Another Treasure Valley building with a robust history and attractive architecture is about to find new life through redevelopment.
A few months before its remodeled doors open, the 98-year-old Nampa library building is already 80 percent leased, said its new co-owner, Nampa developer Mike Mussell.
“It’s going like clockwork,” said Mussell, who hopes for occupancy in February or March.
The two-story sandstone building was designed by Idaho architects Tourtellotte & Hummel and built in 1919 for what was then the First National Bank. Located at 11th Avenue South and First Street South, it is notable for its grand entryway’s Ionic columns and the pediment above them. The building has 28,000 square feet over two stories and a basement.
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First Security Bank donated it to Nampa in 1965 for a library. As Nampa kept growing, the library became cramped. Two years ago, the library moved to the new Library Square project built by Gardner Co. at 215 12th Avenue South for the the Nampa Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency.
The agency then sold the old library to Mike and Patty Mussell’s Mussell Construction Inc. for $1. Some agency board members thought that was silly, but most decided it was appropriate to make sure the building did not end up unoccupied and derelict, as Nampa’s old Mercy Hospital did. The hospital building burned down last year.
Mike Mussell estimates that he has put about $2 million into refurbishing it. Everything is new: the plumbing, the heating and air conditioning (which cost more than $400,000) and more. Many of the building’s historic features — from its sandstone exterior to its plaster interior with crown molding and skylights — are being preserved or restored.
The building’s anchor tenant will be Chatterbox Pediatric Therapy Center, which provides speech therapy and other services. Its 32 employees will fill almost half the building. The center, now in the former Masonic Temple building at 320 11th Avenue South, has outgrown its space, said speech and language pathologist Nikki Kerns, the company’s co-owner. (The Mussells renovated the Masonic Temple as well.)
“We love the look and feel of the building,” Kerns said.
Other tenants, each with a 10-year lease, include a coffee shop, legal and accounting offices, a spa, and a real estate group. Mussell is talking to a church looking for a meeting place.
The Nampa Chamber of Commerce will move into the ground floor. The building’s location on a prominent downtown corner was a big attraction, said Debbie Kling, the chamber president, who will be sworn in as Nampa’s mayor in January.
“To be positioned in a historic building, for the chamber, is a wonderful fit,” Kling said.
Among the improvements Mussell is making is a display featuring rebuilt sections of facades of important Nampa buildings, including the old Masonic Temple, the Nampa Train Depot and the Dewey Palace. The latter was a grand hotel that spanned 1st Street between 11th and 12th avenues; it was torn down in the early 1960s.
Old urban buildings often were torn down in the ’60s and ’70s to make way for new development. Since then, rising interest in historic preservation has resulted in fewer demolitions and more restorations by urban-renewal districts around the country.
The old library has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.
Mussell is collecting historic artifacts donated by the public to display inside.
“We’ve been getting all kinds of stuff,” he said. “A Bible from the Masons that’s thick with gold leaf, listing the Masonic presidents. Books. Old light fixtures. Maps. Perfume bottles. Hats.”
Mussell’s other restorations of old Nampa buildings include the Idaho Arts Charter School building, built in 1915, and the former McClure Business Park, now Northwestern Mutual, built in the 1940s.
“Some of these buildings, you won’t see buildings like them again, because they’d be too expensive to rebuild — the sandstone, the plasterwork and masonry,” Mussell said.
Kling said she will continue the push to revitalize downtown Nampa as mayor.
“We have a beautiful building infrastructure downtown with so much potential,” Kling said, “but today we have vacant storefronts that need to be filled.”
Business Editor David Staats contributed.