Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sandcreek Commons has come a long way in one year

Workers on the north wall of the Broulim's store at Sandcreek Commons.
It might not seem obvious, but it was a “his and hers” logic that put Cabela’s and Hobby Lobby next door to each other at the Sandcreek Commons shopping center on Hitt Road.

This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of women who are interested in outdoor and camping gear. But when putting together a 91-acre, $80 million shopping complex it’s all about finding the right mix, said Eric Isom, chief development officer for Ball Ventures, the company driving the project (in which Salt Lake-based Woodbury Corp. is a partner).
Eric Isom of Ball Ventures

On a basic level, Cabela’s is for dad, Hobby Lobby (which opens Aug. 3) is for mom, and both are stores that Idaho Falls and Ammon residents have been driving hundreds of miles to visit now in their back yards.

Phase One, which covers about 40 acres, has room for four anchor tenants. Cabala’s opened in May, Hobby Lobby is scheduled to open its doors Aug. 3 and Broulim’s, the Rigby-based supermarket chain, is on track to have its store open by the end of the year.

As for the last 50,000-square-foot anchor box, “We’re really trying to find the right tenant,” Isom said. “We will be pretty selective.”

Isom said they knew Sandcreek Commons was going to take off in 2015. In early June 2014, at the groundbreaking for D.L. Evans Bank, Cabela’s had already been announced. Once that was public knowledge, the other pieces fell into place. The news about Hobby Lobby and Broulim’s broke in September.

Right now, the nearest Hobby Lobby is in Logan, Utah. “People are excited it’s coming here,” Isom said. When they posted the opening date on Facebook, the news got more than 800 likes in less than an hour.

In addition to the anchor stores, several leases have been signed for space in the 18,639-square-foot retail center, next to the Broulim’s store. Isom said they are careful to let the tenants make the announcements themselves, but said the center will feature what one typically expects in a grocery anchored retail center: fast food, haircut places, etc. 

Eventually, they anticipate developing 320,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and service space.
All this is happening in addition to the development Ball Ventures is doing at Snake River Landing, where the Home2 Suites by Hilton is scheduled to open in late summer and a deal has been made with a residential developer for upmarket condos south of the Curtis-Wright ScienTech offices.

Isom said he is cautiously optimistic about the local economy. Snake River Landing got started in 2007 and had the advantage of leases that had been signed before the recession hit. They also had the advantage of being in a location where people wanted to be.

But with projects in 14 states, as far away as Florida, Isom said he sees what goes on with economic development all over the country and what Idaho could be doing that it isn’t — local option taxes, increment financing on sales taxes, property tax rebates, to name a few.

“In general, we need to continue to find ways to incentivize and encourage economic development,” he said. “We don’t have nearly the tools here in Idaho that there are in other places.”

As it stands, Phase One of Sandcreek Commons — everything happening north of Judy Street — will add nearly $80 million to the local tax base and 1,200 new jobs.
The line outside Cabela's when it opened.


Alpha Graphics eyes late summer for new building opening

Alpha Graphics Sales Manager Travis Powell in front of the company's soon-to-be new home on Woodruff Avenue
For Alpha Graphics of Idaho Falls, a new, larger building can’t be finished a moment too soon, said Sales Manager Travis Powell.

Right now, they have approximately 6,000 square feet divided between two buildings. When they move into the new building off Woodruff Avenue — probably in August — they will have 12,000 square feet under one roof, with an efficient floor plan and room to grow.

The Idaho Falls Alpha Graphics is a franchise operation owned by Lynn Nelson. There are about 300 stores in the United States and various countries.

The company offers traditional printing and signs as well as digital and offset printing and promotional items. Since opening in late September 2010, the Idaho Falls store has seen growth of about 30 percent each year, Powell said.

That growth made a larger facility critical, he said. The project is being financed by D.L Evans Bank and managed by Construction Solutions Company.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A little bit on the history of Idaho Falls and the Pioneer League

I will be speaking pre-game tomorrow night at Melaleuca Field for five or 10 minutes about baseball in Idaho Falls. This is something I prepared for anyone who is interested.

One of the things that impressed me about Idaho Falls when I first came here 35 years ago this week was the presence of minor league baseball. I was best man in a wedding in which the father of the bride was Gene Bush, president of the Idaho Falls Baseball Club. As part of the fun, the wedding party went to an afternoon Angels game July 3 at McDermott Field. I thought, "How cool is this?" It was a good first impression -- an look where I am now.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ziel-Dingman declares candidacy for I.F. City Council

City Council elections are this November and the first person to announce a candidacy is Michelle Ziel-Dingman, a local business owner and longtime non-profit advocate. Ziel-Dingman put out a press release Wednesday announcing she is running for Seat 1, currently occupied by Sharon Parry.

For the sake of full disclosure, more than five years ago she and I started the band Happyville. It has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and to say that I am fond of her would be an extreme understatement. At a regular news organization I would have to recuse myself from writing about her, but this is my blog and I can write whatever I want.

