Boise Mayor David Bieter gave his ninth State of the City address Tuesday at the Boise Centre. A highlight was the renovation of a historic site, the armory in Boise's East End.
The Reserve Street Armory has lots of gold stars that make it an attractive property, said neighbor Sheila Trounson, including proximity to Downtown Boise, St. Lukes and open space in the Foothills and Military Reserve.
Theres even geothermal heat.
Despite those advantages, the building has sat vacant for more than a decade.
J&M Land has been working with the city and meeting with neighbors to talk about the buildings future. The firm has decided to develop the armory as a mixed-use project, which could include residences and small businesses.
The armory has been a real interest in the neighborhood for a long time, said Laura Shealy, who heads a group that formed six years ago because it was concerned about the building.
The armory committee also includes artist Charles Gill, restaurateur Dave Krick and architect Steve Trout.
Weve known that preserving the armory is a more expensive alternative to ripping it down, said Shealy.
The building will require extensive work inside and out. Costs could be as high as $2.5 million to stabilize it and get it ready for redevelopment, said Adam Park, spokesman for the mayor.
That amount doesnt include tenant improvements or landscaping.
The costs for the tenant improvements would vary widely depending on the use, the tenant, their choices, their budget, etc., Park said.
One estimate, said Park, is $1.8 million to create 35,000 square feet of office space.
Were appreciative that someone has come forward to do that. The neighbors will be happy, and the city will have a use for this building said Shealy.
The armory committee will continue to meet, she said. The new goal: getting tenants interested in leasing space in a renovated armory.
The committee set up a website and may host an Armory Day later this year.
Here are some excerpts from the mayor's speech:
On city finances:
Last year we cut the General Fund by $2.3 million. This year we knew we needed another $3.5 million. Thanks to the creative hard work of our departments, we achieved those goals without any real reductions in services. One group in particular deserves credit, and thats our fire and police unions. They agreed to a pay cut totaling almost $1.3 million.
On the Terraces of Boise::
The $68 million project is expected to employ 150 people and will break ground in the Harris Ranch neighborhood east of Eckart Road this fall, Bieter said. The facility will include150 residences for active seniors with medical staffers available on the 13-acre site.
On Boises success at refugee resettlement:
Many people are surprised to learn that Boise has been designated by the State Department as a Refugee Resettlement Community for almost 30 years. In that time, our city has welcomed not only those seeking to make their livelihoods here but those escaping oppression in other countries. Over the past few years, it became apparent that the bad economy compounds the challenges facing refugees. Many refugees found themselves on the brink of homelessness. So the City and the Idaho Office for Refugees convened a roundtable of community partners and resettlement agencies to figure out how to help refugees succeed. The result, our Refugee Resource Strategic Community Plan, has been a tremendous success. Just 55 percent of Boises employable refugee adults were working in 2009; last year it was 74 percent.
On the hole in the ground:
Since last years speech, theres almost too much great news to mention. But most noteworthy was the announcement of the Eighth and Main/Zions Bank project, the site formerly known as the hole in the ground. That project is fully permitted and is moving forward on the ground. And the naysayers are falling silent one by one.
On Whole Foods:
At the other end of downtown, we go from the hole to the whole from the Hole in the Ground to Whole Foods, which is rising on another patch of ground that has been vacant for far too long. When a successful, national chain announces a new store in Boise, it shows some smart people have bet were going from downturn to upturn.
On the renovation of a city warehouse for use by local firm Biomark:
Biomark, a young and growing high-tech firm was badly in need of new facilities. And we badly wanted to keep them in Boise. The City entered a long term lease with a local developer who refurbished the Citys old Shavers warehouse on 9th and River. Today, the renovation is complete, Biomark has moved in, and this is the result. I couldnt be more pleased at the success of this partnership.
On the success of the recent Exergy Tour:
We got another great event the weekend before last with the Exergy Tour. Sixteen teams from seven countries; some of the best womens cyclists in the world; 195 miles of racing from Boise to Nampa to Kuna, Garden Valley to Idaho City and back to Hyde Park. It was an amazing experience. And none of it would have happened without the inspiration and determination and sheer hard work of another great local company, Exergy Development Group. I know all of us look forward to the return of this outstanding event in years to come.
Last year, I asked all of you to have faith faith in our abilities, faith in our wisdom, faith in our city, Bieter said. Today, the evidence shows that faith was justified. More people are finding work, more homes are being bought and sold and cranes dot the downtown landscape.
About 800 people attended the speech Tuesday morning. The speech was recorded and will be available to the public online, along with The 2012 State of the City Report, the city's annual publication, at www.cityofboise.org.