The Aspen Lofts are a perfect representation of Boise’s architecture becoming more modern. The building is located in one of the busiest parts of Downtown Boise at the corner of Front and 9th Street. It is also a very new building, its construction beginning during the summer of 2006 and ending two years later. The building was built by a developer and businessman who took the risk to build it.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Aspen Building is its size, especially its seemingly awkward position against a parking garage and its tiny width. There is a reason for this. Originally, a convention center was to be built over Front Street, with a base on each side, so when the parking garage at Front and 9th was being built ten years ago, a small strip of land was left in front of the garage. But the convention center idea was not approved, leaving behind a 32 x 177 ft. plot of land.
When the idea for the building was put forth, it was easily supported by investors, the city government, and other businesses. One reason for this is that before, there was not very much housing in the downtown area. The addition of 75 condominiums in that area would help businesses there and help diversify Downtown Boise, which is primarily made for office buAlso, when it was being built, Boise’s economy, especially its development and housing markets, was booming. In addition, the concept for this building was creative and amazing.
Now that it is built, the building has several uses. The first floor is used for two office spaces, separated by an entrance into the parking garage. The second floor is also used for office space. Parking is provided in the third and fourth floors of the building, this parking being gated off from the neighboring parking garage. From the fifth floor to the top, the seventeenth floor, the rest of the building is used for the building’s main purpose: multi-family living space. The small condominiums are in the fifth through ninth floor, while the larger condos are in the tenth through seventeenth. There are 47 small condos and 28 large condos, for a total of 75 condos in thirteen stories.
The different uses of the building lead to unique situations. For example, the eight-story parking garage and the third and fourth floors of the Aspen Lofts are connected. This brings up the issue of property rights. The block that the building is on uses something called “Air Rights.” So the Aspen Building has 80 separate potential owners, and the whole block, which includes P.F. Chang’s and some of Bo-Do, has 120 potential owners. Between the parking garage and the Aspen Lofts, there are no property lines and it is all interconnected.
Another interesting fact is that most of the condos in the building are different. From the front of the building, there are ten “waves” made of glass going across the building. Each of these waves separates a “bay,” creating ten bays per floor. When most people wanted to buy a condo in the Aspen Lofts, they would select the number of bays they wanted and would then work with the architects for the building to figure out their floor plan. This is especially true for the higher levels with larger condominiums. Some people even bought bays on different floors to create their condo. So the condo bought truly was a custom design.
Obviously, the architecture for this building is amazing. The architect for the building calls its style contemporary, but it could also be considered international. The architecture for this building is different than most in Boise in that it is similar to big city architecture which asks the question, “What can we fit here?” In this arena, the building succeeds. In fact, the Aspen Lofts has about 130,000 square feet on a 32 x 117 foot plot of land. The concept of squeezing in a building is further seen when noticing that the building expands outside of its area, almost stretching out over the sidewalk along Front Street. Also, the elevator can be seen jutting out from the back of the building, and once the building is above the parking garage, it extends over the parking garage’s stair wells. And many condos have a loft extending over the parking garage. Another architecturally significant part of this building is its style. An example is that the glass waves on the front of the building are purely for decoration, creating a totally glass wall in each of the rooms. It is cool to note that the design for the building was the original idea of the developer of the building.
One of the most modern features of this building is the way it was built. It was built using a technique called post-tension. This is a resourceful and new way to build. From the front of the building, the only materials seen is the glass and strips of concrete separating the floors. The concrete strips have a steel cable inside that curves according to the amount of reinforcement needed. After the rebar is built, the concrete is laid with some steel cable poking out at either end. Then, the steel cable is tightened. All the tension is provided afterward, which is why the technique is called post-tension. Using post-tension, the structure is more stable and less materials are used. This method of building is important for this building because it allows for more space. There is ten feet four inches between the concrete, and the ceiling height is eight feet. And the concrete between floors makes a good sound barrier for vertical neighbors.
A difficulty faced in building this building is that it was difficult to place the building equipment in the small area given. What eventually happened is that the whole building was built using one crane that sat on the edge of Front Street. The lanes of the street had to be slightly shifted. This is more evidence of the creativity and modernism used in creating this building.
The Aspen Lofts are a unique building in Boise for several reasons. Its originality is recognized the in the Downtown Boise Skyline, and its use of big-city ideas is something new in the area. The Aspen Lofts symbolize a change happening in the architecture of Boise toward a more modern style.