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City comes up with another site where Cabin could go to make way for new Boise library

Library director interprets proposed Downtown Boise library

Boise Public Library Director Kevin Booe uses a model of architect Moshe Safdie's proposed Downtown Boise library to explore the building's viewscapes and features.
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Boise Public Library Director Kevin Booe uses a model of architect Moshe Safdie's proposed Downtown Boise library to explore the building's viewscapes and features.

Boise officials have come up with a second possible site for relocating The Cabin, the 78-year-old log building that stands in the way of their plan for a new Downtown library.

But the second site could be doomed from the start. It does not satisfy the wishes of the other The Cabin, the literary organization that uses The Cabin, the building of the same name, as its headquarters. And it does nothing to quell opposition from historic preservationists who say The Cabin, the building, should stay put.

The second site is a grassy area on the west end of Julia Davis Park between the Boise Art Museum and the Gene Harris Bandshell. It is just 400 feet east of The Cabin’s (the building’s) current site south of the existing library.

The first relocation site, disclosed in August, is at the north end of Julia Davis Park near Fifth Street, just north of the park’s statue of Abraham Lincoln.

City officials plan to present both options to the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 27, with a request that councilors decide where The Cabin (the building) should go.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy,” Kevin Booe, the Boise Public Library’s director, said Friday in a briefing for the Idaho Statesman arranged by city officials.

The city plans to build an $85 million library where Boise’s main library now stands on the southwest corner of Capitol Boulevard and River Street. The city has quietly started raising funds from big private donors to help pay for the project, which is designed by Moshe Safdie, an international architect who designed Salt Lake City’s main library.

Relocating The Cabin generated more discussion during a city outreach effort last summer than any other topic. The Cabin was built in in 1940 for the state forestry department. The city has owned it since 1992.

Moving the building to Julia Davis Park “may seem like a reasonable compromise, but a move negates the integrity of the building and the importance of forestry in Idaho’s history,” Preservation Idaho said in a recent blog post.

The Cabin, the literary organization, has different concerns. Its board worries about the impact of the new library on its outdoor activities. The board supports relocating The Cabin north of the Abe Lincoln statue. That site would provide good spaces for parking and programming.

At The Cabin’s current site, “We haven’t been offered a design, for example, that allows a drop-off point near our accessibility ramp, or that provides outdoor space to hold needed events like our weekly summer camp readings,” The Cabin (the literary group) said in an email Friday. The site north of the statue “is the only option that provides a safe, tranquil space for our literary programs while preserving easy access to our classrooms, boardrooms and offices.”

The second site is a response to concerns that the site north of the Lincoln statue is mostly not in the park itself but on another city-owned parcel that could be sold and developed for the city’s benefit. The site houses a truck yard and shop for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

City officials are considering moving those operations elsewhere and redeveloping the land, possibly to include affordable housing, said Mike Journee, a spokesman for Mayor David Bieter. But that could affect how much surrounding ground the relocated Cabin would have for outdoor activities.

So officials will show the council yet another option: moving The Cabin closer to the statue and to Julia Davis Drive, farther from Fifth Street and all within the park.

Preservation Idaho has said that The Cabin, the building, might have its listing on the National Registry of Historic Places jeopardized if it moves. But Journee said at Friday’s briefing that officials are “very confident” the listing would be safe as long as the building remains in a park-like setting.

The city is also considering modifications to the library should The Cabin stay put. One is to raise the entire library, possibly by 7 feet, to hide The Cabin from the river-facing views patrons would have from the library’s big, south-facing windows. Another is to move a planned children’s garden next to the library, and an adjoining children’s room that opens to it, to create more space between them and The Cabin. The edge of the garden is just 10 feet from the edge of The Cabin under the current design.

In related developments:

Relocation costs rise: City officials now estimate that relocating The Cabin to either Julia Davis site would cost $650,000, not the $350,000 they first thought.

Comments sought: Officials invite public comments on the new library at librarycampus@cityofboise.org

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