Tax credits attached to Bonneville project

Construction on an approximately $11 million project to renovate the Bonneville Hotel is expected to begin in September and conclude a year later. Monte LaOrange /

It’s hard not to notice construction of the multimillion dollar mixed-use retail space at Broadway Street and Memorial Drive. This year, expect similar activity at the nearby Bonneville Hotel.

The Housing Company, a Boise-based developer that rehabilitates old properties, secured millions in tax credits to extensively remodel the Bonneville, which was built in 1927.

The credits are integral to the approximately $11 million project’s feasibility, Housing Company Development Manager Blake Jumper said.

“They’re crucial. Without low-income housing tax credits these projects wouldn’t happen. Financially it’s too hard to piece together, so it’s very important,” he said.

The Bonneville, which currently houses 63 low-income apartments, has fallen into disrepair in recent years despite once being the “hotel premier of the entire state of Idaho,” according to a 1927 Idaho Falls Times-Register article.

The remodeled space will include 35 low-income and market rate housing units, as well as 5,200 square feet of retail space.

To fund construction, The Housing Company secured a 10-year, $7,668,807 low-income housing tax credit from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. Low-income housing credits are common among affordable housing developers.

Rarer is the 5-year $1,784,294 historic tax credit awarded by the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service. Historic tax credits are dependent upon preservation of attributes unique to the building’s era, including, in the Bonneville’s case, exterior masonry and window detailing.

“We’re trying to preserve as much as possible, so there’s a whole laundry list,” Jumper said.

Construction is expected to begin in September and conclude a year later.

The project was spurred by the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency, a city entity tasked with promoting development and tax base growth.

The agency has a purchase-lease agreement with current Bonneville owner Kent Lott. Closer to construction, the agency will donate the building to the Housing Company — essentially a $1 million contribution in order to encourage additional development. The Housing Company will pay the remaining difference for renovations.

Jumper said the Housing Company is discussing with the agency, Lott and other organizations the eventual relocation of current Bonneville residents, though no plans are set.

“We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Jumper said.

After construction concludes, the Bonneville and mixed-use Broadway projects will be “nice bookends” for the central downtown business district, Idaho Falls Community Development Services Director Brad Cramer said.

Whereas the Broadway — a new public, retail and housing space — will provide a “great entryway to downtown,” the Bonneville will serve as a reminder of Idaho Falls’ past, Cramer said.

“It’s such a historic building. I don’t know if too many remember its story — to me it’s exciting that story gets to be preserved and brought back to what it used to be,” Cramer said. “And we’ll have some good opportunities to continue to provide supply for the demand for downtown housing.”

Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.