8th and Main spire will change

Talk that the Downtown Boise building looks like a Mormon temple prompts the owners to rethink.

sberg@idahostatesman.comOctober 25, 2013 

8th and Main, downtown Boise

The 8th and Main building in downtown Boise Sunday Oct. 20, 2013.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Proposed changes to the top of the structure include glass surfaces on its first two levels and colored lights at its highest point, said Tommy Ahlquist, chief operating officer for the Gardner Co., which owns the new building.

That should make the spire look less like part of a religious structure, Ahlquist said.

Gardner’s designers have sketched a basic idea for changing the spire and soon will submit detailed designs to the city of Boise, he said. It’s possible the color of the lights shining on the top of the spire will shift from time to time.

Ahlquist said the design change is minor enough that it won't require approval from the city’s Design Review Committee.

The proposed changes come in response to an ongoing conversation about whether the spire atop the 8th and Main building makes it look like a temple or other structure for The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints. After stories in Wednesday’s Idaho Statesman and Thursday on KTVB examined comments about the building, Gardner began looking for ways to tone down the religious appearance of the spire, Ahlquist said Friday afternoon.

Company leaders, many of whom are church members, became aware of the complaints in conversations with people they know and trust, he said.

“The number of concerns just began to grow. I think you gave people a voice to say, ‘Hey, we have some concerns about what this looks like,’ and the religious influence that they felt might have been part of the design,” Ahlquist said. “And nothing could be farther from the truth for us internally. We were just almost shocked initially, but as the week went on, we thought, ‘You know, we need to do something to tone that down.’ ”

Since details are still being worked out, the cost of the changes is uncertain. But cost isn’t the main concern, Ahlquist said.

“At this point, with the magnitude of the project, and the change we’re talking about, we need to get it right,” he said. “We don’t want, at the end of a long, storied history here, the spire to be a distraction from what the bigger, intended good here is. The building’s going to be a great change. Let’s not make the top a distraction.”

The Gardner Co. broke ground on the 8th and Main building in July 2012 and is scheduled to open it officially in January. Tenants have signed leases for most of the building’s space. A parapet at the top reaches 270 feet — 3 feet higher than Idaho’s second-tallest building, U.S. Bank Plaza on the other side of Main Street.

The spire wasn’t part of the building’s original plans. In 2011, Salt Lake City-based Babcock Design Group submitted plans that envisioned a feature resembling the roof of a family home on top of the tower.

Brian Garrett, then a member of Boise’s Design Review Committee, didn’t like that, calling it “inconsequential and honestly a little silly-looking.”

Six months later, the spire was part of a new 8th and Main design.

Babcock architect T.J. Winger said the change was in response to Garrett's wish for “a powerful element.”

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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