Published on September 20th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine0
Five years removed from launching a Boise office, Babcock Design has reeled in an impressive list of Gem State design projects.
A/E/C firms looking to grow organically while increasing revenues (and hopefully profits) often gaze their attention across state borders, particularly when a promising opportunity arises in the form of a notable project or two.
Transitioning from a couple of fruitful long-distance projects to opening a full- fledged, permanent out-of-state office often requires a combination of favorable factors for long-term success – active clients, ripe economic conditions, and the ability to develop consistent industry relationships.
It’s been just over five years since Salt Lake-based Babcock Design (BD) opened a satellite office in Boise, and the architectural firm has hit on all those factors to carve out a nice niche for itself, highlighted by notable downtown projects like Boise City Center Plaza that have helped revitalize the heart of Idaho’s capitol.
“It’s pretty hot – the corridor between Caldwell and Twin Falls is really busy,” said Rob Cottle, BD President/CEO, regarding his firm’s work in Idaho since May 2012. He said the building climate and general economy of the greater Boise area seem to be in-step with Salt Lake, and it’s helped the firm blow by initial growth projections.
“The main issue is (labor)…contractors struggle to find trades people; it’s a little more expensive to build in Boise than it is in Salt Lake, but that doesn’t seem to slow anything down,” said Cottle. “Boise has had a lot to do with our rebound from the downturn. Five years ago our firm had 17 people and now we have 40. We officially opened the Boise office with one person who was sharing loft space, and now we have our own office with 12 employees, all people from Boise, so it really is a ‘local’ firm.”
BD’s first major project was as design architect on 8th and Main, a $76 million, 18-story, mixed-use tower developed by Gardner Company that opened in February 2014. That was followed by the design of the $70-plus million City Center Plaza and Boise Center Renovation, a true public/private partnership completed last September between Gardner Company, Capital City Development Corporation, The Greater Boise Auditorium District, Valley Regional Transit, Boise State University, Clearwater Analytics, and the City of Boise – each playing a key role in this project’s fruition.
The project includes 371,000 SF of space highlighted by a nine-story tower, a transit hub, retail and restaurants, and convention center space, all of it with premier views of the City’s most prominent downtown features.
Other notable BD Idaho projects include Clif Bar Manufacturing Bakery in Twin Falls, Library Square in Nampa, the Nampa Medical Complex, West Valley Medical Complex in Caldwell, Boise State University Computer Science building and numerous TI/Interior designs including the Zions Bank 8th and Main office and the Clearwater Analytics headquarters.
Cottle is quick to credit BD’s ties with Gardner Company, and the ambition of CEO Tommy Ahlquist in Boise, for giving it a strong base to build on.
“We never planned on being up there (long-term), but Tommy Ahlquist is quite the visionary and a real deal maker – he’s been aggressive in building some pretty amazing projects, and we’re lucky enough to get hooked up with them based on previous relationships.”
He said projects like 8th and Main and City Center Plaza are without a doubt major feathers in the cap, and he believes the firm is well positioned for the future. “We wanted a local presence, we hire local people, it’s a true Idaho operation tied into our Salt Lake group,” said Cottle.
BD Idaho Projects
TM Crossing– Currently under construction, this mixed-use development at I-84 and 10-Mile Road in Meridian will include two Class A office buildings (140,000 SF and 80,000 SF).
City Center Plaza; Clearwater Building – 371,000 SF mixed-use project includes a the 9-story Clearwater Building, a transit hub,
retail and restaurants, offices, classrooms for Boise State University and convention center space, all with premiere views of downtown’s most prominent public spaces. Clearwater Analytics, a leading Boise technology firm, is headquartered in the top floors. The project earned 2017 ‘Best Overall Project’ from Boise City Building Excellence Awards.
Clif Bar Manufacturing Bakery State-of-the-art 276,000 SF organic factory was completed in Fall 2016 in Twin Falls. It uses a biophilic design – an integrative approach to architecture while expressive the owner’s dedication to sustainable values and ‘Five Aspirations’ – people, community, business, brand, and planet. Food Engineering magazine gave it the ‘Sustainable Plant of the Year’ award for its 100% renewable energy and reduced use of refrigerant emissions (40%), water use (37%) and energy use (21%).
8th & Main Office Tower This 390,000 SF tower replaced in a spot notoriously derided for years as the ‘Boise Hole’ and began the transformation at the heart of the downtown area. It’s the tallest building in Idaho (18 stories – 323 feet; 278 without its spire), occupied by Zions Bank, law firm Holland & Hart, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. (BD’s office is on the 9th floor).
Nampa Library Square
This three-story, 62,000 SF library is the main anchor for the block, serving as a de facto community center and gathering space in downtown Nampa. A third floor exterior patio looks onto the visually stunning plaza below.