Main Library Campus

Boise, ID
A public center for knowledge, culture, and ideas.
115,000 sq. ft.
Arts & History Center
22,000 sq. ft.
Event Space
18,000 sq. ft.


Why do we need a new Main Library?

Originally intended as a warehouse, the current Main Library building is not well suited to offer 21st century library programs and services or meet the needs of a growing community. In comparison with other major cities, Boise has significantly less library resources per resident and in the past five years, program attendance has increased by 42% and location visits are up almost 12%. Challenges include:

  • Insufficient space for reading, meetings, and quiet work
  • No space for expanding collection
  • No capacity to meet growing technology demands
  • Limited parking

But do we really need more books?

The 21st century library is more than books. It is an essential community service that provides career assistance, small business resources, Wi-Fi and internet access, technology training, free public meeting rooms, and classes and workshops enabling customers to both acquire and apply knowledge. Today's library has also become a community gathering place and point of connection for all.

What will the new Main Library include?

To keep pace with evolving library practice and meet the needs of a growing population, the new Main Library will include:

  • An Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) will store 400-500k items saving 30,000 sq. ft. while expanding collection.
  • A Maker Lab and smaller Maker “Pods” will offer hands-on learning and access to 3-D printers and emerging technologies.
  • Facing the River and Greenbelt, the Reading Room, or “THE LENS” will be a gathering space that spans all 4 levels
  • More parking!

How will the library handle service during construction?

The Boise Public Library plans to continue to service the public at the Main Library and will post all changes of services to this site as well as Boise Public Library website. A phasing plan is in development.

Why not build in a new location?

The Library and Center for Arts & History play a vital role in the City’s vision of making Boise the most livable city in the country. Investing in the current location with a thoughtful masterplan for linking the city’s cultural, natural/recreational, and educational resources activates cultural vitality and economic development in a downtown core and ensures that we build a lasting civic space for generations to come.

Learn more at


What will the Center for Arts & History include?

A community-based facility that invites residents and visitors to experience local art, history and culture through exhibitions, performances, presentations and workshops. The Center will include:

  • Dedicated Cultural Information Center
  • Gallery Space
  • Boise City Archives
  • Care and Conservation Lab
  • Retail Shop

Why include an event space? 

Through competitive inventory observations conducted by AMS Planning & Research, no one venue has the desired blend of accessibility, sense of occasion, and technical capabilities in Boise. The performing arts sector has great interest in modern technical and acoustic features, but its ability to increase rental fees or other venue costs to upgrade is limited. By the same token, quality user and audience experience are of rising interest, with emphasis on sense of occasion for participants of varying ages, abilities and means. A financially accessible space, accommodating to a variety of disciplines, delivering quality experience and appropriately sized for users has generated the most interest and meets the greatest need.

Learn more at


What does the project plan include? 

The project will replace the existing 80,500 sq. ft. square foot Library with a new 115,000 sq. ft. building that includes an automated retrieval system that will allow the Library, over time, to double its collection of books and documents while dedicating less space to storage than it currently uses. 

Library: 115,000 sq. ft.*

Arts & History: 22,000 sq. ft.*

Event Space18,000 sq. ft.*

Plaza: 20,000 sq. ft.*

Total Building Area: 150,000 sq. ft.*

Parking: Combined on and off-site parking for 300* spaces.

* Approximate

The project also currently proposes 22,000 sq. ft. of space for the City’s department of Arts & History and an 18,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose space for meetings and performances, though this area is still under review. Parking will be expanded by building a parking garage across River Street that will have approximately 300 spaces dedicated to the Library. In addition, limited accessible surface parking of approximately 40 spaces will be provided for people with a disability.

Where can I get details about the design, configuration, etc.?

Details about design and space configuration can be found on this site at

What is the schedule for the project?

The current project schedule can be found on this site at, but is subject to change.


What is the plan for parking at the new Library?

