17 bannock

The Travis Apartments at 16th & Bannock in Boise.

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BOISE — A historic apartment building in West Downtown is coming down, and Boise City Council has approved a high-end, mixed-use development to go in its place.

Boise City Council voted unanimously to approve a controversial, five-story building with condominiums and retail space at 1620 W. Bannock Street on Tuesday evening. The Travis Apartment building, which had low-cost one bedroom units, will be demolished to make way for the new development. The art deco building has been the center of debate surrounding the project since it was introduced earlier this year.

In the midst of several groups mobilizing to try and save the building and its affordable housing units earlier this summer, property owner Creed Herbold took out a demolition permit. This means the building will be demolished, if the city decided to grant his rezoning request for the five-story building, rendering any questions of historic preservation and affordable housing irrelevant.

Many neighbors were concerned about the height of the project and how it would loom over the lower, suburban structures close by. Some called for the project to stop altogether.

Following a denial from Planning and Zoning and the first public hearing in front of city council a few weeks ago, Herbold made some design changes, lowering the height of some portions of the building to make it appear smaller.

“I think our design has evolved in a position direction with the concerns of others and it deserves to be approved with the changes we have made,” he told council.

Council members were supportive of the project and the design changes implemented since the issue was last heard by the council. No members of the public who testified about the project referenced saving the current building like they had in previous deliberations. City Council President Lauren McLean gave a nod to the council members who expressed frustration over Herbold’s decision to pull a demolition permit before the rezone was approved.

McLean said although she hoped a compromise of some sort could have been reached instead of a demolition permit being issued before negotiations could begin, she is glad the city was inspired by this situation to move ahead on creating a demolition ordinance to slow the destruction of older buildings in the future.

“One thing that came out of that is we have started moving forward with a demolition and a deconstruction of building ordinance that we ought to have done long ago,” McLean said. “From now on, I’m going to think of that as the ‘Travis’ ordinance.”

A presentation about possibilities for a demolition ordinance to protect historic buildings came before council this summer. No formal language has been proposed or implemented yet.

During his presentation, Herbold argued the city’s comprehensive plan for the area included taller, denser buildings, like his project, for the area. He said he is worried his project is getting undue scrutiny because it’s the first one like it in the area, and other developers would get a pass on once his project is finished.

West Downtown Neighborhood Association President Nicole Windsor said the opposite would be true if a similar project was proposed. She said her organization would be just as vocal about projects like Herbold’s, no matter if it was the first one or one of many in the area.

“As a neighborhood we wouldn’t want to see someone held to a standard and someone else not held to a standard,” she said. “We want it to be the same for everyone.”

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066.

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