Doctor Turned Developer
Tommy Ahlquist is urgently efficient. His nearly two decades as an emergency room physician are the reason. He thrives under pressure, is quick on his feet and thinks big. Those characteristics that made him a stellar doctor are the same ones now making him a successful developer who is changing Boise one building at a time.
“You might see it as just buildings changing, but I see each one of these projects representing relationships,” says Ahlquist, Gardner Company COO. “When you get people together to do great things, you experience the process of working together as a community.”
Ahlquist’s community-driven approach to developing property comes from the early years of his career in the emergency room. He estimates he took care of 40,000 patients before putting his doctor skills on the back burner in favor of property development.
“There’s nothing better than taking care of patients,” he says. “It’s rewarding and I miss that tremendously, but medicine has changed dramatically since I graduated from medical school in 1996.”
His daily routine has changed dramatically too.
“I would work in the ER Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings then develop during the week,” he says. “It got to the point where I couldn’t do both. It became clear I had to choose one or the other.”
Ahlquist came by his interest in development naturally, because his father was in the construction industry. Developing trumped doctoring about four years ago, although he stays involved in the medical field in other ways. He created software that tracks 50,000 automated external defibrillators through a nationwide database. And he serves on boards for United Way and American Heart Association while also acting as chair for the Faces of Hope Victims Center in Boise.
“I want people to know they have somewhere to go for help when they get into a situation where they feel trapped,” he says. “There’s hope, and there are people who care.”
On the development front, Ahlquist is one of the masterminds behind a new nine-story building known as City Center Plaza. It is home to the underground transit hub for Boise State University’s Computer Science Department and the expanding Boise Centre convention space.
“We’re changing the look of downtown,” Ahlquist says. “A lot of what we do makes things better. I can participate in the community as a developer in a way I couldn’t as a physician. Now we have a transportation hub downtown and getting Boise State to come across the river is probably one of the most significant things I’ve done.”
The downtown transformation is significant professionally, but personally nothing trumps the significance of family for the doctor turned developer.
“I’m a huge family guy,” he says. “I married my high school sweetheart, and we have four kids. They’re my hobby. What I’m most proud of is my family because at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”