Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 will be more stable for the Valley housing market, experts predict

By Joe Estrella - Idaho Statesman
Edition Date: 05/20/07
The Treasure Valley residential real estate market has taken a wild ride the last two years, with sales soaring to record heights in 2005 and early 2006, then plunging back to earth in late 2006 and early 2007.
Almost overnight, the seller’s market of 2005 became the buyer’s market of late 2006, with thousands of new and existing homes languishing on the market so long that some sellers this year were forced to slash their asking prices.
But falling sales didn’t automatically mean falling prices. Homeowners often hang onto homes rather than cut sales prices. Housing prices remained remarkably strong during the downturn in late 2006, with the median price of a home in Ada County jumping to $249,900, or almost 16 percent ahead of 2005. In Canyon County the median price was $160,000 at the end of ‘06, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.
It was March 2007 before housing values in Ada County showed a 1.3 percent drop from the same month a year ago. Canyon County fared a little better, with a 2 percent gain from March 2006.
Uncontrolled construction of single-family homes throughout 2005 finally caught up with the industry, a builder said.
Don Hubble, owner of Meridian-based Hubble Homes, said that in 2000 there were fewer than 2,000 listings on the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service, which tracks sales in the Valley. By late 2006 there were almost 6,000 homes waiting for buyers, Hubble said.
“By mid-2006, the supply outweighed the demand and it was definitely a buyer’s market,” he said.
Signs of a slow turnaround have surfaced in early 2007, although home builders and real estate professionals say a repeat of the red-hot 2005 market is unlikely.
According to Intermountain Multiple Listing Service statistics, housing sales in the Treasure Valley in 2006 were down 13.5 percent from the previous year.
Ada County suffered the brunt of the downturn, as the 10,113 transactions were almost 16 percent below 2005 totals. But Canyon County was not spared: 5,393 homes sold, off 9 percent from 2005.
Nevertheless, sales in Ada and Canyon County were 11 percent and 35 percent ahead of 2004, a year residential contractors say typifies a normal year for the local single-family housing market.
Jake Centers, head of Tahoe Homes in Meridian, said the 2005 boom was fueled by out-of-state investors who poured millions into area homes that they converted into rentals.
By mid-2006, however, waning investor interest and runaway housing production caught up with the market, he added.
“They (investors) just stopped looking, and it took a while for the market to react,” Centers said.
Centers said he expects 2007 to be a “stable” year.
“Everybody has cut way back on production,” he said. “So, we’ll go through the rest of the remaining inventory, and by 2008 the market will have completely corrected itself.”
But while housing sales were slipping in Boise, the Downtown condominium market boomed throughout 2005 and 2006.
BoDo developer Mark Rivers grabbed headlines last August when he proposed his $130 million Library Blocks redevelopment plan. The project would bring new housing, retail and office space to a blighted six-block area bordered by 9th and Capitol, and stretching from Myrtle south to the Boise River. The featured attraction would be a new $30 million Downtown library that would sit on the same site as the existing library.
Rivers said the slowdown in single-family housing should not hurt the Downtown condo market.
“It’s a market that is still emerging,” Rivers said. “So there is no historic data you can look at. But I think there is a lot of room left for a product that reflects urban living in Boise.”
Not to be outdone, Old Boise land owner Clay Carley and developer Gary Christensen announced their own ambitious retail, office and condominium project.
Carley and Christensen’s C-Squared Development LLC partnership plans a multiyear, multimillion-dollar mixed-use neighborhood development with a footprint of almost two square blocks, much of it in historic Old Boise.
Tentatively named Sustainable Community 1, the development would run from Main Street south to Front Street and from Sixth Street east to Fifth Street.
Initial plans called for phase one to include a 23-story condo tower where the Boise Rescue Mission now stands on Front Street.
Other condo projects under way include the CitySide Lofts at 13th and Myrtle, the Jefferson at 4th and Jefferson and the Royal Plaza at 11th and Main. Still to break ground are Boise Place, an ambitious hotel/condo development that would replace the ill-fated Boise Tower, and The Metropolitan at 15th and Idaho Streets.

New book ranks Boise 10th best U.S. city

Authors prioritize climate, cost of living and quality of life in ratings
By BOB MINZESHEIMER - USA TODAY and Idaho Statesman Staff
Edition Date: 05/09/07
The Boise area ranks as the 10th best place to live in the United States according to a new book.
In "Cities Ranked & Rated" (Wiley, $24.99), authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sander rate cities in 10 categories, from the economy to the arts. It's a big move up for Boise; in 2004, the authors rated Boise as the 68th best place to live in the U.S.
"Once again we are honored by this distinction," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "Ultimately, the most important opinions are those of our residents, but this kind of validation is quite gratifying. It also illustrates why we must continue to move forward with livability issues."
The book gives the most weight to cost of living, climate and one subjective measure: quality of life.
Gainesville, a "right-sized college town" that's home to the University of Florida, is the best place to live in the U.S., according to the book.
The authors give high marks to several other "satellite cities" attracting telecommuters, including Bellingham, Wash., (No. 2) and Colorado Springs (No. 4).
At the bottom of the rankings of 375 metropolitan areas is Modesto, Calif.
The 848-page book updates 2004 rankings by the authors, who have given more weight to affordable housing and reasonable commuting times.
Last month, Boise was named the third-best city in the country for business and careers by Forbes magazine. In July, Money magazine ranked Boise eighth on its Best Places to Live 2006 for small cities. Both magazines pointed to the city's strong economy and low unemployment rate.
Sperling and Sander's book relies on statistics as well as the authors' judgments of physical attractiveness and "ease of living."

