed - areas built in the late 1960s.

“They were good exhibits at the time, but we just can’t do anything to bring them up to modern zoological standards,” Burns said.

That space will be reimagined into a new area with visitor amenities and a few new exhibits -- right up front where attendees enter the zoo.

The exhibits here will focus on another conservation project - helping to protect the Annamite Mountains between Vietnam and Laos.  Teams of teens at the zoo have been working for several years on a project to fight poaching in that region.

“By featuring animals from the Annamite Mountains, it gives those teams a larger platform to deliver their conservation message,” Burns said.  The gibbons who currently reside in that portion of the zoo will get new digs in the Annamite Mountains exhibit.

A new event space with a stage, picnic facilities and more will be placed near the entrance to replace the current spot in the back of the zoo.

Right now, the zoo jockeys with the Sun Valley Resort for the title of most-visited paid attraction in the State of Idaho - and is consistently the most-visited spot in the Treasure Valley.

Nearly 350,000 visits were made to the zoo in 2016, and Burns hopes the additions will begin to nudge attendance toward the 400,000 mark.

More visitors will help drive the zoo’s conservation drive even further.

“Visitors have generated about $2.3 million for conservation,” over ten years according to Burns. “We have turned the act of visiting the zoo into a conservation action. We don’t want to build any more exhibits that aren’t tied to our existing conservation projects.”

Beyond the far-flung efforts in Africa and Asia, some of the conservation funds are going to projects close to home.  

“Last year when Table Rock burned, we put $100k in conservation fees toward the restoration,” he said. He hopes that’s the first of many projects.

“People love the foothills. The sagebrush steppe ecosystem where we live is one of the most endangered in the country. We hope to partner with Boise Parks and Recreation on the foothills and open space and get more involved in restoration efforts and habitat efforts.”

Friends of Zoo Boise is one of the 700 causes that is signed up for Idaho Gives 2017. Donors can make a contribution online on May 4th with proceeds going toward the zoo. Throughout the day, random donations will be matched from an award pool. (Disclosure: Day365 which operates BoiseDev is also handling media and PR services for Idaho Gives).

The expansion will further cement Zoo Boise’s spot in the heart of Julia Davis Park - just a short walk from Downtown. The zoo expansion will join a complete revamp of the Idaho Historical Museum, a new walkway connecting the park to 5th Street and other projects.

“Julia Davis Park is a unique park in the city,” Burns said. “It’s the cultural attractions park of Boise. We would hope that if the City continues to grow and our cultural attractions get better, we’re right here in the middle of all that. It’s great to be right downtown - you can see the giraffes sticking their head up over the fence.”

If everything goes well, plans will be presented to the City of Boise’s building and planning folks this fall, with the expansion fully open after a year of construction and four months of theming by summer of 2019.

 

Boise picks up largest-ever convention due to NC 'bathroom law'

This June, the Boise Centre will hold the largest convention in its history - a four-day event for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

About 1,400 people are expected to attend the event.  Boise Centre Communications Manager Mary-Michael Rodgers tells BoiseDev that the facility picked up the business after the council backed out of a commitment to hold its event in North Carolina, after that state passed a controversial bill at that required people to use the bathroom that corresponded to the sex identified on their birth certificate when visiting government facilities, including schools.

Business sector reaction to the law has been widespread, including the NCAA, NBA and others reconsidering events in the state.

"CSTE historically hosts the conference in the state of its current president, however due to North Carolina’s House Bill 2 the location has been moved to Boise, Idaho," the council notes on its website.

The convention will be a big boost to the Boise Centre - and will use nearly all of its available space across its expanded facility. Rodgers says that attendees will stay at thirteen local hotels -- and nine hotels are already fully booked for the June 4-8 event - including The Grove Hotel, Hotel 43, Safari Inn, Hyatt Place, Courtyard Mariott Downtown, Red Lion Downtowner, Towne Place Suites, Holiday Inn Express ParkCenter and Springhill Suites ParkCenter.

Rodgers says the council held its event in Boise once before, when the number of attendees was lower. The Boise Centre would not have been able to accommodate this group without the Boise Centre East expansion, Rodgers noted - and said this is one of a dozen events scheduled this year that will use both buildings simultaneously.

The CSTE event will help boost the number of visitors to Boise this summer -- the Far West Regional Soccer Tournament which is often hosted at the Simplot Sports Complex and brings throngs of soccer families to the area in June will this year be hosted in Seattle.

The NC bathroom bill was repealed last week -- too late for this year's conference.

 

New concourse at Boise Centre opens: see a tour, find out what's ahead

The second of three phases at Boise's convention center is complete - with the opening of an overhead walkway connecting the original building with a new facility in City Center Plaza. The project began in 2014 and is expected to wrap this summer.

