Boise's Next Big Thing 

Ninth and River Street development could be new city gateway, linking the Boise Greenbelt to the downtown core.

Following the emergence of Whole Foods, the Eighth and Main Tower, and the burgeoning JUMP and multi-modal transit projects, Boise's latest project du jour will pop up on some of the city's most prime real estate--a 1.2-acre block on River Street, framed by Fulton, Eighth and Ninth streets.

In a process that triggered one of the most robust competitions in recent memory, the Capital City Development Corporation put the word out that it would entertain formal proposals for its underutilized, but much coveted property--attracting elaborate designs from some of the region's premier architectural firms.

"And our selection was made more difficult, in a healthy way, due to the high interest of some of the best development groups you could ask for," CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle told his organization's board of commissioners. "It's conceivable that more than one of these concepts will find a location in Boise."

Brunelle had everyone's attention. Similar to listening to the Academy rules being explained before the Oscars are handed out, attendees of the March 10 CCDC meeting nervously waited through Brunelle's niceties before he finally announced the choice. The only thing missing was an envelope.

"We can only begin the ... negotiating process with a single company, and staff is recommending it be with RMH Company of Boise," said Brunelle.

More than a few attendees rummaged through their packets of proposals from each of the competitors. And there it was: RMH's watercolored vision of two separate mixed-use condominium/retail buildings, divided by a shaded walkway serving as a pedestrian gateway from the Boise River Greenbelt, through BODO and toward the Grove Plaza.

"And another reason that this would be such a big deal is the library," Brunelle told Boise Weekly. "There could be changes in the wind at that location."

Indeed, in a March 5 memo to his own board of trustees, Boise Public Library Director Kevin Booe wrote that the future of the Ninth and River site "will determine how the library's footprint should be developed."

RMH partnered with Portland, Ore.-based GGLO to craft the winning proposal.

"But the purpose of the exclusive rights-negotiation process that we're entering now is to get a timeline and budget put together," Brunelle told BW. "Yes, there will be some refinement to their original proposal; that's a given."

RMH is estimating that the project--65 market-rate condos, retail and live-work businesses and rooftop gardens--has an approximate price tag of $17 million.

A best-case scenario would see ground broken in 2014.

"Hopefully, we'll get a project going this year," said Brunelle.

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