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Planning the Future of Downtown Boulder


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from Google Earth, click for a larger view

On Wednesday night November 3, 2010, Boulder City Council unanimously provided direction and outlined the next steps for the South of Downtown Area (SoDA), Downtown (DT) Zone Districts, and height modifications citywide.  Community Planning and Sustainability Director David Driskell gave the staff presentation, which was divided into long-term and short-term activities.

The long-term work plan will consider the larger context south of Canyon, with a focus on the public realm and city-owned properties, including:

  • Developing a vision for a  new Canyon Boulevard streetscape (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulevard ) and an implementation strategy
  • A connections and open space plan (note: lower-case ‘open space’ means open area around developments)
  • Farmers Market area and civic-use pad east of  the St. Julien Hotel
  • Look at the role of the Downtown Design Advisory Board (DDAB) — perhaps broadening the area considered by a design advisory board
  • Consider revisions to the community benefits for height modifications — this may include open space performance criteria and a possible cash-in-lieu option for open space

The short term work items will include developing options and recommendations on:

  • Setbacks from the centerline for Canyon Blvd.
  • 3rd and 4th story setbacks (relative to lower floors) in DT zones — change 20 ft to 15 ft or maybe eliminate setback altogether
  • Eliminate below-grade habitable floor area from floor-area ratio calculation in DT zones, thus allowing greater above ground floor area
  • Addition of interface areas in high-density zones south of Canyon that limit buildings to 3-stories-only within 50 ft of lower-density zones
  • Change in the by-right height in DT zones from 35ft to 38ft — to accommodate modern building practices and allow a higher floor-plate on the first floor; this would allow 3 stories by-right

City Council voted 7-0 (Gray absent, Karakehian out of the room) on a motion by Cowles, seconded by Morzel, to support the short term goals study.  Council also informally agreed that direction for the long term goals should come from the discussion rather than a formal motion.  In discussion, several council members indicated that the study area should extend from 9th St. to 16th St. and Arapahoe Ave. to Canyon Blvd.  Councilpersons Morzel, Cowles, Becker, Osborne, and Appelbaum generally supported the staff proposal for long-term studies.

Council member Karakehian indicated some reservations about a 4-block boulevard and relayed “angst” he is hearing from the downtown community about the 78 ft setback and potential for over-planning this area.  David Driskell indicated that the 78ft setback comes from the current code and planning staff would simply like to look at options.  He indicated a desire for Canyon to be a connector rather than a dividing line and that it should be transformed into a place you’d like to walk along.  Council member Cowles agreed that some property owners are concerned about losing some of their building envelope to the setback, but urged them to keep an open mind because of the tremendous value that will be created by turning Canyon into a true boulevard.  Cowles noted that Canyon as presently configured “creates a wall of severance from the beating heart of our community.”

Council member Ageton expressed general concern about the size of the planning project, the unclear primary focus of the study, and restrictions on Canyon related to CDOT.  Council member Osborne agreed that this is a project of considerable scope, and that it should be discussed at the Council retreat in January in the context of the larger City work plan and the Planning Department work plan.  She also noted that this could be as transformative as the Pearl St pedestrian mall, with huge and wonderful potential south of Canyon.  In addition, she pointed out that great things happened for our City on election night this year and the new accommodations tax (2A) should be a source of planning dollars, since this project is likely to increase tourist revenue.

Councilpersons Appelbaum and Morzel indicated that it is important to know sooner than later how the streets will be laid out and what the basic framework will be.  A piecemeal approach might result in some development that precludes larger goals.  A framework viewed from the 30,000 ft level is needed.

Residents can discuss these and other options for the City at Boulder Matters meetings:

  • Foothills Elementary School, Cafeteria, 1001 Hawthorne Ave. on Saturday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Plancakes will be served for $3 at 10 am. Focus topics include Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, Bear and Mountain Lion Management Plan, Waste Reduction.
  • Community Wrap-up Event at West Boulder Senior Center, 909 Arapahoe Ave. on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from  5 to 7 p.m.  Focus topics include Boulder’s Energy Future, Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, Waste Reduction.  Join residents from all over the city of Boulder to discuss community issues that affect us all, including an introduction by Boulder Mayor Susan Osborne and a look at the future in 3D Boulderama!
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One Response to “Planning the Future of Downtown Boulder”

  1. Seth Brigham says:

    Plancakes!

    How about a brownie…

    I’d much prefer smaller scope, pedestrian friendly, a height restricted Canyon.

    No to a “boulevard” of dense congestion.

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