Comments below are the work of long-term and more recent participants in EENA’s Armory Subcommittee, submitted 11/16/2022.
The East End is a historic, established neighborhood nestled between Boise’s Foothills and the downtown core. The neighborhood combines a mix of residential types, includes two historic districts, and enjoys proximity to a large system of public spaces, parks, and recreation facilities. As one of Boise’s oldest neighborhoods, the East End has a well-loved, distinctive character that neighborhood residents and businesses would like to maintain and strengthen, even as pressures mount due to the growing city population. The neighborhood is generally viewed as a desirable place to live due to its proximity to downtown, the Ridge to Rivers Trail system, the Boise River Greenbelt, several parks, and numerous other amenities. Like many Boise neighborhoods, residents describe it as having a very neighborly, close-knit feeling, which we aim to retain. The predominant land uses in the East End are single-family residential along with attractive parks and open spaces. A small percentage of the land use in the neighborhood is occupied by multi-family housing and commercial operations such as the application before us.
The East End Neighborhood Association (EENA) has been a part of many wonderful discussions with Alpha Development Group in reference to the proposed development at the Nationally Registered Historic Armory site. EENA is grateful for ALPHA’s willingness to listen to neighborhood concerns regarding height, density, and parking. Currently, EENA still has concerns regarding half of the parcel being undefined, transportation, and the lack of clear preservation mitigation.
Application Omits Neighborhood Activity Center Plan
EENA’s biggest concern with the application is the lack of planning and development for a neighborhood activity center (NAC) as identified in Blueprint Boise. The development of this site as a NAC should be the focus of any development on this site. This application vaguely references addressing the NAC at some point in the future, after the housing is built. While it is not uncommon for PUDs to have phases, EENA urges that this application should be considered incomplete until details about the development of the NAC at the Armory are established and included in the application. While we support residential development as a positive part of the NAC, it is our position that approval of this current application may negatively impact the success of creating a dynamic place at the Armory.
Without a clearer idea for the future NAC at the Armory, including uses, partners, and design of indoor and outdoor spaces, we can’t know whether the proposed multi-family buildings fit well with that activity center and if the entire development uses the site optimally and sets it up to be successful. For example, we know that one of the Armory’s challenges has been the significant square feet included, so we must ask, “How can we know that any additional commercial space will help or hurt the success of the Armory placemaking activities?”
We know there are local partners interested in working with the developer on creating a dynamic NAC, and we have shared these with the developer. There are solid partners with placemaking and historic preservation expertise in the local area capable of partnering on the Armory. Please do not approve any application that considers the housing to have priority over the neighborhood activity center, rather than being an equal partner with the Armory in creating this neighborhood activity center.
The East End Neighborhood Association’s (EENA) primary transportation concern with this application is an inadequate traffic impact study (TIS). This is another reason for the city to deny/delay this application until a proper PUD, addressing the whole parcel and development of this important neighborhood activity center, has been submitted. The TIS only addresses the additional housing units and does not consider the traffic impacts of the future neighborhood activity center because the application does not include that part of the development. As such, our neighborhood could find our network with impacts that will go unaddressed until such time ACHD they become significant enough to receive funding for improvements after the neighborhood activity center exists.
Additionally, this TIS does not consider the full network impact of this development. Any development at the Armory site will not only impact Reserve (included in the TIS), but also all of Avenue H and the Jefferson/McKinley/Franklin (JMF) corridor (not included in the TIS). We understand that the boundaries for the TIS are set by ACHD, and this is not the fault of the applicant. However, we know that Avenue H and the JMF corridor will be impacted, and we also know that both already need improvements to calm traffic and improve safety. In response to a speed study showing significant speeding, the Boise Police increased enforcement on this corridor and found excessive speeding volumes. It is important to note that Avenue H is identified as a key corridor used by many walkers and cyclists to access the foothills, nearby parks, and is part of the Safe Routes to School route to and from Roosevelt Elementary School.
The TIS concludes there is no need for additional improvements on Reserve. However, the East Boise Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (approved by ACHD, December 2017) contradicts this. Reserve Street was identified by many in our neighborhood as requiring traffic calming and safety improvements for people walking and biking, as well as crossing this corridor, and we believe more are needed.
- Crossing improvements at Mountain Cove and Avenue H
- Sidewalk on the north side of Reserve from Mountain Cove to Shaw Mountain
- 3-way stop at Reserve and Ave H.
- 3-way stop at Avenue H and McKinley
- Bicycle lane the entire length of Reserve
We request the city ask ACHD to reconsider this study area.
There are several opportunities for traffic calming on Avenue H—some identified in the East Boise Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan—not addressed in this application. Avenue H is identified as a key corridor used by many walkers and cyclists to access the foothills, nearby parks, and more. The plan calls for traffic calming measures on this corridor, and EENA is pleased that the applicant plans to complete the sidewalk along Avenue H adjacent to this property with a detached sidewalk. However, we ask the city to support our desire for this street to be built to the narrowest standard to keep speeds at 20 mph. We have requested curb extensions at Logan and Avenue H, and ask the city to ensure that this development will build a curb extension at its corner.
Our final opportunity is a long-requested improvement to the trail access immediately across from Avenue H, at the intersection with Reserve Street. A well-used, heavily eroded trail leads pedestrians up the berm to the trail on top, the Bicycle Skills Park, and the entire trail network beyond. We have tried working with Parks and Recreation as well as the Foothills management group to improve this with stairs. We had requested and hoped this would occur in conjunction with development of the Bike Skills Park, though this did not happen. It has been suggested to try and discontinue this use; however, since so many walkers come from Avenue H it is much more practical to simply improve the social trail. The cost of improving this short section of highly used trail would have high returns on investment and we hope the applicant can recognize this as an amenity for their development and future tenants, both residential and commercial.
Finally, we do recognize that not all of these improvements should be part of this application. However, we do not believe the application goes far enough to address its own impacts to both our neighborhood and the many users of multiple city amenities in the immediate area.
The letter of explanation mentions the desire for the applicant to make future improvements to the Nationally Registered Historic Armory building via a separate application process. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation; the Armory was formally listed in 1999. Common threats against a historic place include encroaching development, neglect and lack of maintenance, natural hazards like floods and storms, and a lack of understanding of the significance of the place. If a threat is imminent, documenting what is there before it is destroyed may be the only viable option. However, the applicant offers zero detail or plans for what these future improvements entail in the way of maintenance, repairs, restoration, or rehabilitation to the historic Armory building. Negative impacts are not mitigable after the fact, and the lack of clarity on the applicant’s plans for the Armory makes this PUD insufficient and inappropriate, considering that the historic site and the new development are located on a single parcel. We ask that the developer be required to commission a local planner to create a plan for the Armory, seeking the advice of all interested parties. Funding for this may be available through the Idaho Heritage Trust.
EENA is requesting that written language for these plans be detailed and expanded to say that all future maintenance, repair, stabilization, rehabilitation, restoration, preservation, conservation, or reconstruction of the historical resource will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. There is currently no written disaster mitigation plan for the historic Armory building, yet the property is located within a flood plain, which must be addressed by the applicant. The language also needs to directly address the potential loss of this historic resource due to disaster or accidental/unplanned damage. EENA additionally requests the display of on-site and off-site historic documentation and multi-media interpretation, such as architectural drawings, written narratives or quotes, resin-coated signage, bronze plaques, artifacts/ pieces of the historic site (machinery, equipment, etc.), pamphlets, walking tours, etc. We ask that this assurance be in writing with a commitment to include these once the project is complete and open to the public.