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Locals working to repurpose the old Idaho Falls water tower

Morgan Mathis | EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — There is still hope for preserving a beloved landmark. The old water tower in Idaho Falls could be revitalized if the right person buys it. Colter Wilson hopes to be that person.
Wilson started a petition to save the water tower, which is currently planned to be demolished.
“I was riding bikes around the greenbelt with my wife and she was just saying that somebody should turn it (the water tower) into something. I am a builder; I have worked with developers. It seemed like the next step to making that into a reality was to contact the superintendent of the water department, which I did,” said Wilson.
RELATED | Construction on new water tower will begin in Idaho Falls next month
Although there is a lot of support for saving the old tower, it’s easier said than done.
One major concern is the stability of the structure.
The water tower was built in 1937. Eric Grossarth, spokesman for the city of Idaho Falls, says its age makes preservation particularly tricky.
“It’s old steel,” Grossarth said. “The concrete is failing; it’s rusted. From a building code perspective, if you were to ever change the use of a structure, you would have to meet the current building code. Steel has to be able to withstand earthquakes, and that structure is designed as a water tower. The likelihood of it meeting the current building code for human occupation is the challenge.”
Krysta Aten-Schell, of Holt Architects, says she is up for that challenge. Aten-Schell is an architect who is native to Idaho Falls. She was approached by Wilson to begin working on the concept design for a revitalized tower.
“We have a lot of passion about saving the water tower,” said Aten-Schell. “It’s a shame to see something that is an icon in our community go away if it can be repurposed. There’s a lot of very successful projects where they turn old water towers into restaurants or event spaces. You just have to be creative.”
Their vision for the revitalized water tower would create a three-floor event center, standing 185 feet off the ground.
“We want to have a space where a tourist or a resident could walk into a shop off of the greenbelt and go into an entrance in an elevator that goes up to the skywalk,” Wilson explained. “You walk across the skywalk with windows on both sides. You can overlook the Japanese friendship garden. You can see the town. You get to another elevator and go up to that observation deck. You can see the falls; you can see the Grand Tetons. I think it would be an asset for the community of Idaho falls; it would showcase our strength.”
Idaho Falls Water Superintendent Dave Richards says the city debated what to do with the water tower, but in the end they decided the old tower coming down was the safest move for everyone involved.
“The city isn’t anti-restoration. Idaho Falls does like to restore things and keep the old nostalgic stuff. The problem is, I don’t see how we can do that with this structure. I just don’t,” Richards said.
The old water tower is currently located in a secure parking lot at Idaho Falls Power. The falls are part of a hydro dam that generates electricity for the city.
“We just can’t open that up to the public. That is a hydropower facility, and it is critical infrastructure,” Grossarth pointed out.
While the new water tower is moving locations, Kerry Hammon with the Idaho Falls Water Dept. says the original well will stay in that same spot. Opening up the area to tourists could put both the city’s water and power at risk.
“We understand (people’s) emotional attachment to it,” said Hammon. “It is what you look at when you come up the freeway and go, ‘I’m home.’ It’s not easy for people to say goodbye to something that has been part of our skyline forever. We need to try and put those feelings aside and (ask), ‘can this be done safely while protecting our most vital resources?’”
Wilson says they have considered the security risks and are willing to work with the city to ensure its resources are protected.
Richards says any group who has the resources and wants to restore the old tower is welcome to do it. When the time comes, the tower will go to the highest bidder.
That’s where Wilson’s petition comes in. He is hoping for 10,000 signatures before bringing his plans to investors.
“This is an iconic landmark, but it is also touching on who we are as a community. If the people of the community feel the same way, we would ask that they sign the petition. Reach out to a local decision maker and share it with their friends and colleagues.”
To sign the petition, click here.
HELPFUL RESOURCES:
https://www.ferc.gov/what-ferc-does
Critical Infrastructure Protection Act

https://www.pnnl.gov/explainer-articles/critical-infrastructure-protection/
https://www.idahofallsidaho.gov/DocumentCenter/View/15546/Idaho-Falls-Water-Tower-FAQs-Updated-March-2023
The post Locals working to repurpose the old Idaho Falls water tower appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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