Few people know how close Boise came to losing the C.C. Anderson Building.
Over the past five years, as the 88-year-old building stood empty, ideas for repurposing it came and went.
One ownership group wanted to put workforce housing in the upper floors with retail space at street level. A developer wanted to put a hotel there. Another proposed market-rate housing. A third considered putting office space on the upper floors with retail stores on the first floor.
Three groups made offers just because they wanted the land underneath it, said Clay Anderson, an agent for Boise commercial real estate firm Colliers International. To them, the more than 100,000-square-foot building was a liability.
David Wali, one of three partners who owned the building until recently, said those offers came in substantially lower than what he was willing to accept – and less than the partners had already spent on the property. But with Downtown land prices on the rise, someone who wanted to tear down the building eventually would have offered enough money, Anderson said.
The solution that finally stuck was unusual. Athlos Academies, a Boise education company that incorporates athletics as a core principle in its curriculum, announced three weeks ago that it had bought the building, which was last used as a Macy’s store. Athlos intends to makde the building its corporate headquarters and a training center for teachers and other employees.
The asking price was $2.1 million. Athlos said it got the building for $1.5 million.
From an architectural perspective, the C.C. Anderson Building is a source of skepticism.
Gone is the Mission style C.C. Anderson himself incorporated when he erected the building in 1927 as the home of C.C. Anderson’s Golden Rule Department store. That style was popular into the 1930s in Boise.
In 1963, shortly after the building became the Bon Marche, it was remodeled with the midcentury-modern look it retains today.
The makeover was extraordinary. It featured an enclosed sky bridge that ran from the north wall of the building across a surface parking lot to a parking garage on the north side of Bannock Street where the Banner Bank Building now stands.
“No parking problem ever,” boasted an advertisement that called the Bon “Idaho’s Greatest Department Store.”
The sky bridge fit perfectly into the midcentury mindset, said Dan Everhart, an architectural historian for Preservation Idaho. The ideal lifestyle was to drive everywhere and protect your car and yourself from the elements whenever possible.
“The question most people would ask was, ‘Does the building have any historical or architectural value to preserve?’” Everhart said. “And I guess it just depends on what you look at and what you look for. And, of course, there are lots of people who find value — legitimately find value — in architecture and design from the midcentury.”
From a historical perspective, Everhart said, the loss of a retail use that dates back almost 90 years is significant. But the sale plan at least keeps the building intact.
“The ongoing use and reuse of the building, I think, is more important, probably, than exactly that specific kind of cultural space,” Everhart said. “What you can’t debate is whether or not demolition and new construction is a more sustainable practice. The truth is, it’s not.”
Anderson, the listing agent, said he is happy someone is finally taking over the property. When buildings stay empty too long, he said, they lose some of their appeal.
“They kind of blend into the landscape,” he said. “In this case, it kind of became largely forgotten.”