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.