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Apartment owner wants to replace Art Deco building. Here’s what happened at city hearing

Dan Everhart, an outreach historian with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, highlights the Art Deco style of Boise’s Travis Apartments built in 1937. Owners want to raze the building and replace it with new office space and condos. By

The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday turned down a developer’s request for a zone change that could bring the demolition of an Art Deco-style apartment building.

A majority of commissioners said they didn’t feel Creed Herbold’s plan to replace the three-story, 10-unit Travis Apartments building, built in 1937, with a five-story building with up to 24 mostly high-end condominiums fit with the neighborhood. The site is at 17th and Bannock streets just west of Downtown.

Chairwoman Jennifer Stevens said she didn’t think it was right to selectively rezone one piece of property in an area surrounded by low-rise multifamily complexes and businesses with a 65-foot-tall building that would be 20 feet higher than any surrounding buildings.

She also said Herbold’s building would not appreciably increase the amount of housing in the neighborhood but would push out residents who pay $825 a month in favor of much wealthier buyers who could afford a modern condominium.

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“We’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” Stevens said.

Herbold and his planning consultant told the commission he had explored ways to keep the building, but nothing was feasible. The electric system is old and would need replacement, inefficient sawdust was used as insulation and the plumbing system is inadequate.

“Our goal is to develop a beautiful building that the neighborhood could be proud of,” Herbold told the commission.

The current zoning allows a maximum of 12 residential units and a 45-foot height limit. Commissioner Tamara Ansotegui, who voted against the denial, said she would favor keeping the height limit at 45 feet, while Commissioner Milt Gillespie, who also voted no, said he wanted to limit it to 50 feet.

Herbold planned to offer two-bedroom, two-bathroom units mostly between 900 and 1,300 square feet. After hearing neighbors and housing advocates ask for more affordable units, he said he was considering putting in several smaller units, perhaps around 750 square feet.

Historic preservationists want to save the building. The stucco building’s exterior features full-height stepped pilasters — rectangular, column-like ornaments — that wrap each corner and flank the central entrance. That architectural motif is repeated between each of the upper walls with stepped embellishments emphasizing the vertical characteristics of the Art Deco style.

Art Deco emerged in the 1920s in Paris in arts, crafts and architecture and gained popularity in the 1930s.

Many of those who opposed Herbold’s plans praised him for meeting three times with neighbors and the West Downtown Neighborhood Association. They said he listened to their concerns and looked to make changes while still wanting to replace the apartment building.

Joe Boswell, who owns a 120-year-old home a couple of blocks away, said there are challenges to maintaining an older residence, but there’s a lot of charm in those structures. He said no one suggested replacing France’s Notre Dame with condos after the recent fire.

“If the apartment building comes down, the heart and soul of the the neighborhood will be in the trash trucks hauling away the debris,” he said.

“Of course, I’m disappointed,” Herbold said after the hearing. He said he hopes there will be a different result when the application goes before the Boise City Council.

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