Phase one: Opened last fall, bringing a new ballroom, and several additional meeting rooms on the fourth floor of a new set of buildings on the east side of the Grove Plaza.

Phase two: Wrapped up late last week and includes the construction of a semi-circular walkway that helps visitors get from the two buildings - while also connecting to the Grove Hotel and CenturyLink Arena.  The building features escalators from the first floor of the original Boise Centre and to the new fourth-floor Boise Centre East. The concourse also has an outdoor area that over looks The Grove Plaza.

See the new Boise Centre expansion - with a timelapse from the original building to the new Boise Centre East

Phase three: Slated to open this July, and will include a new 3,800 square foot junior ballroom in the area formerly housing an underutilized theater in the original building, plus a new second-floor board room, patio and additional office space.

Also coming: 

  • New, large video screens in the lobby
  • Adjacent to the second-floor patio, a new herb garden will be installed. Produce from it will be used by the Boise Centre's executive chef in some of the catered meals in the building.
  • Seventeen new restroom stalls for women, a few additional for men and the addition of a family restroom.
  • The entire convention center building will be repainted in "warm gray tones" to match the new Boise Centre East architecture.  
  • All the rooms in the existing building will be given numbers, moving away from their current named scheme.
  • New logo signage behind a portion of the outdoor concourse.

Largest... convention... ever: Mary-Michael Rodgers, Boise Centre Communications Manager says the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists will return to Boise for the second time - bringing a conference of 1,400 people - the largest ever at Boise Centre.  The group previously held its event at Boise Center in years past when it was much smaller.  The conference was originally slated to be held in North Carolina but was moved in the wake of that state's controversial bathroom law, Rodgers said. Participants will stay in thirteen local hotels - and nine hotels in the greater Downtown are already sold out for the June 4-8 event.  This event will be one of about a dozen conferences this year that will use both buildings.

Trump & transit: How will Federal shifts affect Boise's Circulator idea?

For a Boise streetcar or bus circulator project to happen, city leaders are clear it will need a healthy dose of Federal funding. But with significant cutbacks to the Transportation Department proposed by the Trump administration - will it throw the brakes on a circulator before it ever even gets moving?

President Donald Trump's administration outlines a cut to nearly every federal department outside of defense and veteran's affairs - and that includes a 17% hit to the US Department of Transportation.

The proposal would slice $2.4 billion out of the cash pile dedicated to moving Americans in the coming budget year.

"The Budget reduces or eliminates programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other Federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by States, localities, or the private sector," the budget document notes according to The Hill.

The Boise Circulator Alternatives Analysis proposes a number of potential funding sources - including a local improvement district, parking revenue, Boise State student fees and other ideas.

During an extensive conversation with BoiseDev in December, City of Boise circulator project manager James Pardy said that federal funding would likely play a key role.

"We would expect more funding opportunity from the federal government on a more expensive system," he said. 

In documents obtained by BoiseDev, City of Boise officials cited two likely funding sources from the Federal government - a pair of grant programs known as Small Starts and TIGER.

But the Trump budget specifically notes that, in its view, municipalities should figure out how to fund programs on their own.

“Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” according to Trump’s spending plan.

The budget plan slices both Small Starts (and its sister program New Starts), as well as TIGER grants.

The budget has not yet been approved by congress - and could come out in a significantly different final form.  

City of Boise Director of Communications Mike Journee says the city is progressing, for now, as though everything is status quo.

"We are aware of and are watching the potentially shifting federal funding picture," he wrote in an email to BoiseDev. "However, the process as it exists now is what we have to work with, so we will continue in that vein until we know different."

He says the Alternatives Analysis process is about finding answers to questions big and small on the project - including funding. 

 "This whole process has been about assessing and defining what's possible and that will not change going forward, no matter what happens at the federal level. We envision that, over the next 18 months, we will really dig into the funding question both locally and at the federal level."

During a meeting with CEOs Tuesday, Trump said his forthcoming $1 trillion infrastructure plan will focus exclusively on "shovel ready" projects -- those that could get going right away.

“If you have a job that you can’t start within 90 days, we’re not going to give you the money for it,” he said according to MarketWatch.  That bill could be introduced this year, and include $100 billion-$200 billion in federal funds as well as offsetting tax credits - with the full $1 trillion spread over ten years.

 Details on what types of projects could be qualified haven't yet been detailed - though reporting from McClatchy in January outlined 50 "priority" projects. The list detailed no projects in Idaho - and primarily focused on roads and bridges. Six "mass transit" projects were included - including expansion of the NYC subway and expansion of rail lines in major metros areas like Boston and Detroit. No municpal streetcar projects were included - though it's unclear what types of projects beyond the top 50 could be funded or how the process might work.

