This site is developed and maintained by East End residents interested in Boise’s Historic National Guard Armory. It’s for you, who are curious about the Armory’s history, the structure itself, and how it might be transformed from a liability into an asset — benefitting the surrounding neighborhoods and Boise in general.
Verizon is applying to the City of Boise to build what’s described as a ‘stealth‘ tower, along with a 12ft by 26ft pre-fab building near the Historic Boise Armory on Reserve Street. The public was 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 notice below (provided by Technology Associates via EENA) for more information. See also the armory development agreement governing use of the property.
Several neighbors and subcommittee members met with Doug Kofford, the TAEC / Consultant for Verizon. 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 85-foot tower, concrete bunker and the 50′ x 60′ fenced enclosure to be located between the Armory and Fire Station #1 near Logan Avenue. We also learned that the top of the tower will have a three-sided array that is at least 12′ on a side and look something like this:
Despite the term ‘stealth’ used to describe this structure, it will be significant in mass and height for the neighborhood; double the height of the Armory and at least 15′ to 20′ above the trees along Logan Ave. This begs the question: would the relatively small lease payment from a tower be offset by the potential negative impact on public (and potential tenant/patron) perception? 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. Perhaps something to reflect the area’s history from the perspective of the National Guard or the Fire Station? Or something artsy, like Boxfall below?
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):
The Helms Bakery District repurposed a similar historic Art Deco structure in Los Angeles into a vibrant mixed use complex, with on-site solar generation, a microbrewery, retail shops and restaurants. http://helmsbakerydistrict.com/
The Portland Armory is now the home of Portland Center Stage, and used for performance and event space. http://www.pcs.org/
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.
The city is working with two Silicon Valley businessmen on swaps that also involve acreages at the city’s industrial park.
The historic but dilapidated 1930s-era Boise Armory may get a new life, and 200 acres of desert scrub may see industrial activity if two city of Boise deals come to fruition.
The city has searched years for the right people to revitalize the Boise Armory and the city’s underperforming industrial park near the airport. Now two powerhouse California developers are interested: billionaire Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Arrillaga and PowerBar co-founder Mike McCollum. They are the J (John) and M (Mike) of J&M Land LLC.
As we all know, time moves only one way. The Armory, like the rest of us, isn’t getting any younger. The Armory Subcommittee has so far been very impressed with the commitment shown by the Mayor’s office to pursue opportunities to preserve the historic structure and repurpose the site and interior space. We have learned that although offers have been made over time, most involve demolition of the structure.
Few developers combine an appreciation of the building’s history and Art Deco details with the resources to restore the building to a community asset. We also recognize the city could have auctioned the site off years ago, and Boise would have lost a historic reminder of our architectural and military legacy. That they have held out this long is an example of their sensitivity to neighborhood involvement and an appreciation for the strategic nature of the structure and site to Boise’s long-term vitality.
We are hopeful, and continue to hear from interested neighbors and Armory fans with great ideas for the location. The latest among these is a suggestion to create something along the lines of the Tech Shop in San Francisco. If you’ve never heard of Tech Shop, here’s a description from their web site:
TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make.
Keep the great ideas coming!
Please stay tuned to this site for updates, put your thinking caps on and keep your fingers crossed. More soon!