This week, BBOP writes about two topics related to Boulder’s evolution over time. Do existing codes for historic preservation serve our community? How does our housing shortage tell us about suitable places to stay in the city?

A historic home with a rear addition at Mapleton Hill in Boulder. (Photo courtesy of Eric Budd)

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Historical Preservation: Do existing code, procedures, and recent decisions meet the needs of today’s Boulder? Why or why not, and suggested changes, if any?

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle: What Historic Preservation Endangers

Recently, when reviewing Central Park’s landmark designation beyond the Glen Huntington bandshell, City Council voted 5-4 to follow staff’s recommendation and not extend the landmark designation. for the moment. Instead, they plan to do a broader review that recognizes the historic resources of the area and the evolution of the place over time.

Although disappointing for some, the vote was wise. This kind of restraint and more holistic thinking should be extended to future discussions of historic preservation. While I don’t know the detailed motivations or considerations of city staff, I assume they are working with the knowledge that our city is at a crossroads. Many of the important decisions we make now will impact Boulder’s affordability, accessibility and livability for years to come.

Historic preservation is a balancing act between recognizing our city’s culture and history while allowing room for growth and change. While recognition of our history (good and bad) is important, demands such as affordable housing and access to livable/walkable communities present larger and more complex issues for the city to address.

The Atrium, a building at 13th and Canyon, was newly assigned landmark status. What does this building bring to our community and the future of Boulder to distinguish this site as historic? In my opinion, granting the Atrium landmark status ensures that an ugly building with a questionable legacy of redlining will now forever stand in a desirable part of town. What’s the risk?

He’s risking every opportunity to rethink the use of a huge piece of land in central Boulder. What could be the future of this earth?

One idea that excites me is the prospect of having a year-round fixed market similar to those of Spain, Mexico, and other countries. With the dearth of local groceries in Boulder, the best place to access local food is the Farmers Market, but we can only do that halfway through the year. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a year-round market where local vendors could set up shop and sell food and goods which could then expand to an outdoor area during the summer and summer months? fall ? (Editor’s note: This possibility was briefly discussed by city officials, including reusing the Atrium for such purposes, although no formal plan exists.)

This is a critical time to rethink Boulder’s spaces and places. If not done thoughtfully with our city’s current issues in mind, historic preservation will hamper our ability to evolve and make Boulder a livable and vibrant community for future generations.

What legacy do we want to leave? These artifacts, in the form of historic buildings, represent what this city and its people value. Does Boulder value progress, striving to build a community where future generations can live and prosper? Or do we value freezing old banks in amber?

Andrea is from Boulder and a new mom. Learn more about Andrea.

The East Boulder sub-community plan has recently sparked discussion about appropriate and inappropriate places to put housing. Low-income families across the United States have historically been located near highways, airports, railroads, industries, and other places that impact health. At the same time, a national housing shortage is driving mass homelessness. Your thoughts?

Mike Chiropolos: New Urbanism in the People’s Republic

Because current zoning and land use leaves little undeveloped land available for housing in Boulder Valley, new affordable housing primarily depends on infill, density, and redevelopment strategies.

Filling and density are gaining acceptance. ADU, skylight extensions, garage conversions and duplexes or triplexes on larger lots increase housing supply while making home ownership more widely affordable.

Building near nuisances endangering public health and children is unacceptable for HLMs, or any housing. This is why heavy industry is not allowed near residential areas. As for “minor” nuisances, I grew up one block from a railroad with a major railroad crossing. No one complained, ever.

Outside residential areas, innovative redevelopments offer great potential. The conversion of crumbling strip malls and empty big box stores to mixed use is one of the most exciting land use trends nationwide. In September 2021, I transmitted connections at town planners with the warning, “Let’s take a part of the action!”

It’s starting to happen. In May 2022, City Council approved the redevelopment of Diagonal square with 282 “workforce” and affordable housing on one of the city’s most derelict sites. Cheer! Neighbour Lafayette bought the 24 acres Property of Flatirons Church in 2017 to develop affordable housing.

Building heights of up to five or six stories can allow more land for pocket parks, bike paths and landscaping that contribute to livability and protection against urban heat island effects.

Harvest House is a great place for affordable student accommodation. Efforts to “save” the failing and crumbling hotel under historic preservation code are puzzling.

Other distressed malls or malls that may be suitable for mixed use include 29e Street mall; Basemar shopping center adjacent to CU; and 27e Way, where the developer ended the Baseline Zero hotel concept due to neighborhood issues.

Finally, the city must expedite a community planning process for the 500-acre planning reserve at Jay and 28e. The city owns 230 acres which I offered for a land exchange to allow CU to build a spacious North Campus instead of continuing with CU South into the South Boulder Creek floodplain, a valuable riparian area with great ecological and recreational potential under restoration scenarios.

The devastated reserve also includes 270 acres of private land, where the owner of an 80-acre piece of land sued the city in 2016 for permission to pursue a “vacation-style mixed-use neighborhood.” If the council is serious about solving Boulder’s housing crisis, advancing solutions to the reservation should be at the top of its agenda.

The 500 acre reserve is large enough to plan one of the most livable and equitable communities in Boulder Valley. We can improve environmental quality and access to open spaces while expanding amenities for all of North Boulder. Lit site plans can make a real dent in housing and affordability much sooner than under defects CU South annexation agreementwhere all development is 10 to 15 years.

(Editor’s note: City Council in 2019 managed staff to begin a baseline study for the possible development of the development reserve. In 2022, the current city council affirmed this orientation and had the reserve studied one of its priorities for 2022-2023. This work is ongoing.)

Mike Chiropolos raised two sons in Boulder where he lived a mile from the Table Mesa Mall. Learn more about Mike.

Boulder Beat Opinion Group members write in their own capacity. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Boulder Beat.

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