City Council approves new historic district near downtown Boise

More than 700 Boise residents expressed support for the district’s creation.
Posted at 11:46 AM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 16:34:36-05

BOISE — The Boise City Council Tuesday approved the creation of a new historic district -- between the Ada County Courthouse and St. Luke’s Hospital -- which officials say will protect 11 properties in an area of eastern downtown Boise.

The East Main Historic District comprises two blocks on Main and Idaho Streets near their intersections with 1st and 2nd streets. “In August, council members enacted an emergency ordinance that placed a moratorium on the demolition, alteration, or moving of any structures in the area after the owner of a historic 1897-vintage home expressed a desire to demolish and redevelop the property,” said Boise City spokesman Mike Journee.

“Since then more than 700 Boise residents have expressed their support for the district’s creation -- through letters, e-mails and three public hearings by the city’s Design Review Committee and the Planning and Zoning Commission as part of the district’s approval process,’ he added.

Now, property owners in the new district will face some hurdles.

"He has to get approval if he wants to make alterations to the exterior building," said Anthony Shallat, Commissioner at the Boise City Historic Preservation Commission. "And typically the Historic Preservation Commission follows a number of guidelines on whether or not an alteration of the exterior of a building is acceptable."

“It’s clear that Boise residents overwhelmingly support the creation of long-term protections for this neighborhood,” Mayor Dave Bieter said. “It’s very satisfying to know these historic homes and their connection to Boise’s past will be preserved for generations of Boiseans to appreciate and learn about.”

What constitutes historic designation? Shallat says its whether the building has cultural, achitectural, or archaeological significance. "If something important happened there or if someone important lived there," said Shallat.

In the new district's case, history of prominent politicians of Idaho's past will be preserved. "The late senator frank church lived in one of them," said Journee.

The district’s creation also has the support of Preservation Idaho.

“You cannot build historic buildings,” said Paula Benson, President of Preservation Idaho’s Board of Directors. “They are a function of the passing of decades and generations and, once destroyed, they take with them the history and the diversity that they bring to their communities. We believe approval of the East Main Historic District ultimately safeguards the diversity of styles and eras that mark Boise’s downtown as one of the most vibrant and livable cities in the country.”

Although the area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only local historic district designation could protect the area properties from demolition. With the East Main Historic District approved, these properties will remain as enduring elements of Boise’s history.

“With this new historic district, we’ve not only coupled this corner of downtown to its history,” said Boise City Council President Lauren McLean, “we’ve also ensured that the character and vibrancy of Boise’s past endures.”