St. Luke's agrees to sell land for downtown stadium

Soccer configuration for soccer stadium at Americana & Shorline

Soccer configuration for soccer stadium at Americana & Shorline

FIRST ON BOISEDEV.COM

 

St. Luke's Health System has agreed to sell a parcel of land it owns at Americana Blvd. and Shoreline Drive in Boise to Greenstone Properties - to be used as a new mixed-use project anchored by a baseball stadium.

The stadium would house the Boise Hawks - currently playing in Memorial Stadium in Garden City, and a potential future soccer team.

ALSO READ: Q&A on what's next for Boise's stadium dream

Terms of the deal to purchase the 11-acre parcel were not immediately disclosed. St. Luke's spokesperson Anita Kissee tells BoiseDev that the parties have signed a non-binding letter of intent and will now work to negotiate the details.

BoiseDev first noted progress on a stadium project in February when we reported Boise's redevelopment agency had budgeted $150,000 in taxpayer dollars to study a stadium downtown. 

“This was a critical piece in putting the stadium and development puzzle together.  We are grateful for the continued friendship and support of St. Luke’s and are excited about working with the city in earnest on the redevelopment of this new urban renewal district," Boise Hakws president Jeff Eiseman said in a prepared statement.

The deal with St. Luke's helps the project clear a major hurdle on its way to becoming a reality. The deal is predicated on the creation of a new urban renewal district to be administered by the Capital City Development Corp. That would allow CCDC to collect taxpayer dollars to make improvements and help fund portions of the stadium project.  The dollars would be taken in through a mechanism known as tax increment financing - allowing any tax dollars drawn from increased property values to be diverted from schools, police and other agencies and funneled to CCDC. 

Greenstone would potentially have to purchase some adjoining properties, and told the Idaho Business Review it was working to do so.

BoiseDev email alert subscribers learned of this story before anyone else. Are you on the list?

Greenstone says it expects investment of $200 million in private funds.

"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," Boise City Councilor Scot Ludwig said in a prepared statement. "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 (sic) cherish as we grow and seek new economic development opportunities.”  

St. Luke's will move staff and services currently housed at the complex to other properties it owns - including the Washington Group Plaza on Park Blvd. in Boise, near the health system's downtown medical center.

The Boise Hawks currently play in Memorial Stadium in Garden City - an aging stadium on land owned by Ada County.  Agon Sports purchased the team two seasons ago with the intent to move it to a newer, updated stadium.

Rendering of Greenstone's The Ballpark at Hammonds Ferry - planned for N. August, GA

Rendering of Greenstone's The Ballpark at Hammonds Ferry - planned for N. August, GA

Greenstone anticipates the project would also include multi-family housing, office, retail space, parking and a potential future hotel.

Greenstone is also working to build a riverfront stadium in North Augusta, Georgia to house the Augusta Green Jackets. That project has been beset by delays - and has been in the works since 2012. The latest targeted opening for the August project is 2018.

Stadium design

Tod Schultz with Stadia Design describes the project:

“The 14th Street elevation of the ballpark is the Hawk’s Nest, anchored by the central, multi-level tower and dynamic “nest” structure.  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.  Pavilions, floating bars, sponsorship zones…fantastic views to the field.  The home plate entrance is designed as a new Boise piazza…it’s a living room for the city to hold concerts, events, and festivals.  When the stadium is used for soccer, 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.  Operable glass walls, rooftop experiences akin to Coors Field in Denver and terrace views of the river will make the stadium one of the best in the country.” 

National chain closure tracker - SW Idaho

Here's the rundown of national chains with closures announced or pending that have stores in Boise and SW Idaho.

Updated April 11, 2017

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Abercrombie & Fitch - UNKNOWN

  • What's happening: Closing 100 stores.
  • SW Idaho stores: One in Boise Towne Square
  • Local impact: Locations not yet announced

Family Christian Stores - CLOSING

  • What's happening: Closing all locations
  • SW Idaho stores: One at Fairview & Milwaukee in Boise
  • Local impact: Local store will close

Game Stop - UNKNOWN

Gordman's - SOME CLOSING

  • What's happening: Closing about half of stores
  • SW Idaho stores: Village at Meridian, Boise ParkCenter, Treasure Valley Marketplace Nampa
  • Local impact: The SE Boise store is closing and is liquidating merchandise. The fate of other stores is unclear. 

JCPenney - NO LOCAL IMPACT

  • What's happening: Closing 138 stores
  • SW Idaho stores: Boise Towne Square, Nampa Gateway, Twin Falls, Burley
  • Local impact: No SW Idaho stores will close. However, the Burley store will close. Also, store in LaGrande, OR will shutter. The retailer says more stores could be announced in the future.

