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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Prominent Boise architects and a local materials expert aren’t impressed with many of the buildings in the city’s downtown that were built after World War II and continue to be constructed today.

“We have a fair amount of what I would call mediocre architecture,” said Thomas Zabala, retired co-founder of Boise’s ZGA Architects and a longtime member of the city’s Design Review Committee.

Money is the main reason experts think Boise developers have had more emphasis on practicality than aesthetics in downtown construction in recent decades, the Idaho Statesman reported .

“New buildings that are just kind of put together by panel and crane are less expensive to build,” said Paula Benson, with Preservation Idaho, the state’s leading historic preservation group. “And that is probably what drives (return on investment) for most developers.”

The city hired world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie in February to design a proposed new main library branch. No designs have been released yet, but city leaders have high hopes for “a great example of the kinds of things that could be done here and that it can fit in our city,” Journee said.

The library is one building that’s worth the $70 million investment the city anticipates, City Hall spokesman Mike Journee said.

“It’s those once-a-century buildings where you do that — a building that’s going to be here the next 100, 150 years,” Journee said. “And that’s the way we’re approaching this library project.”

Money for the library would come from taxpayer funds, public debt and private fundraising.

Greg Allen, a partner at Boise’s Hummel Architects, said he predicts downtown building designs will “steadily get better and better.” Partly, he said, because the Treasure Valley’s flood of newcomers will demand it.

“There’s a lot of folks moving here from bigger cities,” he said. “And they have a little bit more appreciation for what architecture can do or can’t do and what that does to the citizens.”


Information from: Idaho Statesman,