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That's what she said

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Trying to Create a Well Loved Place at Boulder Junction


Boulder Junction existing (left) and envisioned (all images courtesy City of Boulder)

At a PLAN-Boulder forum on Friday, February 28, three luminaries from the City of Boulder staff described painstaking efforts to create a welcoming place at Boulder Junction for people to congregate and enjoy themselves, while projecting an increase in jobs in that area that will approximate the anticipated increase in residential population.

Boulder Junction map and context

The development of Boulder Junction is proceeding in two phases. Phase 1 is well underway; and one of the speakers, Sam Assefa, the city’s senior urban designer, predicted that it will probably be completed in five years. Phase 2 development will then start.

The area covered by Phase 1 is roughly a city block south of Pearl Parkway: extending from 30th Street on the west to the Burlington Northern railroad on the east and from Valmont Road on the north to the North Boulder Farmers Ditch (also known as the Boulder Slough) on the south.

Placemaking south of Pearl Parkway

The entire Boulder Junction development—Phases 1 and 2—will include the area from Valmont Road on the north to the North Boulder Farmers Ditch and the Burlington Northern railroad on the south. The western boundary will be 30th Street from the North Boulder Farmers Ditch to Mapleton Avenue and then a line somewhat west of 30th from Mapleton to Valmont. The eastern boundary will be Foothills Parkway.

Assefa and the other two distinguished speakers—Alex May, senior transportation project manager, and Elaine McLaughlin, senior planner—projected that Boulder Junction, when completed, will add 1,400 to 2,400 housing units to the city, 2,800 to 5,000 residents, and 2,900 to 4,300 jobs. They also presented estimates that in 2006, 44,250 housing units, 101,900 residents, and 97,000 jobs were located in the city (Area I of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan). They projected that when Boulder is entirely built-out, including both phases of Boulder Junction, 6,150-7,150 more housing units, 13,200 to 15,400 more residents, and 63,000 to 64,800 more jobs will exist in the city.

The parts of Boulder Junction currently being constructed are located near Pearl Parkway between 30th Street and the railroad tracks, including Pearl Parkway itself. The new elements include:

  • Depot Square—located north of Pearl Parkway, it will feature the historic “repurposed” Union Pacific depot, a 150-room Hyatt hotel, an underground, regional, RTD bus terminal, an above-ground parking structure, apartments wrapped-around the parking structure, and a civic plaza.
  • Solana 3100 Pearl—located south of Pearl Parkway opposite Depot Square, it consists of several large, four-story apartment buildings containing 319 residential units. It will also offer retail spaces. McLaughlin explained that the buildings are “fairly large” in order to support bus transit.
  • Pearl Parkway—running roughly west and east, it is being transformed from 30th Street to the railroad track into a “multimodal boulevard” to accommodate high capacity, through motor traffic—as well as slow, local, motor traffic—pedestrians, bicycles, and public spaces. It will feature a generous tree canopy designed to attract people and that, the speakers claimed, will also have the effect of slowing motor traffic.
  • Junction Place—running roughly north and south, crossing Pearl Parkway, and connecting Depot Square and 3100 Pearl, it is designed primarily for pedestrians, bicycles, and buses and is considered to be a “shared space” that encourages human activity. It will terminate in the south at the North Boulder Farmers Ditch, but a pedestrian and bicycle bridge is planned across the ditch that will connect to a trail ultimately ending at CU’s East Campus.

May said that the revisions to Pearl Parkway are expected to be finished in May, 2014. He said that the western buildings at 3100 Pearl are now being leased and that the eastern buildings are expected to be completed at the end of this year. The transit center at Depot Square is now expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2015. May said that the construction at Boulder Junction has been challenging to coordinate, because there are no setbacks and zero lot lines and consequently “no room for error.”

Depot Square

Storm water on Pearl Parkway will be managed by maximizing permeable surfaces. The urban heat-island effect is being minimized by use of soft surfaces and plant cover. A structure comprised of silva cells has been installed under the parkway to give the roots of street trees more opportunity to spread than they enjoy in traditional tree wells. Underground irrigation lines have also been implanted. May said that a three-foot deep cavity had been dug underneath the pavers to help drain storm water.

Silva cells

May pointed out that the street lights at Boulder Junction will be LED’s. He said that they will be installed, controlled, and owned by the city, rather than Xcel. He asserted that this will be the first municipally owned LED street lighting system in the United States.

Depot Square at night

Assefa and McLaughlin emphasized that strong connections between the apartment buildings and amenities at Boulder Junction will make the area more appealing for residents. Parking at Boulder Junction will be managed, they noted. Parking maxima for the buildings will be established. Parking spaces will be “de-coupled” from residential units, so that tenants and condominium owners will pay for parking separately from their residential space, if they opt for parking.

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