Category Archives: Potential uses

What Makes the Armory Unique?

geothermal signOver time many people have expressed interest in Boise’s Armory. We’ve heard so many suggestions for possible uses of this site and structure that it’s tough to pick a favorite. Whether someone sees a multiple-use structure featuring retail, restaurant, commercial and residential, or a public asset like a YMCA, everyone agrees on three main aspects that make the Armory attractive:

Location. The site occupies a hub among multiple neighborhoods, and sits at the base of the Military Reserve Trail system, a gateway to an extensive trail system. This is attractive to food and beverage retailers interested in capturing local residents and recreationists, and those involved in business related to biking, hiking, running or pets.

Geothermal. This is probably the most unique aspect of the building and the one everyone sees as a huge selling point. The Armory is first in line for hot water from the City of Boise’s geothermal wells across the street. The current service to the building needs to be updated with newer insulated pipe technology, but provides enough volume to provide heat for something like the historic Natatorium on Warm Springs. Not only does the geothermal resource translate into a perpetual 30% savings on energy use for a tenant, it represent a green energy source and the ability to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint. One interested party commented that ‘where else could you find this?’

Learn more at

WPA plaque from 1937_1024History. The Armory is a Works Project Administration (WPA) project built as America was working our way out of the Great Depression. Add to that its legacy as the home of the Idaho National Guard, the potential to connect to Guard history, and the Art Deco design of Tourtelotte and Hummel Architects. Those familiar with architectural history and preservation find the building’s classic, efficient design a big selling point.

Bozeman Armory Repurposed as Boutique Hotel

One of our committee members forwarded this link to Bozeman’s ETHA Hotel, which will make use of their former National Guard Armory building. A mix of new construction and restoration, this is an interesting re-use option.

Copyright: Eclipse Engineering

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Verizon plans 80′ tower, pre-fab building next to Armory

Scale mockup of tower position and size.

Scale mockup of approximate tower position and size as represented to Armory Committee members in June 2013.

At the EENA meeting on 5/5/14, Armory Subcommittee representatives learned that Verizon is still applying to the City of Boise to build what they originally described as a ‘stealth‘ tower, along with a 12ft by 26ft pre-fab Base Transmitter Station near the Historic Boise Armory on Reserve Street.

The public was previously invited to discuss details Thursday, June 13th from 6 to 7pm in the lot between the Fire Station and the Armory on Reserve Street in Boise. See the 2013 notice below (provided by Technology Associates via EENA) for more information. See also the armory development agreement governing use of the property.

IMGP1145 doug explains how things will be

Several neighbors and subcommittee members met with Doug Kofford, the TAEC / Consultant for Verizon last year. Diane Ronayne, Gary Richardson, Laura Shealy, Tony Tenne, Noel and Lucy Weber, and Erik Kingston turned out on 6/13 to learn about plans for the 80-foot tower, concrete bunker and the 50′ x 60′ concertina-wire and chain-link fenced enclosure to be located between the Armory and Fire Station #1 near Logan Avenue. We learned at the time that the top of the tower will have a three-sided array that is at least 12′ on a side and looks something like this:


Despite the term ‘stealth’ originally used to describe structure, it will be significant in mass and height for the neighborhood; double the height of the Armory and approximately 15′ to 20′ above the trees along Logan Ave. We’re not sure if the lease payment from a tower would be offset by the potential negative impact on public (and potential tenant/patron) perception and property values. Towers like this can lead to the ‘industrialization’ of a property or neighborhood, driving away some valuable activity and traffic.

Neighbors were interested in the potential to integrate a public art component, but learned about the restrictions inherent in cell towers. Access to the tower for servicing, reducing the chance for birds or other wildlife to damage equipment or otherwise interfere with transmission or reception are all considerations.

Armory Tower 001

June 2013 notice of ‘not a public meeting.’

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Notice for ‘not a public meeting’ scheduled for 4/30/14.


What could the Armory be?

Many people ask, “What’s going to go on at the Armory? Who will the tenants be?”

The answer is, we don’t know. It will depend on the developer/owner finding a tenant or group of tenants that are a good fit. If you want to know what neighbors and residents have suggested over time, see “Potential Uses” or “Visioning Process” sections.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen or heard of several interesting uses for historic Armory buildings: in almost every case, they carry forward a public use through retail, entertainment, arts and cultural activities.

Here are a few examples (we’ll add more as they are made available):


What’s new at the Armory in early 2012?

Moving forward…

On 4/25/12, members of the EENA Armory Subcommittee met with Preservation Idaho’s Dan Everhart and Sheri Freemuth of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We discussed the latest developments in efforts to preserve and repurpose the historic structure. The City of Boise is currently working with a developer interested in helping stabilize and make improvements, which could allow the 40,000 square foot building and approximately 5 acres to be turned over to a foundation or nonprofit that would assume responsibility for leasing and repurposing the building.

One question put before the Armory Subcommittee involves exterior treatment of the concrete. Our meeting on the 25th brought together historic preservation experts and our resident architect Steve Trout to contemplate recent proposals from the developer. To date, there is overwhelming support from neighbors, historians, architects and community members to preserve the exterior surfaces to the extent possible and practical.

The narrative of the Armory’s construction is in this tactile concrete skin. The board form impressions and pour lines are like tree rings…they tell the story of many strong hands and backs hauling concrete hour by hour, day after day to create the building’s structural shell. As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, it also represents national and local strategies to work our way out of the Great Depression.

Some complain that the separate pour of the upper front wings doesn’t match the original 1937 work, and they’re right. In the 50s contractors had access to plywood forms and more modern concrete mix.

Thanks to Meg Sullivan for a sample of a similar vintage concrete structure repurposed in L.A. as an architectural anchor for the Helms Bakery District.

The Armory Subcommittee is currently drafting a response to the developer’s request for information and we hope to have that delivered the first week of May. Look for more updates in mid May of this year. Thanks for your interest in this great site and structure, and stay tuned.