Want to live above a bomb shelter? Project could build condos over Boise fallout shelter


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In the Cold War era, a new construction project started in the Boise Highlands. A bomb shelter. The project, built in 1961, used federal funds and a stock sale to build out a 14,000 square foot two-story shelter built into the hillside.

The Highlands Community Fallout Shelter was a prototype – and the first of its kind in the US. In the event of a nuclear attack, families who owned shares could have taken up residence inside.

The bomb shelter was a sign of its time perhaps. And in a sign of our current era – a developer hopes to build as many as nine condos on top of the shelter.

The shelter and land are owned by Boise Bomb Shelter, LLC, which state records indicate is controlled by Farren Engineering principal Jon P. Farren. PivotNorth Architecture held a pre-application meeting with the City of Boise Boise and filed for a neighborhood meeting in recent weeks.

Condos over bomb shelter

Concept drawing of a condo project envisioned to go over the top of the Boise Bomb Shelter. Via PivotNorth

A concept drawing filed with the City of Boise in April shows a multi-story structure built on top of the shelter with six condo units, and a rooftop pool and spa. The neighborhood meeting filing in June indicates nine condos could be built.

Because formal permits have not yet been filed with city, the plans could change or may not move forward. The neighborhood meeting filing indicates developers will need a conditional use permit from the city for the project.

The concept drawing also shows covered and surface parking along W. Curling Drive.

History of the site

That early 1960s groundbreaking saw a lot of attention. Gov. Robert E. Smylie and Boise Mayor Robert L. Day were at the groundbreaking, with a lineup of dignitaries. The then-powerhouse LIFE Magazine did a long feature on bomb shelters after a call out from President John F. Kennedy to Americans to consider building the bomb-proof spaces. The under-construction Boise shelter appeared on the first page – noting it would serve some of Boise’s 35,000 or so residents.

After the Cold War fad of bomb shelters began to fade, the building changed hands.

In the early 1970s, the shelter was sold to the Boise School District, which used it for storage and office space. KTVB reported the district sold it it in 2003 to Farren, who held onto the property over the past two decades.

In 2019, he listed the shelter and land for $2.1 million, according to Zillow – but the property went off the market last October.

“At $150/square foot, this building is a bargain,” the listing noted. “14,000 square feet, 2 stories, reinforced concrete structure. Very energy efficient. New LED lighting throughout, all new bathrooms and one ADA bathroom, new fire sprinkler system, and new acoustically lined HVAC ducts throughout.”

The shelter has operated in recent years with a series of music rehearsal rooms built throughout the building.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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