A Boise motel closed. A developer wants to convert its rooms into studio apartments

John Sowell
·3 min read

Small apartments the size of hotel rooms could become the rage in Boise.

An Oregon developer plans to take a vacant Boise motel and convert it into an apartment complex.

It would be the second proposal this year to create hotel-room-size apartments in Boise, where small living units are being eyed as an alternative to skyrocketing house prices and rents.

Fortify Holdings, headquartered in the Portland suburb of Beaverton, has applied for a building permit to renovate 88 rooms at the former Howard Johnson by Wyndham Boise. The two-story motel, built in 1984, was located next to Interstate 84, at 8002 W. Overland Road. It’s behind Lowe’s and Walmart, next to the freeway.

The completed project would have the same number of studio efficiency apartments in the five existing buildings.

Micro-apartments, with less space than typical studio apartments, are the latest trend in housing, meant to make efficient use of space. A sleeping area, kitchen, bathroom and living room are crammed into the space of a master bedroom.

“The work will include cleaning up and refinishing the exterior of the buildings, addressing deficient site landscaping and bicycle parking requirements,” architect Erik Hagen wrote in a letter to the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission.

Each room would be divided into a sleeping area and living area with a divider separating them. Furnishings would be replaced and a small sink added to the bathroom. The vanity area would be converted into a kitchenette with two burners and a combined refrigerator and freezer underneath the cabinet, Hagen wrote.

The motel swimming pool would remain.

The zoning of the Boise property allows short transient stays. A conditional use permit is needed to allow the conversion to multi-family housing for stays longer than 30 days. The permit is approved or denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Appeals go before the Boise City Council.

“At this point in time, when Boise is experiencing a housing shortage, we feel that this conversion from hotel to residential is something that is sorely needed, and we hope you will agree and approve this application,” Hagen wrote.

Fortify has two similar projects in the works in Spokane and a third in Medford, Oregon. The company bought a former Days Inn motel in downtown Spokane and an Econo Lodge three miles farther west. The property in Medford, a former Red Lion Inn most recently operated as Inn at the Commons.

All three projects involve converting the motel rooms into studios and one-bedroom apartments.

Ziad Elsahili, Fortify’s president, did not return a call seeking comment.

ApartmentList.com, which uses U.S. Census Bureau data along with current rental transactions and historical data from specific rental units, reports that the median rent for a studio apartment in Boise was $841 in March. The median of a one-bedroom apartment was $909 and $1,078 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the permit request at 6 p.m. Monday, May 3, at City Hall.

Apartment construction in the Treasure Valley has increased significantly in recent years. About 3,000 units were permitted in 2019 and about 1,400 last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A different developer wants to build an apartment building with hotel-sized rooms near the Boise Towne Square mall. It would be built in an empty lot at 709 N. Cole Road, a triangular 1.4-acre property just south of Emerald Street.

The Cole Road Apartments would consist of a four-story building, on the west side of Cole, across from Candlewood Suites. It would have 71 apartments with 340 square feet to 412 square feet each.

The developer isCCD Properties of Boise, whose owners include David Cadwell, a commercial real estate broker with Colliers International, and Ryan Gaston, senior vice president of development at Barclay Group.