BOISE — Eight historic houses have been moved to make way for St. Luke’s Health System’s ongoing expansion since last summer, but five of the houses are still awaiting their permanent home.
Two of the homes were relocated elsewhere on St. Luke’s campus to be used by the hospital, but the remaining six were purchased by Treasure Valley-based company Reclaimed Structures so they can be renovated.
However, this has proved to be a longer, more complex process than company owner, Kerry Calverley, and her husband expected.
The initial plan was to move five of the six houses they purchased to one large lot in Boise’s East End, creating a new subdivision of the older homes. That deal fell through.
Since then, Calverley has been trying to find parcels of land nearby where the homes can be placed permanently. Until then, the houses sit up on blocks in a field near the foothills off Warm Springs Avenue.
“We’re trying to solve a puzzle and think outside of the box,” Calverley said. “We want to keep these houses, to be able to save them and have people be able to enjoy them again.”
These homes have been owned by St. Luke’s for years and used for a variety of purposes, including one home that was outfitted to be a preschool. When the hospital system first began plans for its multiyear expansion to include a new hospital tower, these homes were decided to be either demolished or moved to make way for additional buildings to support the growing campus.
St. Luke’s had only planned to save the houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But after hearing from various historic preservation organizations and community members, the hospital decided to collaborate with Reclaimed Structures to save more.
One of the six houses the company purchased alongside its once-business partner, Logan Patten, was relocated to Manor Drive on the Boise Bench. Earlier this month, Reclaimed Structures reached a deal to move two of the five remaining houses to a lot on Warm Springs; the other three are still in need of a lot.
Finding a place to locate these houses is no easy task. Each of the houses will need to be sited on a basement or a crawl space, instead of a concrete slab, due to the utilities being installed underneath the building itself. They also cannot be moved far out of the East End because of hills, roundabouts or other geographic limitations that make finding a location for the houses difficult. They also are prevented in certain neighborhoods because of homeowners association policies.
Moving each home with Nampa-based Western States Home Movers cost Reclaimed Structures between $40,000 and $50,000 each time. Once a permanent lot is identified, Reclaimed Structures will have to pay that fee again to relocate the houses. Finding affordable land in the East End, one of Boise’s most expensive neighborhoods, has proved to be a challenge.
Calverley said she and her husband founded Reclaimed Structures specifically for this project, and while they are not looking to turn a profit, they do not want to go into debt to save the houses. She said in this day and age, finding residents who are willing to take on a more difficult renovation project — over hiring a builder for new construction — is rare.
“You have to have somebody who really has a passion to be a fixer-upper,” Calverley said.
Paula Benson, president of Preservation Idaho, said while her organization was disappointed the homes had to be moved at all, she is excited somebody is trying to save them.
“While we’re not happy the neighborhood has been moved away, we are happy the houses will live on,” Benson said.
Although the deals to find land for the homes is progressing, the clock is ticking. The lot where they currently sit, owned by the Idaho State Historical Society and leased by the College of Western Idaho, will get muddy once the winter rains start and make it difficult to move them. Also, the longer the houses sit unoccupied, the higher the risk of damage. Already there have been rocks thrown through some of the windows, Calverley said.
Despite the challenges, she thinks the right owners could be found for the structures because of the special circumstances surrounding the project.
“This is such a unique thing,” she said. “You hear every once in awhile somebody moving a house off a property to do something, but this is pretty different.”