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Library, Cabin officials hash out details for its future site

The Cabin’s location will be discussed during a Nov. 27 meeting. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The future of The Cabin will figure prominently in a Nov. 27 presentation to the mayor and the Boise City Council.

With a new library on the city’s radar, a consensus needs to be reached on where The Cabin, a center for readers and writers adjacent to the current library, will eventually end up. That’s something officials of the Boise Public Library and The Cabin, an arts organization that has occupied the city-owned structure since 1992, both agree on.

A design team has come up with several different options on where to locate the Cabin, which it will present at the upcoming council briefing, which isn’t a public hearing.

Proponents of a new main library, which originally was a warehouse, say increased demand for its services can’t be met by its current layout and design. The current facility also has limited parking and “awful mechanicals,”said Kevin Booe, library director, in a recent briefing.

Since 2014, the library has hosted visioning workshops, open houses, and explored funding sources for a new home. It also hired an architect for a design concept as a prelude to future construction of an energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing structure that will keep pace with the needs of 21st century patrons, said Booe.

The new Main Library will have a price tag of $85 million, and will also be built in way that optimizes views of The Greenbelt and the Boise River, said Booe.

As currently envisioned, the library campus proposed for Capitol Boulevard and River Street will serve as a public center for knowledge and culture. It will align with the Boise Center for Arts and History in a shared space.

While outreach workshops this summer showed a lot of people love the idea of a new main library on its current campus, they also brought the subject of the future of The Cabin to the forefront, said Booe. “That was one of their (citizens’) top concerns” prior to us moving forward, he said.

“We support the new library plan and we think it’s important for the city,” said Kurt Zwolfer, the Cabin’s executive director. “But we are faced with some challenges with its expansion.”

Zwolfer said a design steering team, made up of members from the city, library and its architects, has met every other week with officials of the Cabin to hammer out a solution on its future site.

The option of staying at the current location presents some problems given the library’s current redesign, he said, citing construction impacts and future access issues for The Cabin’s programs.

Zwolfer said The Cabin board of directors likes the option of relocating the log building, which was built in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, to the north end of Julia Davis Park, behind the Black History Museum and the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

“We believe that spot is the best possibility for the organization’s future,” he said of a building that the nonprofit organization has sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into for renovations over the years. Moving costs are estimated to be $650,000, according to the city.

Other options offered by the city include a parcel where there’s a truck yard and shop for the Parks and Recreation Department and a grassy area near the Boise Art Museum and the Gene Harris Bandshell.

“If the library and the Cabin communities can come together on this (relocation issue), I’m sure we can get a satisfactory solution,” said Zwolfer.

There’s a little bit of time to find accord. The city hopes to break ground on library construction, which will be done in stages, next year and finish by 2021.

About Steve Sinovic