Macy's Building Eyed for Charter School Headquarters 

The private investment is expected to be close to $9 million.

Athlos Academies is eyeing the vacant 73,000 square feet that once housed Macy's.

George Prentice

Athlos Academies is eyeing the vacant 73,000 square feet that once housed Macy's.

There's plenty in store at the old downtown Macy's location, dark since March 2010.

"At the risk of jumping the gun, welcome to downtown Boise," John Hale, chairman of the Capital City Development Corporation, told Jason Kotter and Ryan Van Alfen, cofounders of Athlos Academies at a meeting of the urban renewal agency Feb. 9.

While Kotter and Van Alfen have plenty of heavy lifting ahead in order to turn 73,000 square feet of prime real estate into a charter school management organization, there was plenty of optimism at the CCDC session.

"Let me congratulate you ahead of time. I know you have a way to go, but I give you a lot of credit and we couldn't be any more pleased," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who does double-duty as a CCDC commissioner. Bieter added that he was anxious to "throw out the first basketball" at Athlos' grand opening, which, with any luck, could be in 2016.

Athlos Academies, headquartered in Boise, may be one of the biggest education secrets in Idaho. The company manages athletics-driven charter schools in Arizona, Minnesota and Texas—there are seven in the Lone Star state alone. The former Macy's building, at the corner of 10th and Idaho streets, would be used as a training and corporate facility.

"Picture walking by our huge picture windows, and you'll see 35 yards of striped astroturf on our main floor, plus a full basketball court," said Kotter. "We'll have teacher classrooms on the mezzanine, and the third and fourth floors will be office space. We want to occupy the entire space. "

The private investment is expected to be close to $9 million, and Kotter told CCDC commissioners that his company already has capital and a debt plan in place.

"We need to take out all the drywall and plaster and leave just the timber to begin the demolition, which could be, best case, 90 days," he said. "If we can get this done in a year, that would be great, because we really need the space."

CCDC Commissioner and former Boise Councilman David Eberle looked at the plans and smiled.

"It's not often I get surprised, but you surprised me," he said.

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