Ten Mile Interchange plan ready for Meridian City Council hearing Tuesday

Meridian is making comprehensive long-range plans ahead of development rather than playing catch-up
By Hilary Costa -
Edition Date: 05/21/07
Meridian officials have a plan they're confident will bring developers to the city.
The comprehensive Ten Mile Interchange Specific Area Plan is an extremely detailed document laying out what future development should look like in the area surrounding the planned Interstate 84 interchange at Ten Mile Road.
Open fields still dominate the landscape there, but once the interchange is built (construction is expected to begin in 2009), the region is expected to boom with retail, residential and commercial developments.
"Will they come? I think they will," said Pete Friedman, a planner with the city.
The Meridian Planning Department will present the Ten Mile plan to City Council Tuesday night. If approved, it would be added to the city's Comprehensive Plan, which dictates land uses within the city.
The Ten Mile plan is a highly detailed proposal more than a year and nearly $100,000 in the making. It began with open house public meetings last summer and included a four-day planning summit called a charette, which brought representatives from the Valley's major transportation and municipal agencies together to lay out the future of the Ten Mile area. Friedman said about 700 people were involved in the process.
It has gone through multiple hearings at the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, which recommended its approval, prior to tomorrow's council hearing.
The plan that will go to council outlines a 2,798-acre area of new commercial and residential development, with a heavy focus on mixed-use neighborhoods.
The plan allows for single-family homes but emphasizes denser housing blocks ranging from apartments to townhouses, with built-in or nearby commercial uses that would encourage residents to live near where they work and walk most places they need to go.
At full build-out, the area would support more than 30,000 employees, according to city documents.
The plan also designates an upscale lifestyle center retail/commercial development, concentrated areas for industrial operations, park space and civic buildings.
To make the area come together as they envision it, city officials will have to work with the Ada County Highway District to plan roadways ahead of development, Friedman said, instead of playing catch-up to meet the transportation needs created by a new neighborhood or shopping district.
"We know developments going to move that way," Friedman said. "We just wanted to get in front of it."
Meridian has been accused in the past of allowing more growth than its network of rural, two-lane roads can handle.
The area also spans the current rail corridor, which city officials hope will one day house a light rail system connecting Caldwell to Downtown Boise.
The Ten Mile plan differs from anything the city has done before in that it relies heavily on design review guidelines. That means that once the city adopts certain design standards, it will have a legal basis to dictate how new buildings will look, down to the placement of windows on a store or the type of siding that goes on a condominium complex.
David Turnbull, president of Brighton Corporation, said he owns 120 acres of land within the Ten Mile area that the plan designates for mixed-use commercial, lifestyle center and high-density office uses.
Turnbull said design guidelines will help protect his investment because all surrounding development will be held to the same high standards.
Turnbull has been involved in the Ten Mile planning process from the beginning, and said there are still a lot of details to be worked out as it goes forward.
"It's nice to have kind of a blank slate of undeveloped property, and you can actually get some coordinated development plans going," Turnbull said.
• LDR: Low-density residential with a mix of lot sizes and a predominance of single-family homes.
• MDR: Medium-density residential of relatively low density with mostly single-family and two-unit homes. Also some three- to four-unit apartment buildings and community facilities such as libraries and schools.
• MHDR: Medium-high density residential with multi-family housing and community facilities, offices and smaller retail businesses.
• HDR: High-density residential with multi-family housing in larger and taller apartment buildings. At least 16 to 25 units per acre. Also retail/service businesses to serve residents.
• MUR: Mixed-use residential. Live-work units strongly encouraged.
• MUC: Mixed-use commercial with office, retail, recreational and employment uses with attached multi-family or single-family units.
• Lifestyle center: Upscale retail, professional services, offices, retail, civic services and residential. Outdoor format designed for pedestrians with open-air gathering spaces.
• LDR: Low-density office space for professional services and similar businesses. No retail.
• HDE: High-density employment for office, research and specialized businesses. No retail.
• Mixed employment: Office, research, light industrial. Retail designed to serve employees.
• Industrial: Typical industrial and manufacturing businesses. Not located near residential areas.By Hilary Costa

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Retail wave hits Valley; more stores are on the way

