This site is developed and maintained by East End residents interested in Boise’s Historic National Guard Armory. It’s for you, who are curious about the Armory’s history, the structure itself, and how it might be transformed from a liability into an asset — benefitting the surrounding neighborhoods and Boise in general.
On 4/25/12, members of the EENA Armory Subcommittee met with Preservation Idaho’s Dan Everhart and Sheri Freemuth of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We discussed the latest developments in efforts to preserve and repurpose the historic structure. The City of Boise is currently working with a developer interested in helping stabilize and make improvements, which could allow the 40,000 square foot building and approximately 5 acres to be turned over to a foundation or nonprofit that would assume responsibility for leasing and repurposing the building.
One question put before the Armory Subcommittee involves exterior treatment of the concrete. Our meeting on the 25th brought together historic preservation experts and our resident architect Steve Trout to contemplate recent proposals from the developer. To date, there is overwhelming support from neighbors, historians, architects and community members to preserve the exterior surfaces to the extent possible and practical.
The narrative of the Armory’s construction is in this tactile concrete skin. The board form impressions and pour lines are like tree rings…they tell the story of many strong hands and backs hauling concrete hour by hour, day after day to create the building’s structural shell. As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, it also represents national and local strategies to work our way out of the Great Depression.
Some complain that the separate pour of the upper front wings doesn’t match the original 1937 work, and they’re right. In the 50s contractors had access to plywood forms and more modern concrete mix.
Thanks to Meg Sullivan for a sample of a similar vintage concrete structure repurposed in L.A. as an architectural anchor for the Helms Bakery District.
The Armory Subcommittee is currently drafting a response to the developer’s request for information and we hope to have that delivered the first week of May. Look for more updates in mid May of this year. Thanks for your interest in this great site and structure, and stay tuned.
The city is working with two Silicon Valley businessmen on swaps that also involve acreages at the city’s industrial park.
The historic but dilapidated 1930s-era Boise Armory may get a new life, and 200 acres of desert scrub may see industrial activity if two city of Boise deals come to fruition.
The city has searched years for the right people to revitalize the Boise Armory and the city’s underperforming industrial park near the airport. Now two powerhouse California developers are interested: billionaire Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Arrillaga and PowerBar co-founder Mike McCollum. They are the J (John) and M (Mike) of J&M Land LLC.
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!
Some of the suggested uses for the Armory reflect the concept of creative live-work space as an economic engine and neighborhood asset. The following is an excerpt from www.knowledgeplex.org:
Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) is a ten-year national initiative to improve conditions for artists in all disciplines which will enable them in their creative work and contribute to community life. With leadership support from the Ford Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Surdna Foundation, LINC focuses on three strategic goals: improving artists’ access to essential material supports such as live/work space, insurance, equipment and professional development; and bolstering knowledge, networks and public policies that enhance artists’ work and their contributions to communities.
During the past several months, many suggestions have focused on the potential to develop the Armory into a center for local businesses to cultivate a cooperative of complementary activities with shared infrastructure and strategic use of energy and materials. The best analogy would be a functioning ecosystem, in which each niche is filled by a species (business) that makes efficient use of the energy within the system. “Waste” from one species or process becomes raw material or energy for others. This concept is well described in the book “Biomimicry” by Janine Benyus. This use would complement new construction of on-site workforce housing, which a recent study identified as a pressing need near Boise’s downtown.
Boise has seen rapid expansion of local ‘green’ businesses in the past 5-10 years. Many of these creative entrepreneurs are finding ways to share information and resources; they are in effect cultivating a subset of the local economy that generates good jobs and income, provides quality goods and services…all while using a sustainable business model that maximizes input and minimizes waste and negative environmental or social impacts. To get a sense of the scale of this growing community, visit www.idahogreenexpo.com.
Given the Armory’s size (40,000 sq ft), central location, and geothermal service, many feel there is enormous potential to repurpose the structure into a thriving economic engine and neighborhood/community resource with a negligible carbon footprint. The structure and site could become home to a small business incubator/cooperative with the common theme of sustainability; it could also become a research and development laboratory for students of sustainable business or economic theory. With support and direction, the site could attract additional ‘clean and green’ investment to the Boise economy.
This strategic outcome would require several things:
an owner and developer with capacity and vision
a strategic business plan
funding for acquisition and rehab
neighborhood, city and community support
a community of businesses and tenants
a market for the goods and services produced
From a strategic land-use perspective, the Armory site has value as a perpetual community asset. Once the site is out of the community’s control, however, it would be difficult or impossible to reclaim; the only way to ensure community access is for the community to step forward—in one way or another—to invest in the structure’s preservation and renovation.
Submit comments on this posting if you have suggestions or questions. If you are or know of a community minded Angel investor interested in an outstanding legacy opportunity, let us know that, too.