The Armory’s ‘front yard’ has a new look, with sod, new landscaping and a few trees. New windows were installed this summer. Neighbors are for the most part very grateful for the upgrades. Now the challenge is to turn this historic gem once again into a neighborhood and community asset.
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.
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.