Here's the good news: Some of the oldest homes in Boise's Central Addition neighborhood will live to see another day. Threatened by arson, vandalism, the wrecking ball or a combination of all three, five of the 100-plus-year-old properties are being saved by California-based developer LocalConstruct, which will help foot the bill for moving, deconstructing or salvaging the buildings.
"They have been incredibly good partners to work with," said Dan Everhart, board member of Preservation Idaho.
The company staked its Boise claim by partnering in the massive renovation of The Owyhee and is proposing a three-story apartment/retail building on Idaho Street near 14th Street. Its biggest project, to date, is its plan to build a six-story, 160-unit residential/commercial complex, framed by Myrtle, Broad, Fifth and Sixth streets—otherwise known as the Central Addition and the site of five homes built between 1890 and 1920.
"There's the Jones House [on the corner of Myrtle and Fifth], the Fowler House next door and the Beck House next door to that," said Everhart, referring to each home by the name of its original builder/owner. "And we know that there are three people interested in those homes."
LocalConstruct Co-President Mike Brown said his company had identified new owners for the three homes.
"Yes, we're going to announce... well, let's call them winners. And we've agreed to help pay for relocation costs," he said, adding that such a large undertaking doesn't come cheap—rolling a home through downtown Boise could cost anywhere from $20,000-$40,000.
"We don't have an unlimited budget for those relocations costs, but we're going to do what we can," Brown said.
The Jones and Fowler homes are expected to be moved to a new lot in Boise. A third owner wants to deconstruct and rebuild the Beck home as a "mountain retreat."
As for the other two homes across the street—the Stewart House, a large Victorian home, and the Wood House, home to Boise's first ever librarian—are still not spoken for, though Brown said some last-minute interest has been expressed.
"If we can't find a new home for them, we'll salvage everything we can. We've got some good ideas for some of that material," he said.
The clock is ticking. The homes need to be moved, deconstructed or salvaged by late May so LocalConstruct can break ground on its new complex. Before any of that happens, Everhart wants to throw a going away party.
"We're talking with LocalConstruct about putting together a street party," said Everhart, giving the public an opportunity to be among the last people to ever walk through the doors of the historic homes.
"Our intent is to have some kind of celebration," he added.
Everhart said he has worked for the better part of eight years to find a plan to save the homes.
"Eight years ago, hardly anyone knew about the importance of the Central Addition but today, if you ask someone with a reasonable knowledge of the city, they have a pretty good idea of its history," Everhart said. "Ultimately, most of the remnants of the district may not remain, but the identity has value, and that's something that we'll always point to."