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The URA is buying the Idaho Youth Ranch building — with hopes of turning it into downtown housing

Idaho Youth Ranch

The former Idaho Youth Ranch building will be demolished and replaced.

TWIN FALLS — The intersection of Main Avenue and Hansen Street is quickly becoming the heart of downtown.

To the east, a new City Hall serves as a place where much of the public’s business is conducted. To the north, a vacant lot — now under construction — will soon become a spot where adults and children come to socialize and play.

What’s next? Continuing in his vision to see a downtown where people “live, work and play,” Urban Renewal Agency Executive Director Nathan Murray wants to bring housing to the western corner.

On Monday, the agency voted to buy the historic building that’s been home to the Idaho Youth Ranch since 1989.

“I think this is critical property and that a project from Urban Renewal related to that property is a great idea,” URA board member Perri Gardner said.

The URA will pay $470,000 for the building, then lease it to the Idaho Youth Ranch for one month.

The Idaho Youth Ranch, in search of a larger space, has intended to sell the building for some time. But it’s not ready to announce its plans following the sale just yet.

“Twin Falls is a market that we expect to be in in the future,” said Jeff Myers, the corporate vice president of social enterprise.

The thrift store will pay $2,400 for rent while it prepares to vacate the property.

According to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, the building was constructed in 1905 as Allen Mercantile Co. and later renamed the Idaho Department Store. Its top floor served as the county courthouse from 1907 to 1910.

“It’s a unique building in terms of its history,” Murray said. “… We’d like to see it put to a higher and better use to that part of downtown.”

The URA vote passed unanimously, with Rudy Ashenbrener abstaining. Brad Wills had already resigned from the board.

Board members also discussed what would be done with the building. The initial plan is to remove the metal façade to reveal the original brick and discover what the URA or future property owner has to work with. If the building isn’t worth saving, Murray said, it may need to be demolished to make way for housing or another project.

The URA will request proposals from developers on their plans for the property. The board made no decision as to whether it would limit those proposals to just housing. Gardner said she would be open to retail or other uses.

Also at the meeting, the URA turned its attention across the street to the downtown commons plaza. The contractor, Starr Corp., submitted a guaranteed maximum price of $2.4 million for the project, including work that’s already been completed on Hansen Street.

The URA approved the maximum price, with hopes that the downtown plaza would be completed before the Fourth of July.

The URA’s reconstruction of five blocks of Main Avenue, meanwhile, is now being called “substantially complete.” And so far, it’s resulted in several private investments.

Next to the Idaho Youth Ranch building, Extreme Staffing is remodeling the former Toy Orphanage and Things. Adjacent to the downtown plaza, the Gates building will soon undergo renovations to eventually bring a restaurant or retailer with an entrance onto the plaza.

The URA expects to receive $2.4 million in property tax revenue this year, plus another $2.6 million from the sale and leftover lease money from the C3/CustomerContactChannels building.


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