Macy's - SOME CLOSING

Noodles & Co. - UNKNOWN

Payless Shoe Source - NO LOCAL CLOSINGS

Radio Shack - SOME CLOSING

  • What's happening:  Closing 552 stores nationwide, the latest in waves of closures in recent years
  • SW Idaho stores: Two in Boise on Broadway and State, Caldwell, Twin Falls
  • Local impact: Closing Broadway Ave. store in Boise, Cleveland Blvd. store in Caldwell, Magic Valley Mall store in Twin Falls  - as well as a location in Coeur d'Alene. Closures will leave just the Boise State St. store in operation. 

Sears/Kmart - NO CLOSING

  • What's happening: Closing 78 Kmart and 30 Sears stores
  • SW Idaho stores: Sears - Boise Towne Square, Magic Valley Mall. Kmart - Nampa. (Sears Hometown store in Nampa and Sears Outlet in Boise are not impacted)
  • Local impact: No Idaho stores closing in this round.

STAPLES - UNKNOWN

  • What's happening: Closing 70 stores
  • SW Idaho stores: Boise on Milwaukee, Boise on Eagle Rd., Nampa, Karcher Rd
  • Local impact: Store locations not yet announced.

Rite Aid/Walgreens - UNKNOWN

  • What's happening: Merging, pending FTC approval
  • SW Idaho stores: Too numerous to list, many adjacent
  • Local impact: The FTC has indicated the merged retailer will have to divest stores. A small regional chain known as Fred's (not to be confused with Fred Meyer) is likely to pick up the stores the two chains shed - as many as 865.

WetSeal - CLOSING

 

Sun Valley plans to revamp iconic Inn

The Sun Valley resort plans to do a  revamp of the Sun Valley Inn, according to documents obtained from the City of Sun Valley by BoiseDev.

The building will be expanded by about 17,000 square feet. Rooms and public spaces will be revamped, and the total number of rooms is expected to shrink slightly - as it did for the Lodge remodel project. 

The work is primarily confined to the wing that fronts the Kitzbuhelerstrasse in the Sun Valley Village - including 17 revamped guest rooms.

An all-new kitchen will be added, and the current kitchen will be remodeled to include a bakery. 

The Bald Mountain Pizza restaurant will get an overhaul and a new terrace. The historic Ram Restaurant will also get an overhaul.

Three new meeting rooms are being added to expand the Resort's existing convention facilities (home to the annual Allen & Co. event among other functions).

The resort will also add a large new office area above the new kitchen.  Many of the back office support functions were formerly housed in the basement of the Lodge, but shortly after the Lodge remodel was completed, that space was quietly converted into additional guestrooms.

The project was approved by the City of Sun Valley's Planning & Zoning group at a meeting earlier this month. The meeting was first reported by the Idaho Mountain Express.

Though lesser-known than its slightly-older cousin around the corner, the Inn holds a significant amount of history itself.  

The building originally opened as the Challenger Inn during SV's second Christmas season. One of the quirkiest facts I've found in years of reading about the history of Sun Valley revolves around the soon-to-be-remodeled Ram: The Hokey Pokey was invented there. 

From the NYTimes obit of the "turn yourself around" song's inventor: 

 "(Larry) LaPrise was leading the Ram Trio -- its other members were Charles Peter Macak and Tafit Baker -- at the Ram Bar in Sun Valley when he came up with the song. It was an instant hit."

Work will begin in September after the peak summer season (summer is actually busier than winter in Sun Valley). Parts of the project will be done by Christmas - with the project wrapping by June, 2018.

 In other words - they aren't going to be hokey pokey about it.

CCDC hopes to curb suicide attempts at public parking garage

The eight-story 9th & Front Garage was the site of more than 90% of all suicides attempted on a downtown garage from 2014-2016 according to a report from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

The eight-story 9th & Front Garage was the site of more than 90% of all suicides attempted on a downtown garage from 2014-2016 according to a report from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Don Day
BoiseDev.com

Late last year, the Idaho Statesman detailed a vivid story about a Boise teen climbing to the top of a public parking garage with the intent of jumping to his death.

Before he took any action, he saw another, unrelated woman jump from another floor of the garage.

The story ends with the woman surviving and the teen getting help before jumping - but the reporting from Zach Kyle prompted action with the owner of the parking structure.

The Capital City Development Corporation owns most of the public garages in Downtown Boise - including the one at 9th and Front featured in Kyle's story.

After reading it, officials decided they had to act.

“It’s not part of urban renewal per se, but it is part of our responsibility as owners of parking garages," CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said during a public meeting Monday. “We’re not experts in this area so we were looking for help.”

