One of our committee members forwarded this link to Bozeman’s ETHA Hotel, which will make use of their former National Guard Armory building. A mix of new construction and restoration, this is an interesting re-use option.
Empty since the ’80s, it gets a face-lift to help its owner try to lure a tenant.
By SVEN BERG — *protected email*
Crews should finish a second coat of paint on the Armory’s exterior by Thursday, said Sarah Schafer, Boise’s design review and historic preservation manager.
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!
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.
Planning & 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: