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.
Over 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 http://publicworks.cityofboise.org/services/geothermal
History. 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.
Lots of folks are curious about the status of the Armory. After months of inactivity, work began on a few general improvements about a month ago. I spoke with Mike with J&M earlier this year and he gave me a rundown on the goals of the current push:
- Daylighting basement windows. The roughly 7,000 sq. ft. below-grade spaces facing Reserve Street will be getting slightly larger glazed openings.
- Enlarging window wells. The old window wells were pretty small, so workers have excavated a large trench that will slope up toward ground level to create a berm that allows more light to reach the windows.
- Retaining wall. The top of the berm will feature an 18″ retaining wall with deep footings. This will keep water and other unwanted things out of the window wells.
- Drainage system. This will add to the protection of the below-grade space from potential flood events.
- Seismic reinforcement. Due to the age of the structure, additional work will helped stabilize walls in the event of any seismic activity.
I got a tour from Gene, one of the workers on site. He mentioned how much everyone enjoys working in the space, surrounded by history and the amazing natural light. Here are a few photos showing the interior spaces and a few exterior details. Thanks to Mike and Gene for helping answer some questions; neighbors are understandably curious.
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.