Simplot Family Plans Large Project in Boise

Wed July 01, 2009 - West Edition
CEG




BOISE, Idaho (AP) The family of J.R. Simplot plans to start construction next spring on a $100 million “urban meeting place” in downtown Boise.

Project spokesman David Cuoio said the development will be called Jack’s Urban Meeting Place in honor of the potato baron, who died last year at the age of 99 and left behind a fortune estimated at $3.6 billion.

“J.R. had the idea for an agriculture museum long ago,” Cuoio told the Idaho Statesman. “Over the past decade, the family thought about it…and it has expanded into a broader concept that appeals to people of all ages.”

The plan calls for the development to occupy a mostly vacant four-block area between Front and Myrtle streets. Cuoio said it will be paid for from the Simplot Family Foundation and will take up to three years to complete.

The project first must go through the city’s normal permitting and design review.

“I’m excited that at such a critical time in the national economy the Simplots are bringing a project of this magnitude,” said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. “I am grateful to them for committing their energy and resources to improving Downtown Boise by creating new life on a stretch of blocks that is currently underutilized.”

Cuoio said building the project will provide more than 1,000 jobs.

He said the family already owns most of the land, and that warehouses on Ninth Street will be demolished, as will the Emerald Club, one of Idaho’s oldest gay clubs.

Jack’s Urban Meeting Place will have a 4-acre park at its center, with the building around it shaped like a pointed oval.

“It will be very open, light and airy,” Cuoio said.

The development will also have venues for gatherings and space for artists.

“I think it’s an extremely positive evolution on a number of fronts,” said Phil Kushlan, executive director of Capital City Development Corporation. “There is no higher gift to the community.”