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Office building spire that looks too Mormon is being altered

Published October 28, 2013 9:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Boise, Idaho • Owners of a new 18-story building in downtown Boise say they are considering ways to alter the appearance of a spire at the top because of concerns it makes the nearly completed structure look like a Mormon temple.

Tommy Ahlquist, chief operating officer for real estate firm Gardner Co., said that proposed changes include glass surfaces and colored lights.

The mayor's office has received three complaints about the appearance of the building, and comments on social media have also cited a possible religious influence.

"The number of concerns just began to grow," Ahlquist said. "I think you gave people a voice to say, 'Hey, we have some concerns about what this looks like,' and the religious influence that they felt might have been part of the design. And nothing could be further from the truth for us internally.

"We were just almost shocked initially, but as the week went on, we thought, 'You know, we need to do something to tone that down.'"

Ahlquist said the new designs will be submitted to the city of Boise. He says the changes won't require approval from the city's Design Review Committee.

About a quarter of Idaho's residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Ahlquist said many leaders at Utah-based Gardner Co. are also church members.

Ahlquist, who's Mormon, said that other small changes have been made to the building after construction started and that designers are excited about new ideas and feedback leading to the most recent change.

"The (community) opinions are very strong, and we want to listen to that," he said. "We don't want, at the end of a long storied history here, the spire to be a distraction from what the bigger intended good here is. The building's going to be a great change. Let's not make the top a distraction and something that doesn't harmonize with the rest of the building."

Groundbreaking for the building took place in July 2012 at the corner of Eighth and Main streets, a spot that had been empty for a quarter-century and was jokingly called "The Hole" by locals.

A large crane that carried materials to the top of the building has already been removed, so whatever changes are made to the spire will be done using scaffolding, Ahlquist said.

"We're always concerned with cost, but at this point, with the magnitude of the project, and the change we're talking about, we need to get it right," he said.

Officials said tenants have already signed leases for most of the building's office space. Financial companies and law firms have reserved space, but there are also plans for shops and restaurants at what is already one of the city's busiest locations for foot traffic. The building is scheduled to open in January.