A: There are currently 102 surface parking spaces at the Main Library. To accommodate the design goal of 300 spaces, the City of Boise is working the Wilcomb family, owners of the property at 618 S. 8th Street, to determine feasibility for redeveloping the property as a mixed-use facility. The facility would include a public parking garage with approximately 270 spaces. Accessibility for those who need it will be addressed with 40 on-site parking spots located in the lot NW of the Anne Frank Memorial. Cost of this aspect of the project will be addressed during schematic design. In addition, the Library will continue to provide pick-up and drop-off services to reduce the need for parking.

What will it cost to park in the new garage?

Planning is still underway; however we will make every effort to offer at least two hours of free parking to patrons.

Why wasn’t underground parking considered?

Underground parking was considered, along with a number of other on-site and off-site options. Unfortunately, underground parking proved cost prohibitive, due largely to the building’s proximity to the river and site constraints, compared to keeping some accessible surface parking and purchasing parking from the neighboring development.

Why not use the 22,000 sq. ft. dedicated to Arts & History for parking?

The area dedicated to Arts & History would not provide the necessary square footage for the required parking count.

Why isn’t the City of Boise using the property known as Biomark for parking? Why did the City of Boise sign a 45-year lease in 2011 on the property right across 8th St and River St?

It was considered, however, Biomark’s current lease would be too expensive to buy out. The city entered into the current lease agreement with the property owners during the Great Recession. The company was considering leaving Boise after they had outgrown their office space at the time and the city was eager to encourage a great Boise company to remain in Boise during difficult economic times. A long-term lease was needed so that the property owners could secure the needed funds to make renovations and repairs to the building, which was in poor condition at the time. 


I'm concerned about the design incorporating the Greenbelt and 8th Street corridor. How is the design addressing access points, bike/ped accessibility and connectivity to downtown, Lusk District, Boise State University and the Bench?

Project goals driven by community input received during Spring ‘17 Design Thinking Workshops called for enhanced accessibility with the Boise Greenbelt and increased connectivity to the river corridor and natural environment. The architect team designed the concept with connectivity in mind. In the next public input opportunity, we will be able to share more around ped/bike accessibility.


What will be the cost of the project?

The project budget is $80 to $85 million. Sources of funds are anticipated to be: Philanthropy $18 million, Capital City Development Corporation (parking garage) $15 million, City of Boise capital funds $15 million, long-term lease financing $32 to $37 million.

Has the City of Boise ever spent this much on a new Capital Fund project? If not, why now?

The City of Boise is currently leading several Airport Terminal Expansion projects that collectively will cost approximately $110 million. 

Would this money be better spent on affordable housing, for example?

In 2018, the City of Boise proposed a plan – Grow Our Housing – to address housing needs in our community, including housing affordability. By utilizing new tools and existing partnerships we have already built and made available Adare Manor, New Path Community Housing and Valor Pointe. We are continuing to explore viable tools to address housing in Boise and working with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority and Capital City Development Corporation on several options, including low-income housing tax credits and Section 8 project-based investments. With increased attendance and program participation, the current Main Library building—originally intended for use as a warehouse—needs our attention too, as it no longer meets the needs of a growing population or keeps pace with the ever-evolving programming, technology and services of a modern-day library. Improving access to libraries and related programs, as well as making affordability of housing available to our citizens are both top priorities of the city to maintain our quality of life.

How much public money is spent locally?

For design, we are spending $5.5M with local architects and engineers, $3.4M for the Safdie Architects, and $2.2M for special consultants both in and out of town depending where the expertise is located. 

Why prioritize this project when Community Services, which include libraries, rank 7th in the 2018 City of Boise Citizen Survey?

While respondents to the 2018 Citizen Survey ranked Community Services, such as libraries, recreation programs, youth and senior programs, as a third-tier priority, access to libraries and related programs was the second highest rated attribute contributing to Quality of Life, rated third only after Public Safety and the Environment. For details, please refer to pages 10 and 11 of the 2018 City of Boise Citizen Survey.

What is the City’s five-year budget forecast? Will we run out of money?

