First a dry cleaner, then a proposed condo building. What’s next at 8th & Fort?

·3 min read

The site of a dry cleaning business turned into the site of a proposed condo building. But after the coronavirus pandemic began, and uncertainty hit the construction industry, the site turned into a potential church office building.

For now, it still sits empty.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise bought the property on the northeast corner of 8th and Fort streets in Boise’s North End neighborhood in October 2020. Three years prior, the Boise City Council approved a request from Southers Properties to allow construction of a four-story building that would include 31 condominiums and ground-floor retail space.

The property is where Baird’s Dry Cleaners used to be, across from the Boise Co-Op. It’s down the street from Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, which made it attractive to the Diocese. Detailed plans have yet to be formed, but Diocese spokesman Gene Fadness wrote in an email he hopes the new chancery will open within three years depending on the planning and city approval process.

“We bought this property because of its proximity to the cathedral, which is the mother church for the Diocese of Boise,” Fadness wrote in an email. “It is very traditional that the chancery, which includes the offices of the Bishop and all the diocesan departments, is almost in all cases either right next to the cathedral or only a few blocks away.”

For now, the Diocese offices are on Federal Way, about 3 miles south of the cathedral. It’s unusual for the two places to be that far apart, Fadness wrote. The chancery has offices for the Bishop and 32 diocesan employees.

Developer David Southers and development colleague Tim Gardiner, who owned the property, said most of the residential units were already reserved in early 2020. The project was moving along and close to beginning construction, Southers said in a phone interview.

COVID delayed the North End project

After the pandemic hit, uncertainty swirled around the construction industry. Gardiner initially wanted to wait to see how COVID-19 would affect the situation, he said in a phone interview. By September of last year, construction costs rose 18%, he said.

That meant in order to cover costs, prices for residents also likely would have had to increase 18%, Gardiner said.

“I did not want to get a reputation for being a bait-and-switch type of a person,” Gardiner said. “After long and hard thought, I was nervous to go forward.”

Around that time, the Diocese inquired about buying the land. As conversations continued, Gardiner realized the church’s interest was serious.

“It seemed to me the prudent thing to do was to take the bird in hand and not have to risk building it in an uncertain construction climate,” Gardiner said.

The project would have been similar to Southers’ Hyde Park Place, a 40-unit condominium four blocks away that was built in 2003.

Gardiner said he thinks the project would have been successful.

“But I also have to protect my rear end,” Gardiner said, “and make sure that I don’t put myself in a position of undue risk. The less-risky option was to sell the parcel.”

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