Boise & Garden City

Roosevelt Market owners planned a remodel. Neighbors found a near demolition.

After the longtime owners of the Roosevelt Market announced their retirement in November, the building’s owners — Jill Simplot and her mother, Pam Lemley — said the historic East End grocery store would remain in place.

So it was a shock to neighbors when, seemingly overnight, they found only wood slats and foundation remaining where the market once stood.

A permit filed with the city of Boise gave the owners permission for “selective demolition, removal of the existing foundation and the installation of the footing and foundation only.”

“The entire building is not allowed to be demolished,” the permit reads.

But little remains of the original 1912 building at 311 N. Elm Ave. Gone is the mural by James Hacking painted in bright blues and purples across the building’s side. Gone are the green shutters and the A-frame roof.

“Technically, it’s a remodel,” said Mike Journee, spokesman for Mayor David Bieter, in a phone interview. He added that city inspectors who surveyed the property Monday said the remodel of the building was consistent with the permits the owners had secured.

The Roosevelt Market, one of the last neighborhood stores in Boise, has long been a routine part of the day for neighbors who drop by for a coffee refill, or a doggie treat on a morning walk. This exterior has been removed as part of a remodeling. Darin Oswald

“The building was in bad shape, it’s that simple,” Journee said. “The foundation was in very poor condition. They are re-using what they can where they can.”

Although Roosevelt Market is located within the East End Historic District, the city offers it few special protections.

Owners of all historic structures within the city of Boise’s 10 historic districts must go through an application process to make any major changes to their facades. But depending on their historical significance, they may be subject to a more rigorous approval via the Historic Preservation Commission, according to Commission Chairwoman Cindy Montoto.

When a historic district is created, each individual property is evaluated on whether it contributes to the architectural characteristics of the area, earning either a “contributing” or “noncontributing” status. Owners of buildings listed as “contributing” must get any structural changes approved by the commission.

But Roosevelt Market was classified as “noncontributing” — meaning it may have been altered to a point where its historical integrity was compromised. Noncontributing structures have fewer protections, and changes to their facade or structure may be approved by city staff rather than the commission.

If the owners had decided to demolish the building, they would have had to go through the commission, Journee said.

“The owners are dedicated to keeping the building as in-step with the original construction as possible so it can continue to be the important neighborhood gathering place it always has,” Journee wrote in a follow-up email. “Otherwise, the building’s poor condition would have likely meant it would have been lost completely.”

Those who had been in the store previously knew that the hundred-year-old structure was deteriorating. Simpot and Lemley previously told the Statesman that they planned to do some work on the structure after the market closed in December.

Neither Simplot nor Lemley could be reached for comment.

The mother-daughter duo in 2018 also purchased a property across the alley to the south of the store where they had begun to build an outdoor gathering space that featured a bocce ball court and picnic area.

In March, the owners of the French-inspired bistro Petite 4, Sarah and Dave “DK” Kelly, announced they had partnered with Simplot and Lemley to open a new cafe and grocery at Roosevelt Market after the remodel. They plan to serve up some of the popular sandwiches on the menu at Bleubird cafe, which they closed in 2018 to open Petite 4.

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Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.