That help came from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program - a program which just got started in 2016 with funding from the Idaho Legislature.

The SPP also saw the Statesman article and took its own action - initiating an informal investigation.

The report showed that Boise Police officials took eleven calls related to suicide attempts at parking garages from 2014 through 2016. All but one of those calls involved the 9th & Front garage in the Statesman's story - CCDC's tallest.

At SPP's suggestion, the agency is taking some steps immediately, including adding signage to provide resources to struggling individuals at the moment they may need it the most.  The signs are being fabricated now and will be placed at key locations.  The placards show the numbers for the Idaho Suicide Prevention hotline.

In addition, staffers with CCDC's parking vendor and security provider will receive training on how to "talk to and listen to someone who is suicidal."  The two-hour training will be conducted by SPP this month, and some key staffers will also be given more advanced training.

Another step being contemplated would require physical changes to the garage, formerly known as City Center.  SPP did a full inspection of the garage, measuring barriers, looking at stairwells and more.

Portions of the garage only have a series of cables separating the parking direct from the ledge. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Portions of the garage only have a series of cables separating the parking direct from the ledge. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

SPP says the garage's large exterior staircases with low railings, ledges that are wider than at other garages and cable barriers all increase the risk of suicidal actions at the structure.

"Physical barriers are being examined for 9th & Front on the ledges, stairwells and cables which run horizontally along the walls of the garage," CCDC said in its report.

Redesign ideas are due this month, and CCDC says it "will implement over time any reasonable measure suggested."

Another idea, not suggested directly by SPP, would be to limit loitering on the upper levels of garages.

CCDC says it is not ready to do that just yet.

"We do not feel we are ready to implement this measure yet, as the garage rooftops are popular viewing points for downtown parades, balloon launches and fireworks," according to the report.

The Flicks gets special sign with hidden secret

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Boise independent movie theater The Flicks opened in 1984 - and for most of its life had good visibility on Myrtle St. in Downtown Boise.  

But the new Inn at 500 Capitol built around the theater on two sides - blocking it from view of traffic and passersby.  

Hawkins Co., which owns the hotel property, applied last year with the City of Boise and Idaho Transportation Department for a waiver to add a sign outside the hotel along Myrtle St. Boise's guidelines generally don't allow "off premise" signs, but planning & zoning commissioners agreed to allow this one through.  

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The sign has unique details that help it double as an art piece. It is styled like an old-school movie projector with  film strip featuring frames of Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire from their movie Swing Time. 

As I was taking pictures for this story, a nice woman walking by said "look in the lens!" I hadn't considered that the lens of the projector would show anything - but there's a hidden surprise of sorts:

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IMG_7289.JPG

Major upgrades planned for Bogus Basin's summer & winter operations

The new base area plan for summer

The new base area plan for summer

EXCLUSIVE

Bogus Basin marks 75 years in operation in 2017 - and big changes are on the horizon. 

BoiseDev.com obtained the master plan for the resort via publicly available records. It outlines dozens of changes set for coming years - with many focused on improving summer visitation, and giving new skiers a better experience when snow covers the ground. The project went before the Boise County Planning & Zoning commission last fall unnoticed. P&Z granted the resort's conditional use permit request unanimously without any member of the public offering comment, according to meeting minutes. 

Nearly every facet of the resort is mentioned for improvements - from better food to improved terrain to upgraded lifts to scores of new summer features and more.

ALSO READ: see pics of new Sandbar upgrade  

The changes - especially in the summer - are aimed at helping Bogus have more longterm financial stability, according to Bogus Basin Director of Development Susan Saad.

“We still have several millions of dollars in debt, however with the combination of strong season pass sale and strong winter season we just had - our board was able to approve $4.3 million of funding toward these activities this summer," Saad said. "Our hope is that this will generate new revenue that will help us when winter isn’t as phenomenal as this year.”

The summer improvements are slated to happen this season -- with new attractions opening in stages this year.

The master plan follows outreach by the resort in recent years to understand industry trends and what visitors hope to see. The project was conducted by SE Group - and new general manager Brad Wilson has been key in moving the project forward, according to Saad.

BoiseDev newsletter subscribers got this story first - you can sign up for future alerts here.

The report is more than 100 pages. Here's the BoiseDev summary:

Summer

While the winter upgrades are significant,  summer additions are aimed at boosting the resort's nascent operation in the warm part of the year - which would give adventure seekers many new options.

"We’re pretty excited to be moving forward with these projects," Saad said. "We will begin working as soon as operations wind down this April and the snow melts. In fact, we may be moving snow out of the way."

