Inspired: An exclusive look at downtown Boise's newest building at 8th & Main
On Your Side newsroom
Dr. Tommy Ahlquist went from patching up people to patching up the biggest hole in downtown Boise. For over a decade the hole defined 8th and Main. But Tommy had a prescription for success. “It was a great corner. I thought it would be wonderful to do something there," he said.
That something became Tommy’s second passion. The emergency room doctor wanted to help the heart of downtown by creating a high-tech, iconic building. But he quickly discovered the hole was more like a pit, embroiled in bankruptcy and lawsuits.
"The first step was unwinding all that which was incredibly difficult. There were a couple of points where we were just walking away," he said. Determination won out. Tommy and his partner at Gardner Company resuscitated the hole.
In a short 18 months the building grew to become Boise's tallest - 323 feet to the top of the spire. "I'm very concerned about how it comes across and how it presents to people and their first impression," Tommy said. “Even until we almost had topped off with the steel, people would say, ‘This isn’t really going to happen,’ ‘This isn’t gonna happen.’ That was my first question: ‘Is it really going to happen?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, we've spent 20 million dollars, there’s steel all the way up to 18 floors, it's going to happen’."
For this doctor, a complete history is the only way to tell the project's full story. Even if it means proudly displaying old scars. Tommy's passion is contagious. He says relationships are the building blocks of his structure. And days before the grand opening, almost every floor is leased with a bank, law firm, restaurants, retail, even a gym and spa. “We want people to come in and feel like this building is different," Tommy said.
The building drips in sophistication, from high-end interior design to balconies stories above Main Street. Even to where the public will never go. Tommy is proud of it all. But when asked to show us the spot he loves most, he pointed up, to the prettiest storage room in the valley.
And then, for the first time ever, he allowed our cameras – and a very willing reporter - to climb to the top.
When asked about the controversy over the building’s spire, Tommy said, “When we designed and built it, we just didn't expect any controversy whatsoever. It was clad in aluminum, which doesn't look white, but when it got on there and was installed, it was just too bright." Tommy coated the spire to match the windows. He calls it a nice compromise. And that's saying something. Perfectionism may fuel him. But once a project is complete, this “doctor of development” discharges it and moves on to the next challenge.
“We really see… the connection to Boise State is so obvious, where Boise State becomes part of the downtown and all of the housing and business opportunities that will happen over time, and because of that, I think that’s the biggest economic driver,” said Tommy.
We can only imagine what's next for a man who healed a hole and in its place left something truly inspired.
“We’re just getting started,” said Tommy.
Here’s a fun fact about the building: it has three huge cooling towers that are drawing air from the outside. Because of those, Tommy expects to only have to run the air conditioner 3 to 4 days a year – for the entire year.
The public is invited to the building's grand opening festivities on Saturday, February 15th. The free family-friendly events begin at 1 pm, with live music all afternoon. The official ribbon cutting will be followed by a free outdoor concert by the Goo Goo Dolls.