Friday, January 31, 2020

Bonneville Hotel in downtown Idaho Falls officially open

The facade of the Bonneville Hotel, in downtown Idaho Falls. The roof deck at the second level will be accessible to both commercial and residential occupants and will include landscaping and exterior amenities for dining, events and relaxation.
The kitchen in one of the apartments
The newly renovated Bonneville Hotel at Park Avenue and Constitution Way held a ribbon-cutting and open house Thursday, showing off an urban renewal project years in the making.

If you want to rent an apartment there you’re probably going to have to wait. All but three of the building’s 34 units — one studio apartment and two one-bedroom apartments — had been rented, said Amy Raymond, resident manager for The Housing Co.

Raymond said rent for a studio is $515/month, $606 for a one-bedroom and $708 for a two-bedroom unit. “We have such a great mix of people, from young people to retirees,” she said.

The project was announced by the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency, which administers money collected from the city’s urban renewal districts. IFRA put out a request for proposals in early 2016 and selected developers later that year. The winning proposal, from THC, called for a mixed-use development with commercial, retail, restaurant and residential spaces. THC was responsible for the restoration of the Whitman Hotel in Pocatello, and manages more than 1,500 units, currently assessed at over $48 million.

The cost of the project was estimated at $10 million. Approximately $440,000 will be funded by the agency, while the majority of the funding is coming from housing and historic preservation tax credits.

Built in 1927 by a group of community investors, the Bonneville was once the crown jewel of downtown Idaho Falls, but had fallen into disrepair by the turn of the millennium. The renovation required the removal of all existing plumbing and delivery lines and soil lines, down to the basement and from the basement to the street’s main discharge line. All electrical wiring and fixtures were removed and discarded except for any fixtures with historical value, which were sent out for repair and rewiring.

Lee Radford, chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, said they are very pleased with the results. “It’s what we were looking for,” he said. “It’s hard to say how long we’ve been talking about this.”

Time was of the essence, because the urban renewal district that made it possible was phased out in the fall of 2018. Idaho’s urban renewal law allows for tax increment financing in areas that wouldn’t otherwise lend themselves to economically feasible development. Basically, a property owner pays normal taxes on unimproved property, but taxes on any improvements are diverted to the redevelopment agency and the city to pay for infrastructure, e.g. curb and gutter, water and sewer, and electrical. Tax increment financing has help boost projects such as Snake River Landing and Taylor Crossing on the River, as well as the hotels on Lindsay Boulevard.

“We were always getting input from the community that they want us to do this,” Radford said. “If you have a strong center, everybody benefits from it.”