By Ken Dey - Idaho Statesman
Edition Date: 04/29/07

Deanna Durfee didn't mind battling for parking and braving nearly hourlong checkout lines to shop during the grand opening of Kohl's in Meridian earlier this month.
"It's nice to now have a variety of places to shop in a lot of different areas," she said.
Look around the Treasure Valley. New stores like Kohl's seem to be appearing out of nowhere.
"It's quite a phenomenon," Paul Hiller, executive director of the Boise Economic Valley Partnership.
As Boise's retail landscape matures, growth has been moving westward to Meridian and Nampa, creating large destination shopping areas anchored by big-box stores. The trend started in 1999 with the opening of the Crossroads shopping center in Meridian at the intersection of Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue.
The latest areas are in Nampa. Treasure Valley Marketplace at the Karcher Road interchange of Interstate 84 is the largest, anchored by a Costco, Kohl's, Target and Best Buy. Retail development also is growing near the Idaho Center with a new Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam's Club. And a proposed new Gateway development at Interstate 84's Garrity Boulevard exit will be anchored by a J.C. Penney store.
Dozens of smaller retailers are moving in, too, such as Taco Del Mar, a fast-casual Mexican food franchise. Developer Todd Hicks opened his first location at Eagle and McMillan Roads in fall 2004. He now has nine locations with three more in development.
"We know that the population is going to keep growing, and we have to build retail to support that," Hicks said. "People don't always want to drive into Boise to go to a Target."
To be sure, new stores still are coming into to Boise. Sporting goods giant Cabela's opened its first location in Idaho on Franklin Road near Boise Towne Square. In Downtown Boise, the BoDo development on 8th Street between Front and Myrtle streets brought new specialty retailers such as Urban Outfitters.
Valley residents now have choices for shopping and dining that rival those of bigger cities like Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
Just a decade ago, Boise shoppers were thrilled with the opening of the valley's first Wal-Mart on Overland Road. The valley now has six.
"It's crazy to see this much growth," said Jeni Ranstrom, 33, a long-time Meridian resident shopping at the new Kohl's. "This is where my father used to hunt and where we would go for country drives."
Still, Ranstrom said she thinks there is still room for more stores. Her suggestion: An Ikea, the popular home-furnishings store.
Attractive demographics
"It's a pleasant surprise to see this many retailers having an interest in the Treasure Valley, but I'm not that surprised because the demographics are exactly what retailers look for," said Bob Mitchell, a retail shopping center specialist and partner with Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate in Boise.
Mitchell, whose firm is marketing the Treasure Valley Marketplace in Nampa, said the area's population, relatively high income and low unemployment is a "great recipe" for retailers.
More than a third of Idaho's nearly 1.5 million people live in the Treasure Valley. Between 2000 and 2006, the population in the Boise metropolitan area, which includes Ada, Canyon, Gem, Boise and Owyhee counties, grew by more than 20 percent, to 567,640 from 464,840, according to the latest U.S. Census data.
Ada County's average income is also the second largest in the state at $39,302. Canyon County's average income is much lower at $20,397, but the new stores in Canyon County also serve much of western Ada County.
Pam Eaton, with the Idaho Retailers Association, says demographics also play a part.
"We have a bunch of different type of people moving in the the area from all over, with different socioeconomic backgrounds and different tastes in retail," Eaton said, "Everyone from college students, who seem to have more money than college students 10 to 20 years ago, to executives from companies like Micron, HP and SuperValu."
Mike Griswold, a retail expert with Boston-based AMR Research who has lived in Boise for two years, said the recognition Boise has received nationally over the past several years in magazines such as Forbes has helped catch the attention of retailers. Forbes named Boise as the third best place in the country for business and careers this year.
"You now have to take Boise seriously as a place to bring your business," Griswold said.
Dan Coughlin, president of the Missouri-based Coughlin Co. and the author of the coming book "Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum," said large retail companies are almost always in an expansion mode, and they look at areas where they can have an immediate impact on a market.
"Whoever can get a foothold in a community first and build relationships has the advantage," he said.
Mike Whatley, district manager for Kohl's, said the area had been on the company's radar.
And who is Kohl's target customer?
"It's the mom with a family with a disposable income who typically shops at the more traditional department stores," he said.
Just the beginning
The westward expansion probably will continue for years.
"For the next three to five years you're going to see a growing demand for retail services out where people live," Mitchell said.
A second phase of the Treasure Valley Marketplace already is planned and will bring another PetSmart and Sportsman's Warehouse as well as more banks and fast-food restaurants, Mitchell said.
Mitchell expects the next center for major retail growth to be the proposed Ten Mile Road interchange in west Meridian. Work on the I-84 interchange is supposed to start by 2010, and he expects retail to follow, just as it did with the Karcher Road interchange and Midland Boulevard exit in Nampa.
Hicks expects growth moving forward to fill in the holes between Boise, Meridian and Nampa and move into the outlying areas of Kuna and Star.
"Look at Kuna — it doesn't have a lot of retail, yet it has 20,000 people," he said. "We know that the population is going to keep growing, and you have to build retail to support that."
By the end of 2008, Hicks expects to have 15 Taco Del Mar locations in the valley.
"I'll stop when the valley stops," he said.

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