A Boise doctor ran out of space for his cacti. Now, he wants to build a public plaza

·3 min read

Dr. William Brandenburg’s grand vision of an outdoor plaza with an event center, pavilion, observation deck, marketplace and food truck lot is a complicated solution to a simple problem:

“Dr. Brandenburg has an extensive collection of cactus plants, but no place to put them,” Patrick McKeegan, the project’s architect, told the Boise City Council.

Old Doug’s Plaza, named in honor of Idaho’s indigenous Douglas fir tree, will be built on the corner of Federal Way and Kootenai Street on the Boise Bench. The Boise City Council approved Brandenburg’s permit request for a zoning exception to build a commercial space in a mainly residential zone last week.

City Council Member T.J. Thomson commented on how unusual it was to see a neighborhood association show support for a new development.

“We are very supportive of this project and cannot wait to see it become a reality,” Gus Engstrom, Depot Bench Neighborhood Association president, wrote to the City Council. “The developer has been collaborative and shares our vision of revitalizing this part of our neighborhood and creating spaces for our community and neighbors to connect.”

A rendering shows the view of Old Doug’s Plaza event center from Kootenai and Pico streets.
A rendering shows the view of Old Doug’s Plaza event center from Kootenai and Pico streets.

Plaza to offer gathering space for neighborhood, Brandenburg says

The plaza will be built on the same 1.3-acre property as Brandenburg’s health care clinic, Wander Medicine.

Though his love of desert plants was the initial inspiration for the project, Brandenburg said his primary goal is to give the Depot Bench neighborhood a gathering space. It was something Brandenburg, who lives and works in the neighborhood, thought was missing.

“Involvement in the local community, social interaction and collaboration are vital to human health,” Brandenburg wrote in his application to Boise. “Creating spaces to facilitate these goals stands to benefit our entire city.”

An important aspect, McKeegan said, is visitors will not need to purchase anything to spend time at the plaza.

The project plans to include an indoor conservatory with desert and native plants and a small number of vendors selling food and drinks, including coffee, beer and wine. It will be a place to “socialize, study and learn,” according to the application.

The conservatory building will double as an event venue able to hold up to 70 people. Brandenburg said he hopes it will host rotating gatherings that range from public farmers markets with local vendors to private weddings.

Old Doug’s Plaza will be near Pico Street on the corner of Federal Way and Kootenai Street.
Old Doug’s Plaza will be near Pico Street on the corner of Federal Way and Kootenai Street.

Project includes water-conserving plants to educate public

Outside, Old Doug’s Plaza will have a two-story observation deck and dining pavilion facing downtown and the Foothills, with climbing vines and planter boxes in the summer and fire features in the winter. Nearby will be a food truck court with up to seven vendors and lawn seating.

Like the conservatory, vegetation will also be the outdoor landscape’s focus. The southern portion of the property will be divided into “eco-zones” that match the climate zones found in Idaho, each with interpretive markers and information. Plant seminars and tours will be given with the goal of exposing the public to xeriscape, a landscape style that requires little to no watering.

“We want to show people these are plants you can grow in your yard that do not take a lot of water,” McKeegan told the Idaho Statesman.

The architect hopes to start construction this spring and complete Old Doug’s Plaza by fall 2022.

“With any luck at all, at this time next year you can go over there before a (Boise State football) game, grab a drink and then head down to the stadium,” McKeegan said.

Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at skrutzig@idahostatesman.com.

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