Friday, October 4, 2013

Hailey Community Development Department busy with prospects

Shopko decides not to build at north end of Hailey


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey Community Development Department has been busy during the past year helping 24 businesses explore the possibility of setting up bases in the Wood River Valley’s largest town.
    Eight of these prospective commercial development projects are still in touch with Hailey City Hall, trying to find suitable locations and suitable property costs. The entities include Boise State University and a company that builds hotel and conference centers.
    Several projects are already coming to fruition. An O’Reilly auto parts store is nearing completion at the south end of town, while The Cottages eldercare facility is scheduled for completion by next fall across state Highway 75 from Albertsons grocery store.
    A sushi restaurant recently opened on Main Street, and a cosmetology shop is scheduled to open soon, also on Main Street. Wood River Dental will open Monday in a newly renovated building on Main Street, having departed a building on River Street.
    Hailey Community Development Director Micah Austin said the Shopko retail chain was interested in building a 34,900-square-foot building on the site that was taken by The Cottages.
    “They were looking at us for about six months,” Austin said. “As a general rule, the city does not seek out national chain brands because we want to support local businesses. But you can’t keep them out.”
    Austin said Shopko was working with the city and with two local developers to make the project happen, but Shopko executives could not negotiate land lease costs for it to be feasible.
    “It was also flawed since it would have needed a rezone,” Austin said. “That would have been a big challenge to overcome. Based on the Hailey comprehensive plan there would have been some resistance against drawing retail business out of the downtown core.”
    Austin said a retail convenience store chain took a look at a site formerly occupied by the Hitch Rack motel and store, but passed on the site. He said Valley Coop seed and feed and clothing and ranch supply chain also explored Hailey for a location before opening instead at the former bowling alley at the south end of Bellevue.
    Austin said about half of the companies looking to locate in Hailey have come to the city on their own. He said the other half he has pursued based on what he sees as a need in Hailey.
    Austin targeted Boise State University, which he said has expressed interest in establishing a research facility here.
    “The College of Southern Idaho does a wonderful job, but I want to bring more academic presence to the valley,” he said.
    Austin also contacted “Stealhead” a pseudonymous company that builds and manages hotels and conference centers. He said the company could bring 50 jobs to town if it decided to open in Hailey.
    “They believe there is enough of a market here,” said Austin, who is helping the company further explore possibilities.
    Austin said two more restaurants, including Sushi and Beyond, a “mom-and-pop” business from Japan, are looking to open in Hailey.
    “They found us, but we want them to stay here,” Austin said.
    He said a skateboard shop could also soon choose a location in town, to take advantage of Hailey’s world-class skate park, as well as a dry goods packaging facility, which could bring 35 jobs to town.
    Austin is also helping yet another eldercare facility explore the possibility of opening a site in Hailey. With at least two, new eldercare facilities opening within a year, he saw the need to contact a medical equipment business, which would provide equipment for long-term care patients.
    “Right now a lot of this equipment gets trucked up from Twin Falls seven days a week,” he said.
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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