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Plan for Boise Armory site would add hundreds of apartments, retail, offices in Boise’s East End

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We now know more about potential plans for the historic Idaho National Guard Armory on Reserve St. in Boise.

Alpha Development plans to hold a neighborhood meeting later this month on its plans for the site. Utah-based Alpha is partnering with Ball Ventures and duURBAN Communities on the project, as BoiseDev reported last summer.

The 1930s-era Armory building would remain, according to a site plan provided to the East End Neighborhood Association by Alpha. To the north of the building in an existing parking lot, the developers hope to build a multi-story apartment building with 175 units.

The project would include a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom units, as well as studios. The development team would also build a series of “apartment flats,” with 24 two-story units, and 11 three-story townhomes. The building design shown would be “podium style,” with apartments above a parking structure, arranged in a sort-of extended-S shape with units surrounding courtyards.

Altogether, the plan calls for 210 apartments or townhomes.

Structured parking would be included in the main apartment building, as well as a small number of surface spaces. When street parking along neighborhood streets is factored in, the plan says the site would have a total of 330 parking spots.

The project also calls for two retail spaces. A larger space along Reserve St. at the corner of Ave. H, and a smaller location at the corner of Ave. H and Logan St.

The plan provided to the neighborhood association indicates the Armory building could be used for office space.

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A formal application has not yet been filed, as a neighborhood meeting is required by the City of Boise to take place before permits can proceed.

Last summer, Ball Ventures CEO Cortney Liddiard said they his firm was excited about the project.

“The 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.

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 Reserve 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.

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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