Athlos Academies HQ groundbreaking

Athlos Academies begins the transformation of the former Macy’s in downtown Boise


The dark days are over at the former Macy’s building in downtown Boise, which has sat empty since 2010.

Athlos Academies welcomed a couple hundred dignitaries to the cavernous space Nov. 5 to get a sense of the “before” in advance of the building’s transformation. The Boise charter school company is turning it into its headquarters and faculty training center.

At the Nov. 5 event, dignitaries gathered on concrete floors with the room stripped down to bare walls, columns and sparse lighting.

When Athlos moves in next June, the ground floor will be converted to 30 yards of striped football turf and a hard-court basketball court.

The sports theme is a signature of the philosophy behind the curriculum Athlos provides to the 13 charter schools the company has built and outfitted in Arizona, Texas, Minnesota and Utah since establishing Athlos in 2008. The newest school was recently announced for a fall 2016 opening in St. Cloud, Minn.

Jason Kotter and Ryan Van Alfen

Athlos Academies co-founders Jason Kotter and Ryan Van Alfen. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The idea is to bring teachers from these schools to downtown Boise for training, a shift from sending Boise staff to individual school sites to train faculty.

Co-founders Jason Kotter and Ryan Van Alfen built the Athlos program around the three pillars of prepared mind, healthy body and performance character.

“We basically teach character development through the modality of athletics,” Kotter said.

The mezzanine level will have three classrooms overlooking the turf-and-court setting. Corporate offices for the existing 20 employees will be on the second floor. Kotter foresees employment growing to 70 with plenty of room remaining on the second floor.

The 24,000-square-foot third floor is available for third-party leasing and it could serve for future Athlos expansion, Kotter said. The fourth floor will have the founder offices and also an event space.

The “multi-million” renovation will redefine the exterior and interior of the 1927 C.C. Anderson building that always served as a department store. Boise-based BRS Architects have designed all the Athlos schools since 2012, but this is the first one inside a department store from the golden age of department stores.

Louvered sunshade awnings will accent the exterior façade from street level to the roof. The flat, canopied awnings from the 1950s that shaded the storefront windows were recently removed.

groundbreaking event

Dignitaries assembled in the vast space of the former Macy’s for the Athlos Academies groundbreaking. Photo by Teya Vitu.

New storefront windows will wrap around the Idaho and 10th street sides, with louvered sunshades installed about two-thirds of the way up. These windows will be framed with concrete panel systems, said Doug Racine, a BRS principal.

Similar louvered sunshades will cross windows on the upper levels. Much larger louvered sunshades will overhang the roof.

BRS designed a prominent central entrance combining the above features with the concrete panel systems extending up to the roof. The original brick façade on the upper levels will remain in view, though BRS intends to stain the gray brick a brown or tan color.

Racine described the BRS design approach as “rustic modern.” Phoenix-based Vector Constructors is the general contractor.

Interest in the future of the key downtown Macy’s building has been high since the department store closed in 2010. This year, after it was announced that Athlos would be the tenant, it was unclear for months who was buying the building. “A lot of things were thrown around early on” in terms of potential partnerships, Kotter said. “We thought there was no way we could afford it. They came back with a phenomenal price.”

Kotter and Van Alfen primarily negotiated with David Wali, executive vice president at the Gardner Company. Wali, who owns shares in numerous downtown properties, and Boise architect Jeff Schneider had a 50 percent share in the Macy’s building and Northwest Real Estate Capital Corp. owned the other 50 percent.

Athlos ended up buying the building, shuttered for five years, for $1.5 million, Kotter said. The Ada County Assessor assesses the building at 918 W. Idaho St. at $1.4677 million, and its assessed value was as high as $2.8 million in 2008 when Macy’s was still in operation. The prior owners at first tried to sell it for near $4 million but the drastic drop in price did not bother the ownership group, Wali said.

“These guys have a great mission,” Wali said. “I like what they do. A look like Athlos brings people to Boise for training. They will be downtown spending money.”

The Athlos name graces most of its schools, but Athlos Academies does not operate these schools. Athlos builds the schools, often from the ground up, brings in operators, supplies the curriculum and trains the faculty. Athlos initially owns the school buildings but eventually the schools operators buy the buildings, company President David Jeppson said in an earlier interview.

The Athlos curriculum addresses core curriculum, but Athlos stresses social and emotional learning and incorporates health and nutritional concepts into the core education.

“We bring physical activity to the forefront in education,” Kotter said.