The rise, fall and resurrection of the Central Addition and, in particular, The Fowler, can be linked to two couples who, even though they're more than a century apart, had remarkably similar dreams: They wanted to be part of a new Boise neighborhood and a thriving downtown business climate.
When Edmund and Sophia Fowler built their Queen Anne-style house at 413 S. Fourth Street in 1894, Idaho had only recently been admitted as the 43rd state in the Union. The Fowlers wanted to live near a new jewelry store on Main Street while becoming residents of what Preservation Idaho would later call "one of the most fashionable places to live" and "one of the most affordable areas for Boise's working class."
Fast forward more than 120 years to husband and wife Paul Carew and Lisa McGrath, who will move into the Central Addition on Saturday, March 10, when the aptly-named Fowler apartment building officially opens for occupancy. Carew owns Carew Co., a strategic design and communications agency; McGrath owns Lisa McGrath LLC, a new-media and privacy law firm; and together they own Wear Boise apparel. All three businesses are in the downtown Boise core.
"A neighborhood first platted at the turn of the 19th century is being revitalized with new life," said McGrath. "That's exciting to be a part of. The City of Boise and the Capital City Development Corporation's plans for Broad Street promise it'll be the 'coolest block in Boise.'"
Actually, those of us who work at Boise Weekly—which moved to the corner of Sixth and Broad streets in 2005—always thought our block was cool. It was, however, eerily quiet for years. Most of the historic homes in the Central Addition, including the Queen Anne affectionately known as "The Fowler," fell into serious disrepair. One by one, some homes were targets of vandalism, fire or both. Most of them were destroyed or bulldozed. Some were saved, including The Fowler, which was rescued in August 2015 and relocated to a lot near Fort and 11th streets. By then, developers from Local Construct had plans for the Central Addition, and it didn't take long to convince city officials to give the neighborhood new life.
"I remember telling them, 'God bless you,'" said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "We've been waiting for something like this for six or eight years."
Local Construct broke ground in January 2016, and a little more than two years later, The Fowler is set to re-energize the neighborhood with 159 rental units, 186 parking spaces and ground-floor retailers including the already-opened Wylder restaurant and Form & Function coffee shop.
"Once you have people returning to this neighborhood—we're talking about 200 new residents—they're going to want to shop and eat," said Patrick Boel, director of construction for Local Construct. "Downtown has struggled a bit over the years because people haven't lived here. They've driven downtown and had to park, but if you live down here, you can walk. It will have an impact not just on this neighborhood but all of downtown."
Boel smiled like a proud father as he walked through The Fowler, talking about its amenities. Highlights include dog wash stations (the building is pet-friendly), lockable bike parking for 160, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an outdoor deck with a community barbecue and fire pit, and something called "parcel pending."
"Imagine you have a package delivery from Amazon. The delivery person will come up here [the second floor], type in a code and—"Right on cue, Boel entered a code, prompting one of a couple dozen different-shaped doors to pop open—"The system then texts you with a special code that allows only you to open that door."
Some of the Fowler apartments look out over Julia Davis Park and Boise State, while others provide great views of downtown and the Boise Foothills, and they come in different sizes: live/work units, which allow residents to have small businesses in their homes, start at $1,550. Studio apartments are available for $1,100-$1,140 per month, one-bedroom apartments run $1,250-$1,600, and two-bedrooms are $1,350-$1,900.
"I've got one of the new units facing east, so I'll be waking up to some gorgeous sunrises," said Allison Wear, a chief information officer at a Boise business. "My office is just off the Greenbelt; it's so close. Plus, I have a couple of dogs, so I couldn't be happier. I've been waiting for a place like this, especially downtown."
Meanwhile, Carew and McGrath are anxious to move into their sixth-floor unit.
"We'll be looking north with that great view of the Foothills and the Statehouse. We've got a corner unit, so we'll also be looking east enjoying that spectacular sunrise over Tablerock," said McGrath. "We're definitely embracing something new."
Just like Edmund and Sophia Fowler did in 1894.