  • A public hearing is slated for next week to grant a variance for a new ropes course.  The variance would allow Bogus to build the planned "aerial adventure course" which would operate on the lower slopes near the Deer Point and Showcase chairlifts. The course could travel up the hill in future phases. The ropes course is approved in principle by Boise County through the CUP process. 
  • A new canopy tour would be installed at the Pioneer base area and would zig-zag down to the base of the Bitterroot lift, and could expand to the Superior Express lift in the future.  The tour would be a series of zip lines and skybridges allowing visitors to experience sweeping views of the Treasure Valley.
  • An Alpine Coaster would be built on the lower slopes of the newly rerouted Morning Star lift near the Simplot Lodge. The coaster operates from three to twenty feet of the ground - and could be open during both the summer and winter months. It will open by August 1 according to Saad.
    • “Riding an alpine coaster involves traveling in a self-braking, two-person sled which travels on two tubular rails," the report notes. "This allows for a closed loop system so that participants begin and end their ride in the same location. The ride is exciting and varied, and may include curves, corkscrews, and downhill stretches. Centrifugal brakes control maximum speeds, and riders may control their speed at all times allowing for a unique hands-on experience for all ages”
    • I've ridden a mountain coaster in Park City. It's a blast - check out this video.
  • Summer tubing would use the same tubes used for the current Gold Rush snow tubing feature, but setting up a synthetic surface to allow for summer sliding. This is slated for July 1.
  • A new, larger amphitheater would be built below the current smaller ampitheater, allowing for larger events like concerts. A 200-seat facility is planned right in front of the Simplot lodge.
  • Upgrade mountain biking facilities and trails, including a bike skills and pump track area near the Simplot lodge with a focus on kids
  • A fun zone would be set up near the Simplot Lodge. The final configuration of attractions hasn't been determined, but could include climbing walls, water wars, panning for gold, a bungee trampoline and more.
    • "Activities that fit within the outdoor adventure and mining theme would be preferred," the report says.
  • Expanded summer programs including kids mountain day camps and mountain bike camps.
  • Improved landscaping and sod around the base area.
  • Disc golf would be moved to a different area to allow for the expanded amenities.

Winter

The winter plans will roll out over the next ten years.

"The other improvements are spaced out strategically over the course of the next several years," Saad said.

  • Reroute and upgrade the Morning Star lift: It currently can serve 900 skiers per hour. It's the primary way to get to several beginner runs as well as the main route between the upper and lower lodges which makes it a popular attraction. Upgrades would double capacity to 1,800 skiers and would move the bottom of the lift closer to the Simplot Lodge to make it easier to access from the base area. The lift will be upgraded to a high-speed quad according to Saad.
  • Snowmaking: Right now snowmaking is limited at Bogus.  The master plan would add much more manmade snow capacity to areas around the Coach, Deer Point and Morning Star lifts. “Snowmaking coverage has become a necessity," the report notes - and says it is found at 90% of resorts.  The project would happen in two phases - and at full buildout would give Bogus the ability to service 64 acres with man-made snow.
    • Future runs with top-to-bottom snowmaking: Upper Pioneer, Coach's Corner, Lower Ridge, Stewart's Bowl, Upper Ridge, Shaker Ridge, Lodge Cat Track, Morning Star, Silver Queen, Bogus Creek Trail, Showcase, Lulu, Sunshine and Pioneer Trail. Also, snowmaking would be added to the tubing hill (see below).
    • “This system will allow Bogus Basin to open the resort on those runs, and stay open for a guaranteed length of season," the report said.

    • The snowmaking system could also be used for fire suppression at Simplot Lodge and the communications facilities at Deer Point in the summer.  This capability was key in protecting facilities at Sun Valley from fires in recent years.

