The site of the Royal Plaza Building, a retail space with condominiums above, used to be the location of the Tate, Whipple, and Larsen Buildings which dated from 1904. Designed by the ubiquitous Boise architectural firm of Tourtellotte and Hummel, two of the historic buildings later housed the Royal Restaurant, famous for its rich history and the gold coins built into the bar countertop. A hotel was housed in the upstairs of two of the buildings.
The buildings were razed in 1991 to make way for an office building that was never built.
The buildings were listed in the National Register of Historic Places but were outside of a locally designated historic district. Eventually acquired by the Owyhee Plaza Hotel for a planned expansion, the historic structures were sold when the hotel’s business plans changed. Subsequent developers proposed tearing the buildings down rather than undertaking a renovation, stating that the buildings would cost more to renovate and bring lower rents than a new building. However, the developer acknowledged that he had not calculated the cost of saving the façades alone or using federal historic preservation tax credits. Preservation Idaho led the public discussion, and much media attention was focused on the process, with several people working to put together plans to save the buildings. In the end, no one was able to put in place a solid plan in time to save the buildings, and they were razed in 1991 to make way for an office building that was never built. The site was excavated for construction before it was filled in and sat as an unimproved parking lot for several years.
After several attempts by developers over the years, Hosac Development purchased the site and built the Royal Plaza Building with two stories of retail space and four stories of condominiums plus a roof deck. The project later entered foreclosure with many of the condos unsold prior to the foreclosure and no retail tenants having occupied the spaces on the bottom floors. Some of the units were sold at auction in the summer of 2010.
Sadly, this is an example of historic buildings being demolished in haste and, due to economic factors, having been defaulted to a parking lot and then recreated as a retail/residential space that has not contributed much to the economic improvement of the area. The original buildings might have been able to offer the same retail/residential options at a lower historic and economic cost to Boise. Giving preservationists sufficient time to work with property owners, planners, and developers before demolition is considered offers the best chance for preservation to blend with economic enhancement to create something that offers the best of both aspects. Please contact Preservation Idaho if you hear of any buildings that may be threatened.