The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission gave the green light to three development projects totaling four hotels in downtown Boise during its Sept. 9 design review meeting.
Approval means construction can go forward on the Inn at 500 Capitol
at Front Street and Capitol Boulevard, a Mariott Residence Inn Hotel fronted by Pennbridge Lodging
at the former location of Dunkley Music on Broad Street and Capito, and Gardner Company's two-hotel project on the superblock known as Parcel B
next to the I-84 Connector on Front Street.
Pennbridge presented documents for its 10-story, 193,000-square-foot hotel, noting it made minor changes to automobile access and siding along its facade.
"Full steam ahead with that project," said Commissioner Thomas Zabala.
Planners gave greater pause to Obie Development's seven-story, 101,400-square-foot Inn at 500 Capitol, citing concerns about roofing and cornice details. Project representative Craig Slocum, of engineering firm CSHQA, sought to ease commissioners' minds, adding, "Our bigger concern is the aesthetic of the boutique hotel." The commission voted unanimously to approve the project to break ground.
The proposed development of Parcel B, however, proved to be the most contentious of the bunch. Commissioners and Gardner Company officials, including Chief Counselor Jeff Wardle and Vice President David Wali, sparred over a slew of aesthetic concerns with the project.
Specifically, commissioners wanted architects to add a public access point to the south hotel on Front Street that Wardle and Wali contended would be unnecessary. Foot traffic to the hotel, they said, would come from Broad Street rather than the sidewalk along the I-84 Connector. They also argued an entrance along the busy thoroughfare would pose security concerns, necessitate more hotel personnel to operate the entrance, and be located too close to maintenance and hotel security operations to be practical.
"From a security standpoint, having an entry point here would not be possible," Wali said.
Other points of disagreement included how developers would line the southern sidewalk with trees and whether to extend a lattice covering sections of the project's eight-story parking garage all the way to the ground—a move Wardle said would pose safety and liability risks.
"This lattice looks to your typical teenager like a ladder," he said.
Gardner first fronted its plans for Parcel B in June, when the company—which backed the construction of the Eighth and Main office tower—announced the project on one of downtown Boise's largest undeveloped properties. Designs for the project have undergone numerous changes since then. Gardner went before planning and zoning to seek approval for a seven-story, 125,579-square-foot, 170 room hotel at Parcel B's northwest corner; a five-story, 84,160-square-foot, 130-room hotel on the southeast corner; and an eight-story, 299,584-square-foot, 950-parking space garage.
In the end, commissioners unanimously voted to approve the project, pending a future work session during which aesthetic considerations, including the density of trees planted on the property's Front Street border and the proposed public entryway to the hotel on the southeastern corner, will be addressed.
The scale of the project drew criticism from neighbors, including Olivia Weick, a resident of the nearby CitySide Lofts, who worried the development would disrupt her commute and the cityscape.
"This is what I would be looking at from my home," she said. "My view right now is looking at the foothills."