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The Cabin to move for library project, but no decision on where it will go

Tamarack Resort Q4 2020

After an extensive work session in front of Boise City Council Tuesday afternoon, city leaders have decided that they will move the historic Cabin structure from its current site near the Boise Public Library – but just where it goes now isn’t set yet.

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Five options were on the table in front of councilors:

Courtesy City of Boise
  •  1a – Keep The Cabin in place and make minor changes to provide slightly more space between it and the new library.
  • 1b – Keep The Cabin in place and make slightly larger changes, including raising up the library building as much as seven feet.
  • 2a- Move the building to a site just outside Julia Davis Park behind the Abe Lincoln statue.
  • 2b- Move the building to a space inside the park immediately next to the Lincoln statue.
  • 3 – Move the building to a site across Capitol Blvd. next to the Boise Art Museum.

Through the process, the only option leaders of The Cabin preferred was 2b, on its own site that is currently part of a maintenance yard for Boise Parks & Recreation.  That site is envisioned for redevelopment in the long term and locating The Cabin building there could impact those plans.

Moving The Cabin, parking & budget: Feedback on Boise Library leads to clarification, possible changes

“For us, both of the options (staying or moving) aren’t great,” Kurt Zwolfer, Executive Director of The Cabin said. “There are going to have great impacts on us. We tried to evaluate these bad options and find the least bad option for us.”

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He said keeping the structure in place with the new library around it would cause problems for parking, drop off access and outdoor program space.

According to Rob Bousfield with Boise Public Works, more than 470 people registered comments in the ten days the city accepted public comment – and sixty percent of those who wrote in said the building should stay in place.

Preservation Idaho, an organization dedicated to protecting structures of historical significance said the only solution it favored was keeping The Cabin in place.

“This is an old masterpiece – use it to complement your new masterpiece,” Preservation Idaho board member Frank Eld said referring to The Cabin and the proposed library. “It’s a marvelous contrast of styles – each so unique. We ask that you embrace this building and embrace its use. Coordinate with their needs and the needs of the library to coordinate with your new masterpiece.”

After more than an hour of presentations, the council held an extensive discussion as they worked to find the right solution.

Ultimately the council decided it was most appropriate to relocate the building, but didn’t feel it had enough information to make a decision on just where.

“As we’ve talked about the site and the incredible project we want to build for the future of the city, it’s vital that we maintain the historic status on this building,” council president Lauren McLean said.

“I didn’t foresee this being something people were going to be so passionate about,” councilor Holli Woodings said. “I like the potential shift just across Capitol Blvd., but understand the impacts of that.”

Zwolfer said his board is not in favor of the site next to the Boise Art Museum.

“Our biggest concern is that it’s busy,” he said. “Could we work around it? Yes. Would it be a nice serene contemplative enviroment for writing? No.”

After some back and forth, the council voted to move the Cabin, but do some more due diligence on potential sites, including looking at if The Cabin could be better integrated into a master plan with the Art Museum, and how its historical status would be impacted in new locations.  They also said they were open to additional site ideas.

They plan to consider the permanent spot early in 2019.

The Cabin literary center is housed in a building near the current library built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1940 to mark 50 years of Idaho Statehood. It served as the offices of the State Forestry division until 1990. The City of Boise acquired it in 1992 and entered into a 30-year lease with The Cabin in 1996.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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