After developers from the Gardner Company and Local Construct finished talking about their newest proposals to introduce a mixed-use apartment building just west of Boise's downtown core, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter turned to his fellow Capital City Development commissioners and smiled.
"These are exceptional proposals," said Bieter on Monday afternoon. "I only wish we had more properties for each of these. They're great."
Therein lies the dilemma before CCDC, which will need to decide sooner than later what proposal it prefers to rise from its property at Idaho and 14th streets
, the current site of the Watercooler.
The Watercooler, opened initially to serve as a small business incubator, is now coveted by two of the region's most visible developers, both of whom were told by CCDC that they're particularly interested in strong financing, a portfolio of similar housing projects and a quick construction timeline, among other things.
Local Construct is proposing a three-story project, featuring 32 market-rate apartments and seven more live/work units on the street level. Its development cost tops $5.8 million. Meanwhile, Gardner envisions a six-story project with five floors of apartments atop the existing Watercooler building and adjacent enclosed parking. Gardner's estimated development cost could run to $11.5 million.
Local Construct officials said the rates for their studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments would be similar to rates currently charged at another of its recent projects, The Owyhee, where units cost $950-$1,1150 per month. Gardner officials said they would charge a bit more for studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments: $1,250-$1,400 per month. The Local Construct plan also includes a so-called "pocket park," some green-space in front of the building for public use.
"It's ultimately important to us that the apartments be more affordable," said Mike Brown, Local Construct co-owner. "We envision our tenants as being someone who would walk a few blocks to stores and restaurants, not have them all out their front door. This is something we do now. We don't need a lot of analysis. We're ready to go now."
Meanwhile Gardner obrought along a familiar face to help with its proposal: Boise restaurateur Dave Krick.
"When we first opened on Eighth Street, we were among the first there," said Krick, referring to his restaurants Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge. "And then we opened Bardenay on Eighth Street and we brought some life there. We've been looking for a downtown Boise location for our next project, but we've been very quiet about it."
That's when Krick unveiled his plan to partner with Gardner in opening a new brewery/restaurant in the Watercooler building and use it as an anchor at the corner of Idaho and 14th streets, tucked into Gardner's proposed 6-story apartment building.
When Gardner and Local Construct officials had finished their pitches, CCDC commissioners were mostly positive about both proposals. But they'll need to come a decision soon. Officials are hoping to approve a so-called ERN—an exclusive right to negotiate—by early July.