  • Coach lift upgrade and Coach's Corner changes: Currently only about 500 skiers can use this lift each hour. Upgrades would boost that to 1,200, and the lift would be shortened on the downslope side a bit to allow the base area to breathe. 
    • The area on the east side of the Coach lift could be regraded to add more beginner skiing terrain (Coach's Corner currently runs down the west side of the lift).
    • The existing magic carpets would be moved and a third carpet added to give more options to ski school students.
    • A portion of the area at the base would be regraded for better ski school use. 
  • Reconfigure runs: Make a series of changes to existing runs to improve skiing.
    • Silver Queen and Lulu would be regraded to allow for better novice skiing and use by the ski school.
    • Regrade the Lodge Cat Track. This is the only way down from some areas during night skiing - but it can be either steep or flat depending on the area. Regrading it will give it a consistent downhill slope. 
    • Make improvements off the Superior and Pine Creek runs
    • Add a connector ski route from Bitterroot to Superior. This could open Bitterroot area terrain when that lift isn't operating.
    • Undertake a large-scale brush clearing opeartion, especially focused on the backside. Some areas that used to be skiable are overgrown on all but the best (ahem, 2016-17) years.  
  • Revamp J. R. Simplot Lodge: The main lodge at the base area would get a revamp and slight expansion.  A new stair and elevator tower would be added on the west side (toward Bogus Basin Road). This will allow some of the other staircases to be removed, and free up space for a revamp of the rest of the lodge:
    • New patio off the main level facing the base area.
    • An expanded and upgraded kitchen which would allow for "higher quality food and beverage."
    • Expanded restrooms on the lower and main levels, as well as an added bathroom on the upper level.
    • Revamped seating including enclosing some of the "open to below" seating on the third level to add some space.
    • New retail/demo shop on the lower level.
  • Upgrades to the Pioneer Lodge: Though the changes aren't expected to be as large-scale as at the Simplot Lodge, this building will get added restrooms - and new interior and exterior finishes to make it more modern.  The bar and lounge area would be improved to make it a better special events venue.
  • Increase the density of lighting in some areas, especially around Deer Point. Bogus is also working on a continual project to improve lighting efficiency. 
  • Upgrade the Gold Rush tubing hill with snowmaking and a new carpet lift (replacing the handle tow). This will boost capacity here, and make sure the tubing hill can open even in poor snow years.
  • Replace the snack shack at Pine Creek with a warming yurt.
  • Parking: Parking is adequate according to the report - but some reconfiguration and improved shuttle service are in the plan. 
Main (middle) level of the expanded and revamped Pioneer Lodge

Main (middle) level of the expanded and revamped Pioneer Lodge

 

    As the city pushes a stadium vision, St. Luke's looks elsewhere

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    Leaders with the City of Boise are out pushing the idea of a stadium near the Boise River on land currently owned by St. Luke's Health System on Americana Blvd. 

    In recent weeks, BoiseDev continued to dig into this story.  After our initial interest, records requests and post on the story, officials quickly went to the Idaho Statesman and on the radio with a version of what they hope will happen.

    Boise city councilor Scot Ludwig told the Statesman the parties involved had an "agreement in principle" with St. Luke's Health System to purchase the property. But that agreement is not binding. 

    BoiseDev has learned additional details about one of the other possible property buyers: the State of Idaho.

    The Idaho Department of Administration issued a request for proposal last year looking for 100,000-600,000 square feet of office space to lease or purchase, according to Statewide Leasing Manager Linda Miller. Proposals were due in December.

    Diane Blume with the Department of Administration confirms St. Luke's was one of the respondents to the RFP - specifying the Americana Blvd. parcel as a suitable option. Blume said the state is "looking at" the property.

    St. Luke's Health System Public Relations Manager Anita Kissée confirmed officials with her organization submitted a proposal to the State, but can't confirm further details as the bid process is ongoing.

    For the City, CCDC and Greenstone Partners (owner of the Boise Hawks), that "deal in principle" doesn't have any binding effect - and St. Luke's could have other bidders for the land beyond the stadium group and State of Idaho. 

    "Hopefully a contract will follow as this land transaction is critical to this project," Ludwig told BoiseDev. "I look forward to moving this matter forward."

    Ludwig said any details on the land sale would be between the two parties - Greenstone and St. Luke's, neither of which are commenting on particulars.

    Ludwig, the city councilor and member of CCDC, told KTIK radio during an interview a "benevolent St. Luke's" would be key to the deal.  

    A public records request to better understand details on the City of Boise's involvement in the project was denied on grounds they are part of helping a business expand in Idaho, which city officials contend is allowed for in state code.

    Ludwig declined to answer BoiseDev's question by email about whether the story was pushed forward before a land deal was in place to "build support and/or foil any other interest in the property," saying only "let's hope the land deal gets done so we can move forward to the more difficult checklist on this Project."

    For St. Lukes' part, officials are playing the field -- but that doesn't mean it will lead to a ball field.

    "At this point, it's premature to comment further, as there is no signed, formal agreement with anyone," Kisssée said. "We look forward to continued engagement and negotiations, and are excited at the prospects and opportunities this property will provide as it meets the needs of the future owner, whomever that ends up being."

    Bigger than a streetcar: An idea on transit for 2040

    News analysis by Don Day
    BoiseDev.com

    Comments are enabled at the bottom if you'd like to chip in your thoughts

    I'm not a transportation planner. It's hard work, complicated - and a surefire way to have people question your ideas.

    But, like any citizen who pays attention, I have some ideas.

    Boise's city leaders have been working on a streetcar idea for nearly a decade. The response from citizens has been, for the most part, tepid. But the idea remains.

    In my long piece on the streetcar late last year, the mayor's spokesperson made a point that has stuck with me.