Both the Capital and General Funds are projected to be balanced through 2025. In addition, the City has an emergency reserve fund that is approximately 8% of the General Fund budget. The project budget is $80 to $85 million; however, funding for this project is shared among four sources: Philanthropy $18 million, CCDC (parking garage) $15 million, City of Boise capital funds $15 million, long-term lease financing $32 to $37 million.

Will the project raise taxes?

The project will not require an increase in City taxes. Future taxes may increase, of course, for reasons other than the Main Library Project.


Why wasn’t a local architect hired?

Above a $25,000-dollar threshold, the City of Boise cannot limit the pool of candidates to local applicants only. That said, the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) published on October 3, 2017 required that firms located outside of Idaho team up with a local architecture firm. Safdie Architects was selected as Design Lead with award-winning local design firm, CSHQA as Executive Architect.

What is the amount of the architect’s contract compared to the total project cost? How much is the architect being paid?

For the Schematic Design contract, Safdie Architects will receive approximately $3.4M. More than $5.5M will go to Boise based architects and engineers. The balance of the contract will go to specialist consultants (environmental, health impact, etc.) and other standard project allowances and expenses.

What is the amount of local architect CSHQA’s contract? Can you tell me if CSHQA is being paid from that 11.1 million?

A: Approximately $5.5M will go to CSHQA and KPFF, structural engineers.


Won’t all the glass on the south side result in frequent bird strikes/deaths?

The riparian habitat is part of what makes Boise so great! Bird strikes are a common concern when designing and building with glass. Best practices for mitigating these strikes will be addressed in the schematic design phase of the project (see timeline) which focuses on building materiality, construction methodology, and architectural details.

Is the building going to be LEED certified (and if so, at what level)?

One of our goals is to develop a sustainable facility that meets city energy goals and demonstrates a commitment to the health of our community. Safdie Architects has teamed up with global climate engineers Atelier Ten to integrate efficiency into the building and take advantage of existing sustainable features, such as geothermal heating. We will have more details as we move through the schematic design phase.  


Will The Cabin be moved?

On February 26, 2019, the City Council voted to move the Log Cabin from its current location to the east end of Julia Davis Park. Read Update.

Why is it necessary to move The Cabin? 

Project goals driven by community input received in Spring ‘17 Design Thinking Workshops called for enhanced accessibility with the greenbelt and increased connectivity to the river corridor and natural environment. The orientation towards the river was considered important enough to consider moving the log cabin assuming it could maintain its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. 

What will be the cost to relocate The Cabin?

The move is estimated to cost approximately $650,000.

How will the Cabin basement be addressed?

The City is working with an architect and construction manager to plan and design the relocation of the structure. The plan has not been developed at this time and we will update the public when it is completed. However, as previously stated, we are committed to protecting the integrity of the historic structure, including the basement, while balancing the needs of community partners to meet the greater community good.

Will the Cabin remain on the Historic Register? How is your request to keep the Cabin on the Historic Register going? What steps are you taking to keep the Cabin on the Historic Register?

The City has been keeping in contact with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) about the locations being considered for the moves and will continue to have discussions with them as the project moves forward to ensure requirements to maintain the Cabin’s historic designation are being met. In the meantime, SHPO has stated that they are confident the Cabin will remain on the Historic Register if moved to either location being considered.


What will be the impact on the Anne Frank memorial?

The site plan for the new Library incorporates the Anne Frank Memorial, including the new Marilyn Shuler Classroom.


When will the next round of public input be scheduled?

Originally planned for September 2018, the second round of public input will be heard after Schematic Design, slated for summer 2019, when solutions or an update to public concerns gathered in July can be addressed, including: 

  • Sustainability strategy (bird strikes / glass / energy costs)
  • Budget (value engineering)
  • Parking

How can I express my opinion about the project to City leaders? 

Comments are welcome on the project website, coUrbanize, or via email at

Will the public be asked/allowed to vote for or against the project?

At the time of this writing, no decision has been made by the City about soliciting an advisory vote on the project.