Currently the CEO of Artcore Visual Studio in Idaho Falls, Ziel-Dingman's past professional experience includes her time as the executive director of Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation. Before that, she was the marketing director for Snake River Landing/Ball Ventures and Grand Teton Mall (General Growth Properties).

She currently serves as chairwoman of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber Ambassadors and is involved with a variety of non-profit organizations including The Soup Kitchen and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. She was a key player behind two of the area’s major fund-raisers, The Great Race for Education and Dancing With the Idaho Falls Stars.

Ziel-Dingman has served on the boards of the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, EITC Foundation, Idaho Falls Advertising Federation and the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce. She has also served on the Mayor's Business Day planning committee, Mayor's Scholarship Committee, and most recently, Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal. Professional honors include the Idaho Aspen Award from the Small Business Development Center and the “Accomplished Under 40” award from the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Her campaign treasurer is Darin Dallimore.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hotel on the Falls restaurant, lounge and convention center being remodeled

Carpet and materials stacked up inside the restaurant at the Hotel on the Falls
After being locked up for close to nine months, there is finally work going on inside the Hotel on the Falls’ restaurant, lounge, banquet spaces and motel rooms.

The chainlink fence came down after property owner Dane Watkins signed a joint operating agreement with Colorado Hospitality Services of Northglenn, Colo., which bought the eight-story, 85-room tower at an auction in January for $2.3 million. Under the agreement, Watkins is leasing the space to Colorado Hospitality owner Bruce Rahmani of Denver, who is charged with remodeling and finding a company to run the restaurant and kitchen.

Event coordinator Tom Williams said they hope to have the motel rooms open by early July. It will probably be October before the restaurant and lounge are open for banquets and conventions, but they are already getting calls about events during the holiday season.

Watkins abruptly closed the restaurant, lounge and motel last August over a dispute with the company managing the facility, Om Shiv Ganesh, which was also managing the tower. The tower had gone into receivership in June when the owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against Om Shiv Ganesh for more than $3.4 million, claiming unpaid mortgage payments and taxes.

Westerra Realty & Management, a Salt Lake company, managed the property until Rahmani bought it Jan. 22. The tower reopened at the end to March. Situated in a prime location by the falls, Williams said the tower has been doing well. It was sold out completely the weekend of the Beer Fest and the following week, when a Little League tournament was held in Idaho Falls.

Known for years as the Westbank, the property dates back to 1928, when Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then more motel rooms. He retired in 1980 and died in 1987 at age 79.

After Clark left, the property went by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, it was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. That year, however, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while Watkins bought the motel, restaurant, lounge and convention center.

Idaho Falls, Ammon to reconfigure intersection at 25th Street and Hitt Road

The plan for a new signal at Hitt Road and 25th Street
It might be a little soon to think about the holiday season — Christmas is still more than six months away,  at least until Thursday — but here are early tidings of comfort and joy: Getting onto Hitt Road from the Target parking lot is going to be a lot easier by the end of this year.

At a work session Monday, the Idaho Falls City Council approved the reconfiguration of the traffic signal at Hitt and 25th Street, just south of the Ammon Town Center.

The city of Ammon has agreed to build an access road from the shopping center parking lot with left- and right-turn lanes. In effect, the intersection will become what was discussed years ago, a four-way traffic signal far enough from the signal at 17th Street to keep traffic on Hitt flowing in an orderly way.

This is much better than placing a traffic signal at the main entrance into the Target parking lot, said Chris Fredericksen, Idaho Falls Public Works director. “When you have traffic signals spaced too close together, they don’t function property, so we’ve always been reluctant to place a signal there.”

The solution approved Monday is to have a westbound, exit-only lane at 25th and Hitt. The reconfiguration will allow traffic to go straight, turn right and turn left out of the shopping center.

The cost has been estimated at under $200,000, and will be shared 50-50 between Idaho Falls and Ammon, with Ammon paying for the access road from the shopping center.

“This project is yet another joint effort to improve both safety and address traffic flow on Hitt Road,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “There is great willingness between the two cities to make the improvements happen in advance of the busy shopping season.”

Since April 2014, council members from each city have been meeting to discuss the intersections at Hitt Road and 17th Street, 25th Street and Sunnyside Road. With Cabela’s open and Hobby Lobby scheduled to open Aug. 3, the Sunnyside intersection and road improvements to the south were the top priority.

But the situation at Target has long been a frustration. “The public has waited long enough for better, safer movement in and out of Ammon Town Center,” said Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham.

Bank of Idaho plans customer appreciation day for Friday

Bank of Idaho will host a “Customer Appreciation Day” at its downtown Idaho Falls branch, 399 N. Capital Ave., Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A “shred” truck also will be on hand for customers who want to destroy old documents. There will be food from Dickey’s BBQ and a customer give-away.

Founded in Idaho Falls in 1985, Bank of Idaho has branches in Pocatello, St. Anthony, Ashton and Island Park. For more information on Customer Appreciation Day, call 524-5500.