When the crane at the corner of 8th and Main placed the final beam on Boise’s newest tower in late April, it was adorned with a small fir tree. Christian Gardner, CEO of the Gardner Co., developer of the building, said it symbolized bringing life to the building. Life is exactly what the site — known not always affectionately as the “The Hole”— has lacked for decades.
In 1864, the corner was a famous stop on the Oregon Trail and became home to the Overland Hotel. Four decades later, the Eastman Building replaced the hotel and stood as a Downtown beacon until the 1970s, when the Boise Redevelopment Agency bought the building and evicted everyone in it. Billy Fong, the last living resident of Downtown’s Chinatown, cursed the ground before leaving town. The Eastman Building sat vacant for 15 years before burning in a suspicious blaze. In 2001, work began on what would have been the 25-story Boise Tower; legal and financial problems stalled the project, leaving the “Boise Hole.” You couldn’t blame Boiseans for wondering if there wasn’t something to the curse of Billy Fong.
The Gardner Co. is proving doubters wrong. It’s less than seven months away from opening the tallest building in Idaho — an 18-story office/retail building that is more than 85 percent leased. J. Thomas “Tommy” Ahlquist of Meridian, chief operating officer of Gardner Co., will discuss how this symbol of life is a testament to our state’s and Boise’s economic recovery and take questions from the City Club audience.
Before merging Ahlquist Development with Gardner Co., Ahlquist successfully joint-ventured on several large Idaho projects with Gardner. Those projects include Portico, a 24-acre project in Meridian; Eagle Island Crossing, a 22.5-acre development in Eagle; and St. Luke's Nampa Medical Plaza, a 34-acre medical/retail site in Nampa.
In 2012, Ahlquist was appointed to an eight-year term on the Idaho State University Foundation Board of Directors and serves on ISU President Arthur Vailas’ Southwestern Idaho Advisory Council on Health Science Education and Economic Excellence. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1992 and medical degree in 1996 from the University of Utah. He completed a residency in emergency medicine in 1999 at the University of Arizona. Ahlquist married his high school sweetheart 24 years ago; they have four children. Ahlquist says his family motto is: “Work hard, play hard and give back.”
Northwest Nazarene University