In order to keep the discussion fluid, and respect the conversation in the general projects thread, I've started this thread for discussion of Jack's place...
The following is from the Idahostatesman:
The idea for a Downtown parkscape that would offer something for everyone has been in the works for the past 10 years, said Simproject spokesman David Cuoio.
"J.R. had the idea for an agriculture museum long ago," Cuoio said. "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 late J.R. Simplot was an Idaho farm boy who became a billionaire, founding what became one of the world's largest agribusiness companies.
He died a year ago on Monday.
Jack's Urban Meeting Place, named in Simplot's honor, will occupy a nearly vacant four-block area between Front and Myrtle streets and Ninth and 11th streets in Downtown Boise.
It's an area of town where, on many nights, young people can be seen smoking with their friends on the abandoned cement blocks. Most of the area is used for parking.
Private funds from the Simplot Family Foundation will pay for the project. Construction is set to begin in spring 2010. It will cost more than $100 million and will provide more than 1,000 jobs, Cuoio said. By comparison, BoDo cost $60 million to build, and the LEED-certified Banner Bank Building in Downtown Boise was built for around $20 million. Hoffman Construction Co. in Portland will handle the project, but Ketchum architect Susan Desko has created some of the special design elements.
"Most of the money will be staying in the area and going to Idaho subcontractors and employees,"Cuoio said.
It is expected to take two and a half to three years to complete, he said.
"I'm excited that at such a critical time in the national economy the Simplots are bringing a project of this magnitude," Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said Friday afternoon. "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."
The family already owns most of the land, and the warehouses along Ninth Street will be taken down, Cuoio said. The building that houses the Emerald Club, one of Idaho's oldest gay clubs, will be demolished in January, he said.
One landowner may not be selling his property.
"It's uncertain what will happen with that little parcel," he said.
The project will go through the normal process of permitting and design review, said Adam Park, spokesman for Bieter.
There has been talk over the years of linking the project to a new convention center, and about expanding the Discovery Center and incorporating it into Simplot's vision of an agriculture museum, but the projects have gone their separate ways.
A 4-acre park will form the heart of Jack's Urban Meeting Place. The building's structure, shaped like a pointed oval, will form a perimeter around the park.
"It will be very open, light and airy," Cuoio said of the building.
Jack's Urban Meeting Place also will include studio space for artists and venues for gatherings.
"I think it's an extremely positive evolution on a number of fronts," said Phil Kushlan, executive director of Capital City Development Corporation.
The timing is good, and the psychological benefits of having the commitment of a project like this, in addition to the jobs that are created, will help Boiseans weather the rocky economy, Kushlan said.
"There is no higher gift to the community," he said.
Some details aren't final, but the Simplots are planning space for:
•A 4-acre park.
• An amphitheater for live events that will have dinner seating for more than 500 and theater-style seating for nearly 1,200.
• A sculpture garden will display a collection of antique tractors and other items, in keeping with J.R. Simplot's idea for an agriculture museum.
• Studio space for professional and amateur artists.
• A variety of outdoor and indoor venues for all types of gatherings, including classes, dinners and weddings.
• The building also may house the headquarters of the J.R Simplot Co., but those details still are being worked out.
Bethann Stewart: 377-6393
Statesman reporter Kathleen Kreller contributed to this report.