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New steps will grace the entrance to Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist will build new steps that match the Romanesque design of the cathedral. Image courtesy of INSIGHT architects.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist will build new steps that match the Romanesque design of the cathedral. Image courtesy of INSIGHT architects.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise is redoing its steps to match its Romanesque architectural style.

Idaho’s 105-year-old Roman Catholic cathedral installed its existing concrete steps in 1993. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise intends to start construction on the main Eighth Street steps and the Hays Street steps to its side door soon after the June 8 ordination of priests, said Father  Jerry Funke, the rector and pastor at St. John’s.

Extensive cracking has plagued the main steps into the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Extensive cracking has been a problem at the main steps into the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Project architect Joe Bruce at INSIGHT architects describes the wide expanse of existing steps, often the site of informal wedding photos, as “formal” and “rectangular.”

Collaborating with the cathedral’s building committee, Bruce and INSIGHT architects partner Russ Phillips designed a pair of “softer” curving steps that meet up at a midway landing and continue up a single set of steps to an 11-foot and 23-foot deep landing outside the main doors.

The midway landing overlooks the sidewalk.

Step damage has been even worse at the Hays Street entrance to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Step damage has been even worse at the Hays Street entrance to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“Brides and grooms are going to love it,” Funke said. “Right now, you step out of the cathedral and in four feet you have to start down the stairs. A body in motion stays in motion. It wasn’t encouraging people to gather afterward. We want to create more of a space for the community.”

The existing steps have an 11-inch tread and 7-inch rise. The new steps are designed with a 15-inch tread and 6-inch rise, Bruce said.

“The current stairs are very steep and relentless to climb, especially carrying a casket or wearing formal clothes,” INSIGHT architects wrote in its Boise Planning Commission application for a variance. The variance was needed because the new steps would spill two or three feet beyond the property line.

The third generation of steps at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist were built in 1993. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The third generation of steps at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was built in 1993. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The existing steps are cracked. One corner deteriorated to the dirt this winter.

“The plan wasn’t to (replace the steps) until 2018, but this winter was pretty hard on the stairs,” Funke said. “On Hays Street the whole cycle of freeze and thaw and rain has speeded up the breakup.”

Both sets of new steps will have sandstone retaining walls matching the cathedral architecture. The concrete will be colored to match the structure’s sandstone tone and have a water-resistant penetrating stain concrete finish, Bruce said.

The diocese has not started a capital campaign to fund the project, preliminarily estimated at $750,000. Funke hopes the new steps are in place by Christmas. The cathedral will remain open during construction.

The construction manager/general contractor is Jordon-Wilcomb Construction of Boise.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.

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