Friday, January 12, 2007

Bellevue commercial construction booms

Expansive Main Street is site of numerous projects

Express Staff Writer

The only major commercial construction project under way in Hailey is the 31,270-square-foot Meriwether Building at the intersection of First Avenue and Carbonate Street. Bellevue seems to have a leg up on other Wood River Valley communities in terms of the amount of commercial construction occurring downtown. Photo by Willy Cook

In comparison with other communities in the Wood River Valley, Bellevue appears to have a leg up in terms of potential for commercial construction on Main Street.

North to south, a higher number of empty lots still exist along this south valley city's primary thoroughfare.

And this doesn't even take into account the large number of Main Street Bellevue lots with older homes and shuttered buildings just waiting to be bought up and redeveloped for more lucrative commercial purposes.

So, if conventional wisdom proves true—that growth and business is shifting southward in part because of lower property values—then it would seem that Bellevue may be primed for a commercial construction renaissance.

But is it happening?

One way of answering the question may be to look at the number of commercial construction projects that have been approved by the city or are currently under way.

On Monday, Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles laid out projects that are under way along Main Street, in addition to those that have been approved but aren't yet under construction.

At Bellevue's north end, one project is a large, 10,000- to 11,000-square-foot multi-tenant retail building next to the Bellevue branch of First Bank of Idaho.

The building—part of an ongoing, multi-building retail project spearheaded by local developer Ron Sharp—is located within the Bellevue Business Park.

Several additional buildings in Sharp's project have been approved but are not yet under construction, Eckles said.

Nearby and immediately south of Atkinsons' Valley Market is the site of another project approved by the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission last December. The roughly 14,600-square-foot retail building is to be built for an as-yet-to-be-specified use, Eckles said.

But construction hasn't yet begun.

Farther south, at the intersection of Main and Cottonwood streets, another commercial construction project is under way.

The 5,000-square-foot building, to be called the Milestone Building, will have three separate retail spaces when complete. Napa Auto Parts is already on board as the building's primary tenant. The building is being developed by Milestone Builders of Twin Falls, Eckles said.

Several smaller projects throughout Bellevue are either under construction are have just been completed, he noted.

At the north end of town, at the Sun Valley Garden Center, additional office space is being built, while at the Splash and Dash convenience store a small addition to the building's north side is under construction.

Near the south end of town, the owners of the High Country Motel recently added an additional seven units.

"I think they just finished up," Eckles said.

Throughout Bellevue, several other projects have already gained design review approval from the city, but are not yet under construction, Eckles noted.

At least for the moment, the number of commercial construction projects happening along Hailey's Main Street is noticeably smaller.

Currently, only one commercial construction project is under way. Called the Meriwether Building, the large 31,270-square-foot building located one block off of Main Street at the corner of First Avenue and Carbonate Street will include a mix of retail and office space.

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission approved the large building project in November 2005.

Aside from the Meriwether Building, only two other commercial projects are in the developmental stages in Hailey.

The projects—both proposed as banks—are planned for the intersections of Main and Chestnut streets and Main Street and the private drive just south of the Albertson's grocery store in northern Hailey.

Both projects are in the midst of a design review process by the Hailey P&Z.

One major project was recently completed in Hailey. The 64-room Hailey AmericInn Lodge and Suites near the city's northern border opened last month.

A drive-by survey of commercial properties advertised as being for sale along Bellevue and Hailey's main streets provides another interesting—although somewhat anecdotal—view of the state of the commercial scene in the two cities.

In Bellevue, at least six signs advertising Main Street properties for sale could be seen last Monday. In Hailey, just two signs advertising properties for sale were visible along Main Street.

All of this comes as little surprise to Vicki Walker, of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. Walker is the owner of the Oak Street Takeout, one of Bellevue's Main Street businesses.

"I think more and more will happen as more (residential) projects happen south of here," Walker said.

City leaders have anticipated the potential for growth and are making plans to have additional services in place once that happens.

"We're catching it before it gets here," Walker said.

The potential for a surge in Bellevue's population in the coming years is another reason the burgeoning growth there makes sense. City officials are considering three annexation applications that would effectively double the city's size.

And it all has Walker thinking that current growth in Bellevue is just the beginning.

"Bellevue is kind of coming out of a slump," she said. "It's definitely a work in progress."

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