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A year after fire, city set to restore, upgrade Gene Harris Bandshell

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A year after a fire at the Gene Harris Bandshell at Julia Davis Park, the City of Boise is announcing plans to restore the 91-year-old building.

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Boise Fire responded to a fire on April 23 of 2018. The department initially said the fire caused instability in the structure that would make it a total loss. They later updated to note damage was not as extensive as first feared.

Now, Boise Parks and Recreation hopes to refurbish the bandshell and possibly add new amenities.

“Our team understands the importance of preserving the historic details of the bandshell and will work with contractors to preserve this important structure’s character and charm,” Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director said in a news release. “For example, the tiles saved from the bandshell’s roof will be used in repairing the structure.”

Upgrades: planned & possible

Construction crews will restore the roof and walls, plus add a new green room inside. Leaders plan restroom upgrades, LED lighting and new control boards. The cost of these baseline improvements is pegged at $430,000 and would be covered by insurance.

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The city may also add a shade structure to the bandshell, as well as additional lighting, A/V equipment and an accessible viewing area. These extra enhancements could cost an additional $400,000. The city is determining a way to pay for the upgrades.

The Parks & Recreation Department does not yet have a timeline for construction, but says it should be complete in time for a September event honoring the 50th anniversary of the Boise River Greenbelt.

Last year, Boise Fire officials said people caused the fire. A Boise Police spokesperson said police did not identify a suspect in the fire.

Bandshell a Boise icon

Crews built the Julia Davis Park Bandshell in 1928, according to Boise State Public Radio. Leaders held a large community celebration to commemorate the opening. BSPR said architects drew inspiration from the nearby Boise Depot and its Spanish Mission styling.

The open-air stage hosted hundreds of community events over the years, including as a central focus for the Boise River Festival.

Leaders renamed the structure in honor of long-time Idahoan Gene Harris in 2001. The renowned jazz musician died the previous year.

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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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