Local businessman Joshua Evarts’ plan to build two four-story buildings in downtown Meridian got a green light from City Council this week, prevailing over another development proposal.

City Council accepted Evarts’ proposal Tuesday at a joint meeting with the urban renewal agency, Meridian Development Corporation. A public hearing needs to be held before ownership of the old City Hall can be transferred from the city to the urban renewal district, said Bill Nary, Meridian city attorney. After that the district will sign an agreement with the developer, he said.

If approved, a groundbreaking could take place as early as next May.

The proposal was one of two considered for the old City Hall building. Development company deChase Miksis also proposed a plan for the old City Hall space, seeking to build a two- to six-story building with residential, office, parking and commercial. That proposal requested millions of public dollars, in part to pay for a public-private parking garage.

Evarts, managing partner of Novembrewhisky Properties, is partnering with Pacific Companies on the project. He owns the Heritage building in downtown Meridian, home to local tech firm Zennify and pub Heritage Hop Haus, and in 2016 he renovated an old Meridian bank building into a cigar lounge called the Vault.

A city committee formed to review both proposals supported Evarts’ plan, which had a tighter timeline and would pay the city for the old City Hall, committee representative Brad Hoaglun said. He also mentioned housing in the proposal was more affordable. Residents in the proposed apartments would be paying between $999 to $1,160 a month, Evarts said.

The buildings are slated for the old City Hall site, 33 E. Idaho Ave., and for the northwest corner of Main Street and Broadway Avenue. If approved, construction could be completed by the end of 2020. Evarts originally planned to redevelop the Main and Broadway site in 2017 but took a step back when construction costs skyrocketed. The two buildings there, 703 and 713 N. Main St., are owned by the Meridian Development Corporation. In March 2017, MDC agreed to give Evarts the land if he presented a development project they approved and paid for the costs of transferring ownership of the properties, Evarts said.

The proposal includes a space for the unBound library branch, Evarts said. The details of the space have not been finalized, he said. UnBound leases 713 N. Main St. for $1 a month, said Nick Grove, tech library supervisor for the unBound library branch.

The proposal from Novembrewhisky Properties is expected to cost $20 million, Evarts said. He said $7.4 million of that would come from the developers in cash and the other $11.6 million would be paid for in construction loans. Evarts said the developers would pay the city $565,000 for the old City Hall property.

The plan includes 105 parking stalls between the two buildings and an additional 46 spaces on Idaho Avenue.

The buildings would have commercial space on the first floor and residential units on the top three. Combined, the two buildings would have 103 residential apartments — totaling roughly 105,000 square feet — and a little less than 16,000 square feet of retail/office space.

A third building could enter the mix in the future. Novembrewhisky Properties approached the property owners of the building next to the Heritage building on North Main Street to discuss buying that site. The third building would add another 42,000 square feet and 16 parking spaces. Retail or commercial would likely take up the first and second floors, with a total of 16 residential units on the third and fourth floors.

The other proposal

The deChase Miksis development would have been at the corner of North Meridian Road and East Broadway Avenue, where the old City Hall and the First Interstate Bank are.

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The proposal included 111 residential units, 282 parking spaces — including 75 for the public — 29,400 square feet of office space and 8,500 square feet of retail space.

The plan called for a two- to six-story building with residential, office, parking and commercial across from the current Meridian City Hall, a residential complex and a parking garage.

The plan would require the city to pay the developer $3.3 million. Developer Dean Pape said this money would likely be provided through waivers of impact fees, building permit fees and the old city hall land, estimated to be worth $1.6 million.

The developer was asking for the urban renewal agency to pay for the proposed private-public parking garage, costing roughly $12.3 million. Pape said the city could pay for this through redistricting, putting this block within its own urban renewal district, and passing a bond.

“The funding coming off the parking garage for parking use and the tax funding that would go to MDC would help pay for the parking garage as a whole,” said Pape.

The proposal estimated the garage would net $832,517 over 20 years, while the bond was being repaid. After that, the garage would generate roughly $484,000 a year, the proposal said.

The project was estimated to be completed by fall 2021, the proposal said.

The decision

On Tuesday, City Council voted 4-1 to accept Evarts’ proposal. Councilman Ty Palmer opposed the motion, and Councilman Joe Borton abstained due to a conflict of interest.

Nathan Mueller, the urban renewal board vice chairman and CEO of Zennify, said he and Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts were both in favor of seeing the deChase Miksis development in downtown Meridian at another location.

“Your presentation is very good and the project you want to do in downtown has a lot of potential for downtown,” Mueller said.

Mueller said in this instance downtown “needs some action.”

“We have a project fully financed... and then we have one that is going to take six months or even a year to do redistricting and stuff like that,” he said. “The decision was made one way, but we would love to talk to you.”

Pape said they would consider building in another location in downtown Meridian “if the opportunities comes forth” that “fits the wants and needs of the community” and fits their goals.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com.

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