Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TRICA Receives Go Ahead From City

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 3:50 PM

  • The little house at the center of controversy
Last night, the Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Art cleared the final hurdle in its development process.

The Boise City Council approved TRICA’s special exceptions request and granted the organization a Conditional Use Permit. The CUP allows TRICA to begin long-awaited major renovations on the Institute’s “children’s educational art center,” the Immanuel Methodist Episcopal Church on 14th St. TRICA founder and artistic director Jon Swarthout said this is the final municipal hurdle in beginning phase two of turning the church into a “center for art education.”

At issue since TRICA purchased the church and the house next door to the north more than a year ago, has not been not only the impact the organization will have on the surrounding neighborhood but the little house next door.

Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho said that from the earliest stages of TRICA’s development, the house to the north was always a question.

“When Jon [Swarthout] first talked to me about it, I told him that the preservation option would be to keep some or all of the house and to do something with it,” Everhart said. “We were always pushing in that direction.”

Part of Everhart’s concern was that he also knew the Northend Neighborhood Association would—and probably should—have concerns about the demolition of the house. TRICA would need a permit to tear the house down and turn it into parking, something historically difficult to obtain in an historic district even for a house, such as that one, which is considered “non-contributing” to the district.

“I strongly suggested that they consider not demolishing. If they needed room back there, the house has some non-historic rear wings that they could get rid of, which is ultimately what they decided to do,” Everhart said.

That plan will provide for eight parking spaces and the house will become what Swarthout deemed a “storybook cottage,” a children’s library of sorts that could also serve as a meeting place for small groups or even a place to hold children’s birthday parties.

Karena Youtz, a resident in the area, has been a vocal opponent of TRICA’s proposed demolition of the house since first learning that was a possibility. Heading a movement called “Save 14th Street”—a group comprised of nearly 50 Internet members and a core of six to eight people who live within roughly 300 feet of the church—Youtz has long said that she does not oppose TRICA per se, but she does oppose a parking lot in her neighborhood.

  • Paving paradise?

“They’re removing [only] the back addition to the house, yes, but they’re removing it to put in a parking lot,” Youtz said. “I wouldn’t care if somebody moved into the house and tore off those additions and lived there. Whatever. I wouldn’t care about that at all if it weren’t being replaced by a parking lot.”

Youtz also added that she suggested TRICA keep the house as a residence, sell it and use the proceeds toward renovating the church.

Phase one of the planned renovations, which TRICA has completed, was structural stabilization and remediation of the original church. Phase two, which will cost roughly $4 million, will include the renovations to both the church and the house as well as the parking spaces in the back of the house, something Swarthout says is vital to the success of TRICA.

“It’s important to note that there were different options we looked at,” Swarthout said. “On one hand you have planning and zoning saying, ‘You need to provide 20 parking spaces for this use.’ On the other hand, you have historic commissioners saying, ‘You’re saving an endangered, historic building, which is awesome, but we hate to see the house next door torn down to provide 20 parking spaces.’ Meanwhile, you’ve got neighbors saying, ‘We don’t want a parking lot or an office in a residential neighborhood’ and some saying, ‘Build a parking lot. We don’t want people parking in front of our houses.’”

Swarthout said that his organization considered all of those options including what would work best for TRICA. “What we presented and what we were approved for was a compromise of all of those things,” he said.

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