    "There’s a practical side of this," Mike Journee said. "What is our traffic situation going to look like in 2040?"

    I lived in Seattle for just long enough to understand what traffic is. Sitting, not moving, wishing-you-had-a-bathroom-in-your-car traffic.

    Boise, of course, doesn't really have much traffic.  Sure, the Interstate chokes up with accidents and can be slow in the average commute.  Front Street through downtown is a slow, cloggy mess many evenings. Leaving a Boise State game can be slow.

    On the whole, however - it's pretty easy to get around.

    But what about in 2040?

    Downtown isn't really a problem child for traffic.  You can pretty easily jaywalk any of the streets most of the day and evening (not that anyone I know does that). 

    The streetcar is expensive. Really, really expensive.  After my story was published, a local elected official told me off the record that it would "never happen," and dismissed the project as folly.  

    As I talked with Journee and streetcar project manager Jim Pardy, I told them they lay out a convincing case. And for the most part, they do. But it's very hard to get past the cost, and the relative lack of need for a train that goes in a fairly walkable circle.

    Boise's buses, on the other hand, currently are underused.  They don't run on Sundays, holidays, or even very late into the evening.  The streetcar would run more frequently if built, but it would be a strong link in a weak bus system. If I live anywhere but downtown and don't own a car, I'm going to be stuck without an option other than my own two feet and their ability to walk or peddle a bike.

    COMPASS even somewhat-confusingly touted a stat that points out the problem: 80% of Treasure Valley residents aren't within walking distance of a bus.

    I asked the City of Boise pair why a streetcar and not the "Micron to Caldwell" rail line. 

    “We are kind of doing it backwards," Pardy said candidly. "This is kind of like building the last mile first.  This could be a catalyst to get the entire region."

    Twenty years ago, then-mayor Brent Coles spearheaded a trial of a train from Micron to Caldwell on those existing Union Pacific tracks. Temporary stations were set up, and people could ride the rails to commute.  

    Why not do this now? Start here and connect from it.  The Boise Depot is the historic icon of transit in SW Idaho - and it still stands in a pivotal position.

    Imagine this idea:

    • Use the existing Union Pacific tracks (GREEN) to run commuter trains between the Boise Factory Outlet area near Micron and Caldwell.  Some additional infrastructure would be needed - stops, park-and-ride lots and the like. You could have stops at the Boise Towne Square, a few blocks from Saint Alphonsus, near St Luke's Meridian, Downtown Meridian, the Idaho Center, Downtown Nampa and Downtown Caldwell. And of course the Boise Depot.  The existing UP track run right through the backyard of many of our area's biggest hubs.
    • Build a streetcar or bus circulator between the Boise Depot and the Idaho Statehouse (RED). It would pass by Boise State, the new multi-modal transit center, city hall, City Center Plaza and within a few easy walking blocks of Simplot, JUMP, Zions Bank and dozens of other buildings. It would give the city the downtown catalyst project and accomplish most of the streetcar project, but would be knitted into a larger system.
    • Existing talks are underway to do something along State Street.  Maybe those talks should produce a high-frequency bus route that comes around every 10-15 minutes and goes from the end of that new streetcar line at the Idaho Statehouse, out to Eagle Rd. and meets back up with the UP tracks near St. Luke's Meridian (BLUE).  The route could also go east from the Statehouse and zip by St. Luke's Boise, up Broadway by Albertsons Stadium and connect to the transit center at Boise State.
    • Take that same idea and connect a high-frequency bus route from the Boise Airport to the Boise Depot.

    With a fleet of buses, passenger trains, and vision - you could put together a dynamic, thriving system that connects nearly every big thing in the valley.  The hospitals, the arenas, the major employers, the mall, the Village at Meridian, the airport and more.

    Bring it all together under a common, smart brand and you have a uniting concept.

    I also asked about how the city viewed driverless cars. It doesn't seem like this is something that is in their calculation - but it could change everything. (Why own a car at all when you can push a button and a robot can pick you up with a minute or two?)

    As I reported in my streetcar deep dive, Bieter said choosing a rail-focused system over buses came down to one thing. 

    "I believe everything in this process boils down to our vision for this community. In my mind, that means we build a streetcar."

    Pardy likened the streetcar to a loved Boise treasure. 

    "At one point someone had the vision to build the Greenbelt," he said.

    The mayor has his vision, and he has every right to work on it as he sees fit - he's been elected to his spot three times, and we live in a representative democracy.

    But maybe a different vision could make sense.  The great thing about the Boise River Greenbelt example is that it runs from Lucky Peak to beyond Eagle - and is a source of pride for everyone regardless of which city they call home.  Any transit system should have a similar Big Idea with an eye on 2040 - and serve as many people as possible.