Boise & Garden City

Boise awarded millions for a new library. The lead architect lacked an Idaho license.

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.

The lead architect on the team contracted to build Boise’s new $85 million main library was not licensed in Idaho at the time the firm was pursuing the project, documents show.

James Gregory “Greg” Reaves was ordered in January to pay a $500 administrative fine and $600 in legal fees for practicing architecture without a license. He works for Safdie Architects, an international firm known for buildings ranging from the 225,000-square-foot Salt Lake City Public Library to housing and corporate projects around the globe.

“In pursuing a contract to design the new Main Library,” Reaves “provided or offered to provide architectural services in Idaho prior to obtaining an Idaho license,” a consent order from the Idaho State Board of Architectural Examiners says. The violation was first reported by Boise Guardian.

That goes against an Idaho law on professional licenses for architects, which states, “Every person practicing or offering to practice architecture as defined in this chapter and not otherwise exempted shall have a separate license under his own name.” The law says people cannot practice architecture in the state unless licensed or working “under the responsible control of his licensed supervisor.”

It is not uncommon to have only the lead architect licensed in a state, a spokesperson for the American Institute of Architects said in an email Monday. Because each state is different and projects can vary wildly in scope, however, that is not always the case. Licensing for architects is managed at the state level.

The Boise City Council approved the hiring of Safdie Architects in February 2018 after a team interviewed the city’s top five candidates for the project, a contract worth $495,000. Reaves, a partner at Safdie Architects, obtained his Idaho architecture license on June 8. In December, the city awarded a second contract worth more than $11 million to the firm in association with CSHQA, a Boise architectural firm.

In May 2018, when he applied for the license, Reaves answered yes to the question “Have you solicited work or practiced architecture or presented yourself as an architect to this state prior to this application?”

Tess Beckingham, Safdie Architects’ director of marketing and communications, said the firm has no policy to have its architects licensed in a location unless it has work there.

Reaves “didn’t apply until we won the job,” Beckingham said in a phone call Monday. “He didn’t know it was a problem.”

Reaves said in a call Tuesday that he felt it was important to be honest when filling out the form, but he was a little surprised the state pursued penalties against him. He said that like most architects, he is proud of his licenses and takes them seriously.

“The law in Idaho is quite extreme,” Reaves said. “The spirit of the law is to protect people ... but the way it is written, no architect can pursue work in Idaho without violating it.”

He said he had heard that other submissions in the bid for the library contract all had the same problem. Mike Journee, spokesman for Mayor David Bieter, said that being licensed in Idaho “wasn’t a stipulation” for those putting in bids on the project.

In a phone call Monday, Journee said the problem with the licensing came as a result of confusion between Safdie Architects and CSHQA.

“It was simply an oversight,” Journee said. “It has been taken care of.”

Reaves is the only member of Safdie Architects’ four-person Boise library team licensed in Idaho, according to records reviewed by the Statesman. Each member of the CSHQA team working on the project is licensed.

The $1,100 in penalties was paid by the Safdie firm, Reaves said, because he is a partner in the firm. Reaves also said the other members of his team were considered to be part of the design team while he is acting as the architect in the project, meaning he takes responsibility for the others involved.

Reaves has been a licensed architect in New York since March 1994, in South Carolina since September 2017 and in Massachusetts since June 2018. He also has a certificate from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, which allows architects to “expedite reciprocity” of their licenses between states and often means they don’t have to take an exam in each state in which they want to be licensed.

Julie Eavenson, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses, said that the process for an architect who is already licensed is “simple and straightforward.”

“It’s an application and a $50 endorsement licensing fee,” she said. “Generally, people are able to get their license within 30 days.”

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.