Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guns and Gear kick starts proposed urban renewal district

Dixie Murphy, inside Guns and Gear, scheduled to open in November.
With close to $3.5 million invested, Guns and Gear on Crane Drive is poised to give the blighted land around it a shot in the arm.

Dixie Murphy is fairly certain that nobody will have seen the likes of their indoor shooting range. Staff has been hired and a grand opening has been scheduled for Nov. 21. Murphy, partner with her son Shane and his friend Ryan Later (who approached them with the idea in 2012), has a grandmotherly way of talking about Glocks and AR-15s, tactical and static target lanes featuring the latest computer technology, and an HVAC system compliant with EPA regulations.

Overall, they have spent $2.8 million on the two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, which overlooks the Snake River Landing development, and $700,000 on equipment.

Aside from everything happening inside the walls, however, Guns and Gear is poised to bring more development to the ground between Interstate 15 and the Porter Canal, just west of Snake River Landing.

The Idaho Falls Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a hearing Nov. 5 about designating 55 acres as the Eagle Ridge Urban Renewal District. If the commission favors the proposal, it will send its recommendation to the Idaho Falls City Council for a vote Dec. 11.

What an urban renewal district allows is tax increment financing through the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency. Put simply, while the taxes collected on the land Guns and Gear sits on will go toward schools, city, county, fire protection, etc., the taxes collected on the building and other improvements will go to the Redevelopment Agency to be spent on roads, water, sewer and power lines in the district.

Although the Redevelopment Agency has existed since 1968, Idaho Falls didn’t institute its first urban renewal district until 1988. That was when the Shilo Inn was to be built, and the taxes collected from the improvements on blighted land along Lindsay Boulevard made developments like Taylor Crossing on the River feasible. A second urban renewal district, called River Commons, incorporates Snake River Landing.

What any urban renewal district needs is a big project to kick start the tax increment financing to make other development possible, said Idaho Falls City Planner Brad Cramer. “There’s suddenly a buzz about this land that has been sitting there for years,” he said.

One person who recognizes the potential is Steve Keim, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Intermountain. With two silent partners, Keim has formed the Eagle Ridge Co. and bought a lot of the land inside the proposed district.

Ten years ago, with Renaissance Partners, Keim played a role in bringing in Fairfield Inn and the Super Wal-Mart on Utah Avenue, so he recognizes what urban renewal makes possible.

“This (Eagle Ridge) piece sits right between the two other districts and right inside a curve on the Interstate,” he said. “There is a lot of potential for Idaho Falls to make a better showing to people driving on I-15.”

Although she is focused on opening Guns and Gear, Murphy said she would be happy to see development around them. “I knew when we started this project it was going to jump start the land values on this bench,” she said. “Maybe this is where Costco will want to build. I would love that!”