Velma Morrison will forever be remembered as a true friend to Boise. Her legacy will live forever in the arts she supported, and the Morrison Center that bears her name. Whenever we visit that beautiful gift to her adopted home, we will be reminded of her generous spirit, her love of people and her support of the creative spark that makes us aspire to better things. Travel well Velma, and thank you for making Boise and the world a better place!
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.
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.
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.
Following the City Council’s transfer of the Armory to J&M last year there was an initial flurry of activity in and around the building. Brush and trees were cleared away, a fence was put up to surround the building, and a few loads of construction supplies were delivered. Much of the activity seemed to focus on the building’s interior, although this is just speculation.
For the past several weeks and months, not much activity has been visible at the site. More windows have been broken, the exterior is covered in graffiti, weeds are growing and plywood window coverings have been torn down.
We also saw an old rumor revived that the Armory had been purchased by McMenamin’s. This is not the case. Although many folks have expressed a desire for a restaurant/brew pub for the East End/Foothills East area, there are no tenants committed as of May 2013. We assume J&M still have much to do on the interior (remediation, seismic stabilization, etc.) before the building and site are ready for prime time.
We will continue to keep you posted. Contact Armory Advisory Committee members if you know of someone interested in approximately 40,000 sq. ft. of space in a most excellent location. For a few ideas floated by neighbors during our public visioning sessions, read “Potential Uses” or “Armory event draws big crowd despite big snow“.
And please report any vandalism to the Boise City Police Department (non-emergency dispatch line 377-6790) or code violations to Boise City Code Enforcement at 208-384-3845.
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 Pasadena, CA Armory focuses on the Arts. http://www.armoryarts.org/about-us/mission-and-history/
- 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/