Category Archives: Resources

Resources, links

What Makes the Armory Unique?

geothermal signOver time many people have expressed interest in Boise’s Armory. We’ve heard so many suggestions for possible uses of this site and structure that it’s tough to pick a favorite. Whether someone sees a multiple-use structure featuring retail, restaurant, commercial and residential, or a public asset like a YMCA, everyone agrees on three main aspects that make the Armory attractive:

Location. The site occupies a hub among multiple neighborhoods, and sits at the base of the Military Reserve Trail system, a gateway to an extensive trail system. This is attractive to food and beverage retailers interested in capturing local residents and recreationists, and those involved in business related to biking, hiking, running or pets.

Geothermal. This is probably the most unique aspect of the building and the one everyone sees as a huge selling point. The Armory is first in line for hot water from the City of Boise’s geothermal wells across the street. The current service to the building needs to be updated with newer insulated pipe technology, but provides enough volume to provide heat for something like the historic Natatorium on Warm Springs. Not only does the geothermal resource translate into a perpetual 30% savings on energy use for a tenant, it represent a green energy source and the ability to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint. One interested party commented that ‘where else could you find this?’

Learn more at

WPA plaque from 1937_1024History. The Armory is a Works Project Administration (WPA) project built as America was working our way out of the Great Depression. Add to that its legacy as the home of the Idaho National Guard, the potential to connect to Guard history, and the Art Deco design of Tourtelotte and Hummel Architects. Those familiar with architectural history and preservation find the building’s classic, efficient design a big selling point.

Application for additional to National Register

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):


Potential uses

Not a day goes by without Committee members running into someone with an interest in the Armory site or a suggestion for creative uses for the space. Some even suggest actual tenants. We like the excitement generated by this project, and hope you do, too. Below are some sample ideas generated to date. Keep checking back to see the list grow and evolve.

Read this first. The comments and concepts presented on this web site are just that. Neighbors are in the creative/brainstorming phase at this point; not all suggestions will be realistic in terms of zoning, economics, or broader community needs.

We want to give everyone a voice, find areas of common interest and concern, then create a set of realistic priorities and recommendations that take into account issues like financing, traffic, market conditions, and most importantly local priorities and values.

A note about traffic. With the Armory sitting vacant for the past several years, any new activity will change traffic patterns in the vicinity. As fellow neighbors, we are committed to evaluating these impacts, some positive and some negative; to better understand the net traffic effects of different scenarios.

Our aim is to propose pedestrian-friendly uses that tend to reduce existing car trips where possible to balance out increases elsewhere, and to explore the type, speed and timing of traffic generated at this site.

Mixed-income / workforce housing. Boise’s downtown core has seen tremendous housing development in the past decade…virtually all of it high-end luxury condos and town homes starting at $250,000. There is currently a lack of housing affordable to key professionals (nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc.) that make our community safe and strong. The land around the Armory presents an opportunity to develop well-designed, owner-occupied housing that would serve as a recruitment and retention tool (read ‘wage subsidy’) for local public and private employers.

A perfect illustration of the need for workforce housing is available in the Workforce Housing Task Force Report for Downtown Boise, Idaho. Thanks to Katina Dutton and CCDC for sharing their final full report and a succint Powerpoint version here. This is an important read for employers, economic developers and anyone who cares about Boise’s ongoing vitality.

Workforce Housing Task Force (full) Report Workforce Housing Presentation

Sustainable design facility. The Armory site was originally on Boise’s geothermal system, which presented interesting opportunities for limiting the carbon footprint of any development or tenants in the space. J&M removed the geothermal infrastructure and connections, perhaps without understanding the city’s plans to upgrade the trunk line from the wellheads across the street.

Assuming that infrastructure is replaced, one suggestion would take this to another level, creating a center for education, research and applied technology in sustainable architecture, wastewater treatment, permaculture, etc. This could be a resource for policy makers, homeowners and those in the construction industry seeking products and processes to help “future proof” the built environment (i.e., protect against ever-increasing energy, health and maintenance costs through appropriate materials and technology).

Education. Several ideas have been recommended for locating a charter or other type of school in the space. One visitor proposed a Community Literacy Center and children’s museum. Another suggestion involves creating a first-rate arts and crafts school, with apprenticeships and studio space for those interested in a professional career move or simply developing a skill. Many in Boise’s arts community feel a need for additional studio and work space, from fine woodworking, metal, glass, ceramics or textiles to printmaking and painting.

Community center. Recent suggestions this week indicate a desire for a community events space with a commercial kitchen and performance and meeting facilities to accommodate various groups during evenings or weekends.

Recreational facilities. Some have suggested a need for a neighborhood-scale workout facility in part of the space, with room for yoga, dance or other fitness classes. We see the potential for this to become part of a distributed network of local health/recreational facilities that encourage neighbors to walk or bike rather than getting in a car and driving somewhere to get excercise.

Local grower’s cooperative. The Treasure Valley has seen a significant increase in the number and diversity of locally grown produce and other agricultural products. The Downtown Farmer’s Market is one outlet for these businesses; a year-round facility would cultivate support for Idaho products and the local economy.

Business incubator. several communities are investing in business incubators…affordable spaces with shared resources where local entrepreneurs can get a start in a supportive environment. These could be artists or craftspeople, web developers, or the next Micron or HP startup.

Retail and commercial. Restaraunts, coffee shops, books stores or other retail and entertainment services that appeal to residents and workers in the surrounding neighborhoods. Office space for administrative or professional services is another possibility.


See below for links that provide access to organizations and resources of interest to those seeking information on community and economic development, green building, workforce housing or projects involving “adaptive reuse,” a planning term roughly equivalent to “spinning straw into gold,” or “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” We’ve also included links to government and other entities as well. Feel free to post your own suggestions for links via the “contact us” page.

Please note: Listing does not imply endorsement.

Local Government

Urban Planning and Community Development

Workforce Housing, Transit and Community Resilience

Development Resources and Green Building

Creative Community Development and Design Projects

Sustainability, Urban Gardening and such like