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?
Below are two perspectives created pro bono for this process by fellow committee member Steve Trout and Trout Architects, showing how the Armory might look if the historic surfaces were cleaned and preserved. Virtual awnings and figures are added for color and scale. These renderings were submitted to the developers and city officials in 2012 along with our detailed recommendations for the Armory based on extensive research and consultation with the public, development professionals, historic preservation experts and local government staff.
Armory Committee members have been actively engaged on this project now since mid 2007, longer than any of us expected. We are volunteers and neighbors. We have contributed our own time and resources to keep the ball moving forward. Here are a few facts and observations from our current perspective:
We have approached this process with an aim to gather and share information and opinions openly with all interested parties, and to maintain productive working relationships that support preservation and repurposing;
We have worked hard over time to involve neighbors, local government and other stakeholders in the visioning process, including interviewing several local developers to better understand practical/market considerations, and inviting comments through this web site;
Our initial goal of removing the Armory from the auction process was a success;
Since we don’t own the building, the best we can do is provide our collective recommendations based on research and stakeholder input, and hope that the finished product reflects what the community seems to want;
Our main interests are to see the building brought back into productive use as a neighborhood asset with compatible mixed uses-consistent with community preferences-preserving as much of the architectural and historical elements as is practical;
Input from neighbors, architects, and representatives from state and national historic preservation authorities supports careful preservation of exterior surfaces and the barrel-vaulted drill hall interior roof structure. These simple, economical design and construction elements tell the story of working our way out of the First Great Depression, and bear witness to the strong hands and backs that shaped the Idaho National Guard’s home;
We believe the Armory and 5-acre site fit perfectly into Boise’s goal to become one of the most livable cities in the country for several reasons:
The site is strategically situated at the center of four distinct neighborhood districts, creating bike and pedestrian access to Boise’s foothills, parks, residential areas, downtown, and transit;
The existing geothermal service supports sustainability; and
The Armory’s historic significance and narrative add value and create interest for future development and activities, while preserving the unique character of our city and state.
All the elements for success are present: an active, healthy neighborhood; proximity to business, government, cultural and recreational assets; and ample space for mixed-use development. All that is lacking are the economic vibrancy that smart and forward-thinking development can bring to this natural gathering place.
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.
Just a quick update to let folks know the Reserve Street Armory team is still active and tracking progress. Last fall, CCDC engaged a professional consulting firm to conduct preliminary studies of the Armory site and its relationship to other publicly owned parcels nearby. As we await the results of this early work, the advisory team is considering next steps from a neighborhood perspective. Stay tuned for announcements in the next few weeks and months. Thanks to all who have commented and offered your help!
During the past several months, many suggestions have focused on the potential to develop the Armory into a center for local businesses to cultivate a cooperative of complementary activities with shared infrastructure and strategic use of energy and materials. The best analogy would be a functioning ecosystem, in which each niche is filled by a species (business) that makes efficient use of the energy within the system. “Waste” from one species or process becomes raw material or energy for others. This concept is well described in the book “Biomimicry” by Janine Benyus. This use would complement new construction of on-site workforce housing, which a recent study identified as a pressing need near Boise’s downtown.
Boise has seen rapid expansion of local ‘green’ businesses in the past 5-10 years. Many of these creative entrepreneurs are finding ways to share information and resources; they are in effect cultivating a subset of the local economy that generates good jobs and income, provides quality goods and services…all while using a sustainable business model that maximizes input and minimizes waste and negative environmental or social impacts. To get a sense of the scale of this growing community, visit www.idahogreenexpo.com.
Given the Armory’s size (40,000 sq ft), central location, and geothermal service, many feel there is enormous potential to repurpose the structure into a thriving economic engine and neighborhood/community resource with a negligible carbon footprint. The structure and site could become home to a small business incubator/cooperative with the common theme of sustainability; it could also become a research and development laboratory for students of sustainable business or economic theory. With support and direction, the site could attract additional ‘clean and green’ investment to the Boise economy.
This strategic outcome would require several things:
an owner and developer with capacity and vision
a strategic business plan
funding for acquisition and rehab
neighborhood, city and community support
a community of businesses and tenants
a market for the goods and services produced
From a strategic land-use perspective, the Armory site has value as a perpetual community asset. Once the site is out of the community’s control, however, it would be difficult or impossible to reclaim; the only way to ensure community access is for the community to step forward—in one way or another—to invest in the structure’s preservation and renovation.
Submit comments on this posting if you have suggestions or questions. If you are or know of a community minded Angel investor interested in an outstanding legacy opportunity, let us know that, too.