Boise Armory: How to repurpose a 1930s structure
In a previous post I included a link to the Helms Bakery District in Culver City, CA. Constructed in 1931, the building used concrete techniques similar to Boise’s Armory. The structure is much larger, was privately constructed for industrial use and carried architectural themes inspired by the Olympics and the ‘Zigzag Moderne’ style. The developer and owner opted to clean and paint the concrete exterior, which in the case of the Helms Bakery structure helped accentuate architectural details and hide a few flaws.
Subcommittee member and local entrepreneur Dave Krick went out of his way last week to visit the Helms Bakery District and was given a tour of the site and businesses. According to a good friend who lives nearby, the renovation and repurposing has completely energized the surrounding neighborhoods and economy, stimulating additional investment.
Click on the photos below to see a few of the details of the Helms Bakery project (like solar panels on the roof and creating shade for parking), and imagine what we might highlight of the Boise Armory to bring modern relevance to Boise’s own historic structure. What would you emphasize? The National Guard presence, the project’s role in helping Boise transition to more prosperous times, or the fact that the building uses geothermal heat and connects multiple neighborhoods with the foothills?
What can we do to return this site and structure to a community asset? What businesses, nonprofits or community groups could use the location and space effectively? Stay tuned, and be ready with suggestions.
What’s new with the Armory?
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!
Dec 1 Visioning Meeting
First Public Meeting a Success
Thanks to everyone who attended our December 1 public visioning meeting at the UI Integrated Design Lab. The meeting was facilitated by the Urban Research and Design Center and EENA representatives, and involved a brief discussion of the Armory site, the City’s budget needs and the current plans to auction the site next year. Local architect Charles Hummel (above) provided a unique glimpse into the Armory’s history and construction. Approximately two dozen participants explored the following questions from the Architecture students:
- Do you consider the Armory a neighborhood asset or a community asset? (if so, why?)
- Should the armory building be saved in whole or in part?
- What uses would you like to see on the site?
- What would actually work on the site? What’s viable there?
The next public meeting will take place in January of 2008, and will feature conceptual drawings illustrating various types of development and repurposing. Minutes of the meeting should be available soon, and will be posted at this location.