Feature March 29, 2019

Back in Business

Boise’s historical buildings breathe new life

The cranes piercing Boise’s skyline are an obvious sign of the times: new buildings, growth, and a dynamic economy. However, in addition to the spate of new construction in the City of Trees, there is also a wave of businesses converting old buildings into modern, hip office spaces. These rennovations retain a sense history while accomodating the new ways in which we work and interact in a business setting. Here are just a few examples of work spaces transformed.

Windermere Powerhouse Group:

621 S. 17th St.

I haven’t climbed a ladder for a story in a while, I tell Tom Rebholtz as I follow him up an iron ladder built more than 100 years ago. We’re going above the Windermere Powerhouse Real Estate Group’s second level to see the original forest green paint that previously covered the interior, now a modern matte black. I breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t head up to the roof, and we talk about the building’s history.

In 1912, Boise architects Tourtellotte and Hummel built the brick Romanesque building at 621 S. 17th St. as the home of Beaver River Power Company. The 7,495-square-foot space had the same open floor plan it has today, with the original metal beams that span the ceiling and a mezzanine level that overlooks the main floor.

Shortly after the building opened, Idaho Power took it over and by the 1990s, they had outgrown the space. It sat vacant before it became an event space. Its tenure ended in scandal in early 2016, and in the fall of 2017, Rebholtz, who also developed the Marketplace at Bown Crossing, filed a permit to renovate the building. It opened as the Windermere Powerhouse Group in June 2018.

Rebholtz grew up in Boise and when he had the opportunity to renovate a building he viewed as a landmark, he spared no expense. After more than $100,000 in renovations, he restored the building, exposing even more brick and building glass-walled office space. He kept the massive speakers above the stage, and he installed a Diedrich coffee roaster (see collage at right) from Ponderay, Idaho, in the state-of-the-art kitchen, where agents and their clients can make small bags of personalized coffee.

Rebholtz’s vision for the space was to make it a place his agents could be proud to bring their clients. “I wanted a place where you could collaborate with people, a place that would be inviting for clients to come in,” he says.

For the furnishings, Rebholtz worked with Idaho Correctional Industries, a program run by the state prison system that provides inmates with job training and work experience. They built everything from the the ergonomic standing desks and fabric walls that dampen the noise in the otherwise concrete and brick interior. The building sits just beside the I-184 connector, and if you didn’t step outside, you’d never know it.

All throughout the building, there are bricked-in patches that are signs of its past, where power lines connected the building to the city. Instead of steam turbines, it’s now home to real estate agents who are stewards of the Treasure Valley’s growth.

The Mitchell + Palmer features glass-walled conference rooms and offices. Photo courtesy Mitchell + Palmer.

Mitchell + Palmer:

1150 State St.

Billy Mitchell wears a pair of classic black-and-white Converse and a black collarless shirt. His casual look fits the backdrop of  bare concrete floors, black metal-framed windows and glass partitions. Mitchell renovated the office space at 1150 State St. to house Mitchell + Palmer, the creative agency he founded in 2007. Behind him, a ceiling-high decal of the words, “Search & Destroy,” is displayed on the main, stark-white wall. It’s the cherry on top of Mitchell + Palmer’s rock-and-roll vibe in the minimalist modern space.

“Brave is our motto,” he says, “We search and destroy the

The tagline works. It’s on full display in the part of the office Mitchell calls the “creative pit,” where a row of graphic designers on large-screen iMacs work on current projects. Behind them, a trio of other creatives are standing at a high-top table, discussing work for a client and snacking.

Mitchell says open office style is key to his company’s culture and success. It inspired him during the renovation of the office building he purchased in December 2018.

“This concept works for us,” Mitchell says, “Creative is king, collaboration is king. It leads to a unified approach.”

Built in 1977, the building’s exterior resembles a dentist’s office from that era, with walls of windows that overlook State Street on one side and have views of the Boise foothills on the other. When Mitchell, who was born and raised in Boise, first saw the building as a prospective buyer, he got on a ladder and punched through the ceiling tiles to see what they hid. When he saw two more feet of windows, he had to have it.

Mitchell gutted the interior, which he says is rumored to have been a brothel at one point, down to the concrete floor and up to the concrete fins that make up each level. He likens the construction to that of a Lego set and describes it as bomb-proof. With the building’s Cold War era origins in mind, I believe him.

In addition to the creative pit, kitchen area and glass-walled offices and conference rooms, the second level of the building that Mitchell + Palmer occupies is complete with a full bar, shuffleboard and foosball. John Wayne, “The Duke” is the centerpiece of the iron-and-wood bar that Mitchell commissioned local artist Chris Foster of Foster Weld to create. The rest of the building is partially occupied by other tenants, but Mitchell hopes to make use of the top-level’s mountain views for a yoga studio and has plans to turn the rooftop into yet another space for the building’s tenants to gather socially.

The Davies Moore offices feature a former bank vault that has been converted into a conference area and entertainment space. Photo courtesy Cornerstone Interior Design.

Davies Moore:

805 West Idaho St.

With walnut walls and a bank vault in the basement, it’s impossible not to think of Mad Men when touring the Davies Moore office with founder Edward Moore. Situated inside the Boise City National Bank building on Eight Street and Idaho, it’s at the epicenter of downtown Boise in the same way the Romanesque building was when it was completed in 1892.

Moore founded Marketing Media Group in 1998 and acquired Davies & Rourke advertising, which dated back to 1953, in 2009. The following year, they took over most of the third floor and the basement level below the popular restaurant Fork, remodeling the office space and creating a state-of-the-art kitchen area and a creative pit in the basement.

“I call the upstairs downstairs thing kind of like a mullet,” Moore says. “We’re sort of business up top and party down below.”

The bank vault sits at the bottom of the stairs near Fork’s entrance, and the marble-surrounded steel structure is something out of an “Ocean’s Eleven” movie. The door itself is 18 inches thick and weighs 15 tons. Moore converted the inside of the vault into a boardroom-style conference area, and the nearby fully stocked bar makes it an ideal space to entertain and celebrate. There are other vaults and safes in the basement, albeit smaller, but not without their stories. One vault is rumored to have housed J.R. Simplot’s family’s X-rays, which were kept with the hope of one day extracting the silver from the film.

Moore is clean cut, with horn-rimmed glasses, and he speaks about his company and his city in a way that evokes the history of the building they occupy. He credits the office’s location with ensuring that the talent he hires feels inspired.

“It’s a great place to be and it’s worth every penny we spend to be downtown. Ad agencies are at their best, especially from recruiting talent, if they’re in a downtown area. It’s completely a cultural thing. It’s about access to what’s going on in Boise and being in the thick of it.” 

This article appears in the Spring 2019 Issue of Territory Magazine.