Boulder Blight

blight /blīt/
1. a thing that spoils or damages something.
2. Vacant, underutilized & sub-optimal Spaces

This photo series highlights vacant and underutilized areas of the city where redevelopment could build homes for people that are currently suffering long commutes to get into town. I started the #BoulderBlight hashtag on October 9, 2019 in an effort to atone for welcoming people to work in this town which lacks adequate housing options.

With the decline of commercial “brick and mortar” retail, many locations have shut down. Despite the high demand for commercial real estate and housing and office space in Boulder, this glut of unused spaces which add up to millions of square feet of empty buildings. Instead of being redeveloped, most of these spaces languish.

Updates | Google Photos Gallery | Conclusion | Get Involved


Underutilized Spaces

Note: Some of these areas do have businesses in them, and redevelopment could displace and harm them. I want to be sensitive to those businesses and their patrons while also recognizing that improving the quality of life in the city may cause some trauma. All redevelopment should be executed to minimize the impact to these local businesses.

Diagonal Plaza

This enormous and largely vacant and crumbling unused part of the city could house so many people if its redevelopment ever happened.

Crumbling storefront, bottlenecked entrance,
lack of store front makes this hostile to people.
Instead of building housing, transit center / park&ride,
Councilman Bob Yates apologized for his calls for police raids.
Lights left on for 3 years since closing

Basemar – Former Whole Foods

This one generated the most controversy when I originally posted it. While there are two vacancies in this area, including its largest suite which was a former Whole Foods. When I photographed the area at 8:30 in the morning, the lot only had a few dozen cars in it, but other times it does get used. What drew me there is that some people on Nextdoor were celebrating Whole Foods exit and vociferously decrying the idea that this might be redeveloped into a dense mixed use development. Located immediately adjacent to the school and transit corridors, it would be the perfect location.

Civic Pad – Next to Saint Julian Hotel

The Boulder Civic Pad was established as part of the deal for allowing the St. Julien hotel to be constructed. For nearly 15 years, it has sat vacant and underutilized. It’s a giant concrete monument to bad planning and poor leadership. Some plans have been made, but nothing has happened.

Long Term Vacant Spaces

1850 30th – Former Ross

2905 Baseline – Former Denny’s

Nothing has happened to this space in Years

Photographed 10/8/2019

Redevelopment Approved

3001 Pearl – Boulder Junction

Not every property here lies stagnant. This pavement is planned to be transformed into 111,500 sqft of mixed-use including 120 affordable dwelling units. Many locals complain about Boulder Junction and wish the used car lots could return here.

Photographed 10/8/2019

Alpine Balsam

Where so much potential, hopes and dreams rest. It will be revitalized, but Boulder’s city council has not have the courage to commit to the bold Alpine-Balsam area plan.

Photographed 10/8/2019

Redevelopment in Progress

See Boulder Development Review cases for more information.

311 Mapleton

Former location of the BCH hospital and smokestack. This is being actively redeveloped. As of October 2019, the demolition of this old building has begun. But the plans to build affordable housing here were neutered In order to appease the slow-growth city council and neighborhood groups. Much denser housing was agreed to be built elsewhere in order to keep this low-density. The approved plan curtails the housing benefits of this redevelopment,

10/8/2019

Citizens for Sanitas is the neighborhood group that has mobilized to oppose development. They are upset over the removal of the parking lot and also, complain about the air quality from the construction.

Redevelopment Failed

3305 Broadway – Iris & B

This could have become 50 middle-income apartments and a cafe, but the council (except Bob Yates and Jan Burton) rejected it under pressure to preserve neighborhood character. It lies dormant.

10/8/2019

601 South Broadway – Former Conoco

This former Conoco gas station has languished as plans to replace it with a Walgreens have faltered.

10/22/2019

Baseline Zero

Even though the development was within the 55′ city-wide limit, Zoning in this area prevented the building from exceeding 27′ lest the passing cars on 28th street have their views obstructed. The plan did not include enough retail that would serve the Martin Acres neighborhood and the developer abandoned his plans and the area has been underutilized since.

10/22/2019 – this space is now being donated to store kids bikes for community cycles

Updates

I intend to periodically update this post as blight becomes bright. I will create a “rejuvenated” category as change happens. Depending on the will of the public and private, these areas may not languish indefinitely.

Google Photos Album

All photos are released under creative commons free for redistribution and without modification. Contact me for commercial use.

Conclusion

I want Boulder to become the best little city it can be. The best in the known universe. A shining beacon beneath the Flatirons. In order to further this, change is necessary. Housing with density is nothing without also addressing the transportation problem.

Not all redevelopment is optimal and should be unconditionally supported, there should be a high standard for Quality in my back yard (QIMBY). When it comes to examples of Quality, Downtown Pearl street represents the best of what our town has. A healthy mix of mixed-use, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes. It will take new and courageous leadership, both public & private, to remake these blighted areas in that image.

Get Involved

We need citizens and our representatives to ask “how can we optimize change?” We must fearful voices who want to perpetuate the status quo of constant opposition to redevelopment.

Post your photos using the #BoulderBlight hashtag on Instagram/Twitter/FB. Get involved in political action to demand high-quality land use, housing & transportation policy.


Thanks to those on Twitter & Nextdoor who contributed info & photos.

Suggestions and concerns: E-mail henry@koren.com, Twitter: @HKoren