Gardner Co. seeks changes to downtown Boise landscape

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The company that built the Zion's Bank building isn't done with downtown Boise.

Gardner Company wants to build a city center plaza around the current US Bank building, but they're facing some growing pains along the way.

The City of Boise's zoning and development ordinance protects the view from the Boise Depot to the Capitol Building on Capitol Boulevard.

"It's two of the most significant buildings in Boise, if not the state, so it's very important to a lot of people to have that view corridor," City of Boise current project manager Cody Riddle said.

Currently, the ordinance says that the property line of any portion of a building that is 45 feet high must be at least 25 feet away from the street. That explains why when you drive down Capitol Boulevard there is always a clear view of the Capitol itself.

Now, Gardner Company wants to build a city center plaza downtown that would break that rule.

The building would be taller than 80 feet, and would include office and retail space. The plans include an underground transit center, and an expansion to the convention center.

However, project managers say they are recommending the planning and zoning commission approve the company's request to encroach upon that 25 ft. setback, partially because other buildings on Capitol Boulevard have already obstructed that view corridor.

"We did recommend approval," Riddle said. "From our perspective we felt that the encroachment of a couple existing buildings already obstructs that view corridor. This proposal, it's shorter than those existing buildings. We feel it's unique and that the corridor won't be compromised any further with this encroachment, so we're comfortable with the request.

Gardner Company will have to have the variance approved by the planning and zoning committee before they can build anything. However, they say this is just a growing pain.

"We don't think it will be a big deal at all," Gardner Company CEO Tommy Ahlquist said. "I think it's something standard that happens. Asking for variances happens all the time and this particular one has absolutely no impact on the view corridor which it was put in place to protect."

The city's planning and zoning committee will hold a public hearing for the variance early next month, and then will make their final decision.

If the variance is approved, and Gardner's applications get approved by the city, they plan to start working on the $60 million project this summer.