By David Staats, IdahoStatesman.com
Several Boise leaders say they’re impressed with the design of a $90,000 piece of art proposed for the side of downtown’s newest parking garage, adjoining downtown’s newest hotel.
The kudos come from the board of the Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency. The artwork, which CCDC would pay for, is planned for the outside wall of the 6-story garage’s stairway on the northwest corner of Front and 5th streets. The garage is attached to the new Home2Suites by Hilton Boise Downtown.
The artwork, “The Pale Blue Dot,” would show iridescent blue human figures shaped from Alucobond-brand aluminum-clad panels climbing the wall toward, and converging at, a blue disk. Westbound Front Street commuters would see it easily.
The climbers are intended to evoke Idaho rock climbers. The circle is intended to evoke watering holes and Idaho’s natural hot springs. The art project’s title invokes the late astronomer Carl Sagan’s description of a picture of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it left the solar system.
Studio Capacitor, a studio at 914 Royal Blvd. in Boise’s Lusk District, would create the artwork. John Yarnell is the creative director.
“I really like this piece,” said CCDC Commissioner Ryan Woodings, the CEO of Metageek, a Boise tech company, at a commission meeting Monday. “I’ve seen some other big murals coming in downtown. It’s kind of cool to see some of these big bare walls becoming something and adding to more vibrancy of life downtown.”
Mayor Lauren McLean agreed. “This looks like a great project … and (I) love that it’s 3D,” she said.
The parking garage and hotel were built by Boise developers Clay Carley and Dean Pape. The hotel, with 138 rooms on seven floors, has been open about two months.
The garage is partly hidden from Front Street commuters behind the hotel. It has 550 stalls. Two hundred of those were set aside for public use in a deal with the urban renewal agency, which operates a network of downtown parking garages.
McLean said she enjoys passing the hotel along Front between 5th and 6th as she walks from City Hall east to the Ada County Courthouse or the WinCo and Whole Foods Market grocery stores further east.
“I’ve said to Clay a couple of times … (that) it’s so well done,” she said. “It makes for a much friendlier walking space along that street.”
That prompted the commission chairperson, Dana Zuckerman, an urban and land-use planner and housing developer, to comment: “Nobody would have said, a year and a half ago, that this was a great block to walk down.”
The block housed the Boise Rescue Mission and a dry cleaner until 2007, when Carley bought the buildings and tore them down. He and a different partner hoped then to replace them with a 23-story condo tower. The Great Recession ended that plan. The land became a surface parking lot until this development.
“My one concern is that it’s so interesting that people driving by are going to rubberneck a little bit,” Zuckerman said. “But maybe that’ll make them just slow down.”
The artwork also drew praise from Commissioner Danielle Hurd, the regional director of The American Institute of Architects. “But I would hope that if we see more public-art submissions from this firm, that they stretch outside of using the polygon-mesh technique,” she said. “That all said, I think this is a solid solution, and it’s going to be a great addition to our city’s collection.”
Studio Capacitor is a unit of Trademark Design and Fabrication, which used a similar design technique to create a giant-sized brown metal elk and other artworks installed last year at the new Idaho Elks Children’s Pavilion at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. Trademark also has designed and fabricated signs for the Fork and Alavita restaurants and other businesses, sculptures at Rhodes Skate Park and other works.
The City Council must approve the artwork. A vote is expected in January. The artwork would be installed next summer.