Armory Status and Rumor Patrol

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.

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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.

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):


Work begins to secure and stabilize Armory

armory-panorama.jpgPlanning & Zoning, City Council Actions The East End Armory Committee and many other interested residents attended last summer’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to review the Armory’s status. City staff, neighbors and the Blueprint Boise plan were all in agreement on the building’s role as a historic structure in a strategic location. Testimony at the P&Z meeting largely focused on the importance of preserving the historic integrity of the structure and its cast Art Deco concrete surfaces. The Commission agreed, and recommended placing a Design Review Overlay and maintaining a detailed development agreement on the entire five-acre parcel, to include the Armory. This would secure an option for public involvement moving forward.

One concern expressed during testimony questioned a proposal by J&M to use a cosmetic brick overlay on the historic concrete surface. Not only would this add significantly to the cost of renovation without any structural benefit, it would (according to historic preservation representatives from the National Trust and Preservation Idaho) detract from the historic character of the Armory and render the project ineligible for Historic Tax Credits*—a potentially significant financial consideration.

The outcome of the P&Z meeting addressed this concern in large part through the Design Review recommendation (supported by city staff, preservation groups and the EENA Armory subcommittee).

The Boise City Council subsequently voted (with Councilwoman Elaine Clegg opposing the motion) to remove the Design Review overlay from the Armory itself, in effect eliminating further public input in the exterior appearance of the structure. The City then approved a zone change to C-2 for the entire five-acre parcel and a development agreement transferring the property to J&M Land. According to the terms of that agreement, residential use is allowed on the undeveloped portion of the property; in fact, the development agreement requires mixed use, and any type of development will require a conditional use permit, allowing the public to weigh in when that permit is applied for.

*The Armory is currently listed on the National Register — the addition of brick or other material to the exterior means the Armory would be delisted.

As of November 3 last year, following the Armory’s transfer, the Idaho Statesman reported,

“So far, there’s no precise plan for what the 80-year-old building will become, J&M Land manager Mike McCollum said. Nor is there a firm time frame for getting started on rehabbing the building.”

What’s happening now? Those of us in the East End following the Armory story have seen ample evidence of activity at the site for the past month or two. A portion of the property is now fenced off and crews have been working to remove non-structural materials and accumulated ‘stuff’ from the Armory’s interior, presumably prior to renovation. The plans submitted by J&M to the Statesman and available to our committee show new brick being added to the to second-floor additions overlooking Reserve Street.

Although subcommittee members have referred potential tenants to J&M over the past several months, it is unclear who will ultimately occupy the Armory or what sort of purpose the building and grounds will serve. We’re hoping for an outcome that is consistent with the past five years of public comment and recommendation. As always, we welcome communication from J&M on the current status, and stand ready to support outcomes that reflect community and neighborhood interests and are in harmony with Blueprint Boise and development agreement details.

Additional photos from 12/30/12 are below: