New subdivisions will bring urban feel to Eagle

Four planned high-density developments will include residential, commercial, entertainment elements

By Katy Moeller - Idaho Statesman

Edition Date: 04/16/07

In Eagle — a city known for estate homes, large lots and rural feel — high-density development is something new.

Four new subdivisions that sit side-by-side along the Boise River near Eagle's Merrill Park will bring hundreds of new condos, townhouses and patio homes to the city.

Along with it will come commercial space for restaurants, cafes and a movie theater that may be part of the proposed Eagle Gateway South.

The entertainment hub that developers envision for the area — once pastureland where horses and cattle grazed — has been dubbed the River District.

"We want to create a kind of Hyde Park and Bown Crossing kind of feel, where people can shop and stop and eat," said Aaron Doughty, developer of Eagle Gateway South.

"It will be a destination spot, a place for families to hang out on the weekend," Doughty said of the 57-acre mixed-use development, which may include as many as 42 condos and 72 single-family residences. "We want to make it a community hub."

The developers of Eagle Gateway South, located east of Eagle Road and south of State Street, are working closely with the owners of the adjoining Lonesome Dove property, a 41-acre site where 80 condos, 28 townhouses and 95 patio homes are planned.

Lonesome Dove, which used to be a ranch that held roping, rodeo and other events, also will have retail and office space."What we're trying to create is the flow and feel of an entertainment district," Lonesome Dove developer Chad Longson said of the concept of the River District.

Eagle has experienced a lot of growth in recent years. The city has almost doubled in size since 2000 and now has more than 21,000 residents, according to the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho.

The city continues to grow westward and is working with property owners in the Eagle Foothills, where as many as 30,000 new homes are proposed.

The influx of new homes along the river near Eagle's central commercial area is part of an urbanizing trend in the city, which has long been known for its large acreage/equestrian properties.

Now, a handful of developers are catering to newcomers who want more of an urban lifestyle — without living in a big city. These new residences require little or no yard maintenance, and they're within walking distance of the city's growing number of shops, restaurants, offices and businesses.

More people

If there's public resistance to high-density projects in Eagle, few people have voiced it. One resident expressed concern about access to the river and another raised the issue of potable water supply.

Steve and Susan Churchman submitted a letter to the city opposing the high-density developments in Eagle.

"We do not need to spoil the rural, spacious beauty of our town with this type of housing," the Churchmans wrote. "There are a lot of us who do not want to hear our neighbor's toilet flush in the night, and Eagle should remain the choice for us."

The city's Comprehensive Plan designated that area of the city as a site for high-density development. In fact, it allows up to 20 units per acre — the developments approved thus far are fewer than 15 units per acre.

Flooding concern

Some may wonder why the city would approve developments along the river when flooding was such a concern last year. City officials say they can't stop development that meets the city's stringent ordinances for building in the flood plain.

"We have FEMA's highest rating as far as preparedness," said Eagle City Councilman Steve Guerber.

That's why city residents receive a 20 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.

Eagle officials expect the Boise River will leave its banks, as it has historically, and they have created a task force to look at ways to mitigate impacts of flooding when that happens.

Teri Bath, president of the 480-member Eagle Chamber of Commerce, said a lot of people want to live in Eagle who don't want large homes or lots.

Bath said some of the "younger techies" from Micron and HP would rather ride their bicycles on the Greenbelt or hike in the Foothills than take care of a yard on the weekend.

"There are also empty-nesters like myself, and there are people who want to travel," Bath said.

The townhouses and condos built during the past couple of years in Eagle's new Paddy Row and Winding Creek subdivisions sold quickly.

"Obviously, the marketplace thinks there's a demand for it," said Eagle Councilman Scott Nordstrom of the new condo/townhouse developments planned along the Boise River. "They're trying to create an alternative to a big lot or subdivision kind of lifestyle."

Housing demand

Eagle has the highest median and average price points for homes in the Boise area, said Michael Hummel, a real estate agent who has lived in Eagle since 1999.

"The reason Eagle is a desirable place to live — you've got the Foothills and the river close at hand, plus the city has the best Comprehensive Plan in the state," said Hummel, who sits on the city's Park & Pathway Development Committee.