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Boise’s historic armory sold: New owners consider plan for building, site

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A story BoiseDev members got first.

After decades of disrepair and scores of announcements on potential projects that never materialized, the fate of the historic Reserve St. Armory is in new hands.

Plans could add a mixed-use development on the site, while keeping the 1930s-era Idaho National Guard Armory in place.

Ada County recorded a sale from previous owner J&M Land, LLC to Alpha-Armory Boise, LLC on July 21st.

The project is controlled by Alpha Development Group, a joint-venture of Ball Ventures, Wadsworth Development Group, and dbURBAN Communities.

‘Landmark’ property

Boise armory
The East End Armory on Reserve St. in Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The armory sits on a 5-acre set of parcels at Reserve St. and Avenue H near Military Reserve in Boise’s East End. Ball Ventures CEO Cortney Liddiard said they are excited about the project.

β€œThe armory building and surrounding property has been a landmark in this region for generations and we are excited to be part of its transitioning into a neighborhood and community amenity,” Liddiard said.

No applications have been filed with the City of Boise detailing any future plans for the site. Lidiard says he and his partners on the project are working to detail a plan.

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“While the final plan for the site is still being refined, we anticipate integrating the historic structure as a key component of a vertically integrated mixed-use project with residential housing, creative office space, and retail.”

Lidiard said the armory’s central location and proximity to the foothills and community offerings made it attractive.

“We are excited to make certain the Armory project integrates into the surrounding area and provides a benefit to the greater community,” he said.

Alpha said it would engage with the community for input “as plans progress.”

Three partners on project

Alpha-Armory Boise is a Utah company that lists Kip Wadsworth as principal, according to Utah business records.

Wadsworth is CEO of Wadsworth Development Company of Draper Utah, a real estate development firm with projects across the Intermountain region, including a retail project in progress at Eagle & Ustick in Meridian.

Wadsworth teamed with Idaho Falls-based Ball Ventures and Salt Lake City firm dbURBAN Communities for the project.

Ball Ventures has investments in real estate, hospitality, energy, and more. The company owns significant real estate assets across Idaho, including in the Boise area. It is a related company to Meridian’s Ball Ventures Ahlquist, but BVA isn’t currently involved in the Armory project according to the company.

dbURBAN specializes in multi-family housing projects, primarily in the Salt Lake valley.

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Long Boise history

Historic image of the Armory from the files of Charles Hummel.

The Idaho National Guard Armory at 801 Reserve St. building went up in 1931 and housed a variety of Idaho National Guard facilities and personnel. Expansions over the years in 1936, 1940, and 1956 added office space and more. The building is anchored by a large drill hall designed by Boise architecture firm Tourtellotte & Hummel.

“Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds, matched by monies from the City of Boise, were obtained to continue construction of the Armory,” a narrative of the building included with the application for the National Register of Historic Places read. “This new construction was begun in 1936 and completed in 1937. It included the construction of the drill hall, the entire first floor of the front unit and the central section of the second floor of the front unit. The building was dedicated in the summer of 1937 and was headquarters for the Idaho National Guard throughout the historic period. It was, when completed, the largest and best-equipped armory in Idaho.”

The Idaho National Guard stopped using the facility in the early 1970s, and the State of Idaho used it for office space. It later fell into disrepair, targeted by vandals, and sat largely empty in recent decades. The City of Boise acquired the building and used it for storage for city equipment and community initiatives like the Yellow Bike Project for 20 years.

The building saw formal listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

In 2002, a nonprofit group announced a campaign to raise $7 million to build a “state-of-the-art theater complex” in the building to be anchored by New Heritage Theater Company. The project never materialized and it’s unclear what became of the fundraising campaign.

Project stalled in private hands

Reserver St. Armory
A 2012 rendering of potential changes to the Reserver St. Armory, included in the City of Boise’s agreement to swap the property to J&M Land. Via public filing

A decade later, in 2012, J&M completed a land swap to acquire the property from the City of Boise.

J&M Land is owned by billionaire Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Arrillaga and PowerBar co-founder Mike McCollum. Arrillaga was born in the Basque region of Spain and is a long-time investor in the Silicon Valley region of California.

The city touted big plans for the property when selling it to J&M under former mayor Dave Bieter which didn’t come to fruition. The city entered into an agreement with J&M that called for the rehabilitation of the building and placed some limits on development types on the property, calling for limits to parking.

J&M completed some updates to the building, including adding new windows and painting the exterior.

The swap agreement ruled out a number of uses usually allowed in a mixed-use zone like a car wash, bikini bar, golf course, firing range, or car sales lot. The development agreement carries over to any new owners or they would have to apply to make specific changes.

A City of Boise spokesperson tells BoiseDev the agreements remain in place even with the sale of the property.

J&M won approval for a rezone and development agreement for a portion of the property that would allow for mixed-use commercial on the property.

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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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