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Friday — April 2, 2004


Plans evolve
for large lots

Simplot and YMCA proposals to be reviewed

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Council members, and the public, will have an opportunity next week to review evolving plans to develop two of the largest vacant land parcels in Ketchum.

Council members Monday, April 5, will discuss two separate plans by local groups to develop the Simplot lot, a 3.8-acre parcel west of the Ketchum Post Office, and the city-owned Park and Ride Lot, an approximately 5.75-acre parcel proposed as the site of a new YMCA.

The potential projects would be among the largest in the city.

The Wood River Community YMCA, a Ketchum-based group planning to build a $16 million, 95,000-square-foot recreational facility on the Park and Ride lot, will discuss with the council Monday the proposed financing for the project.

The city has pledged a grant of $3 million to match the first $3 million raised for the proposed YMCA. After the YMCA group in February exceeded the $3 million mark in its fund-raising campaign, the YMCA and the city are now considering the logistics of executing the $3 million city grant.

The city grant, which would come from local-option tax revenues, is subject to voter approval.

City Council members Monday will also review a revised plan to develop the Simplot lot, which is considered the largest piece of prime undeveloped land in central Ketchum. The parcel covers two city blocks between Second and Third avenues and Fourth and Sixth streets.

The Tourist-zoned lot is owned by Gay and Scott Simplot, members of the family that founded the Boise-based JR Simplot Company, a leading agribusiness corporation.

Ketchum architect James Ruscitto and real-estate broker Dick Fenton have assisted the owners in developing a conceptual master plan to develop the property with a mix of housing, parks and commercial space. The plan also includes a new headquarters for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Ruscitto, the project architect, and Fenton, the project manager, last year displayed a first rendition of the conceptual plan to the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission.

The primary aspects of the original plan included:

·  Developing the west half of the property with 25 paired housing units.

·  Selling a lot on the southeast corner of the site to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts for development of a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters and an attached park.

·  Constructing an approximately 25,000-square-foot commercial, residential and parking structure immediately west of the intersection of Fifth St. and Second Ave.

·  Selling to the city of Ketchum a parcel on the northeast corner of the site for location of a new 25,000-square-foot city hall.

Fenton this week said one substantial change and several minor changes have been made to the plans since last year.

With interest from city officials in developing a new city hall on the site apparently waning, the plan now calls for developing a second mixed-use structure on the northeast corner—instead of a civic center.

Fenton said the Simplots are willing to consider including some affordable housing in the master plan.

The owners, he noted, have not determined if they would develop the property themselves, develop it as part of a joint venture, or sell it with an approved development plan.

Fenton said the owners are not seeking to maximize their income from the project.

"We want the city to be happy with it," he said. "We’re trying to under-develop it and have it come out even on the economic end."

He added: "Someone could build a 180,000-square-foot shopping center there if they wanted to."

The key aspect of the plan is a request for the city to vacate two platted, undeveloped roadways on the parcel in exchange for a long-term agreement that would limit the amount of development and guarantee a set amount of public open space.

No formal application to develop the property has been made. For a development agreement to be approved, it would be subject to the review of the P&Z and City Council.


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