The Boise City Council has voted to move The Cabin, the 1940 log cabin used for literary readings and programs, to the northeast corner of Julia Davis Park.
The council’s unanimous vote came at the end of a four-hour meeting Tuesday night. The council heard from people who adamantly opposed moving The Cabin and people who thought it should be moved away from the proposed new main library.
Still others said they didn’t care how the council voted but that it should make a decision.
And it did. In the end, council members said they felt The Cabin literary center’s programs would have a better chance of thriving at a spot east of the Bloch Cancer Survivor Plaza. The area has parking, grass, open space and mature trees.
That site was a recent addition to the possible relocation sites for The Cabin. Earlier relocation sites were near the Gene Harris Bandshell and north of the Abraham Lincoln statue, both on the west side of Julia Davis Park.
Historic preservationists argued that part of the cabin’s historical significance is tied to its location. The Cabin is on Capitol Boulevard just north of the Boise Greenbelt and the Boise River, and just south of the existing library.
But The Cabin, the literary center with the same name as the building that uses the building as its headquarters, worried that its outdoor programs and parking would be squeezed by the new library if the building stayed put.
Several council members voiced concerns about accessibility. Once the new library is built, it would be inconvenient for people with mobility limitations to reach the building, and there would be no place for parents to drop off children taking part in programs.
“I’m not convinced The Cabin can remain where it’s at and continue to have a program,” Councilwoman Elaine Clegg said.
Clegg and Councilwoman Lisa Sanchez had voted against moving The Cabin during a council meeting last November. They changed their minds after listening to the testimony of a large number of the more than 150 people who attended Tuesday’s meeting, and after reading hundreds of emails sent to the city.
While the structure itself is important, Sanchez said it was equally important for The Cabin’s programs to continue. “To me, it’s people first,” she said.
Tom Killingsworth, president of The Cabin board of directors, told the council that the literary group’s board voted unanimously to ask that The Cabin be moved to the northeast side of Julia Davis Park if it couldn’t remain at its current location. After Tuesday’s meeting, he said his group is committed to making the new location work.
“We appreciate the discussion that the council had tonight,” Killingsworth said. “It’s nice to see people engaging and wanting to do the right thing.”
Several residents who spoke expressed concerns over the estimated $650,000 it will cost to move The Cabin. They said the money could be put to better use.
Alex Jones criticized the city for not insisting that architect Moshe Safdie include The Cabin in his design for the library. His later dismissal of the structure was “tone-deaf,” Jones said.
“The Cabin needs to be protected and celebrated in its original location,” she said.
Rabbi Dan Fink of Congregation Ahavath Israel said people, including historic preservationists, were upset when the Jewish synagogue was moved from 11th and State streets to its current location on Latah Street in 2003. He said the synagogue is in a better location as a result, and he said Julia Davis Park would be better for The Cabin.
Fink said he believes in the vision of Safdie, hired to build the new Boise library. Fink attended rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, Israel, in a building designed by Safdie.
“It was an extraordinary place to live and to learn,” Fink said. “It was a place that inspired all who read in its midst. And I believe the library that Moshe Safdie will design for the city of Boise will likewise inspire generations and generations of Boiseans.”
A skybridge from a parking garage
Library Director Kevin Booe said a parking garage planned across River Street, on River’s northeast corner with Eighth Street, might have a skybridge linking the garage with the new library.
“We’re working with the architect to do some kind of a ramp that would go across the parking structure into the library,” Booe told Betty Sutton, a Boise resident who asked about parking.
The property for the garage now houses the Foothills School of Arts and Sciences. Wilcomb LLC plans to demolish the school’s building, a former warehouse built in 1946 and replace it with a residential-and-retail building. The city has proposed to buy three levels of parking in the building.
The city has discussed having two-hour free parking for library patrons or validated parking, Booe said.