2504 Spruce Street Project—We Can Do Better

City Council will perform a Concept Review, November 30, 2021

A proposed 63-unit townhouse and apartment development on the edge of Boulder’s 28th Street commercial core is a great site for housing, but Phase 1 of the project (on the left side of the red line in the site plan below) proposes 14 large, expensive units (2,400-2,600 sq. ft.), which will likely sell for $2.5 – $3 million each.

All units in Phase 1 are “for sale” units. Phase 2 of the project (on the right side of the red line in the site plan below) proposes 45 apartments (960-1,600 sq. ft.). There could be many more homes on this site, BUT ONLY IF City Council indicates support for this at the “Concept Review” that will occur on November 30. You must sign up in advance to speak on this project here. The hearing is remote, so speaking from your home is easy. This item 4B on the Agenda will be discussed starting at about 7:30 PM.

2504 Spruce Street site plan—A GREAT SITE FOR HOUSING!

We emphatically do not need 14-$3 million homes at this site. Rather, we need homes that are much smaller and therefore less expensive. Developers have created in Boulder lovely 3- and 4-bedroom homes in 1,200 sq. ft. elsewhere, such as the Poplar Project. Or below is an example of gentle infill. Each house in the photo below has four dwelling units. These three houses are set on a total of 0.3 acre and yet have a large shared back yard.

Now is the time to add more housing—and more affordability—in this central Boulder location. This is a perfect site for housing close to the core of Boulder. But it should be developed at much higher density, enabling smaller units attainable to frontline workers. At its September 2, 2021 meeting, Planning Board could have expressed support for an ordinance that would permit twice as many units of half that size. But the Board did not.

City Council, with the support of Boulder residents, can direct staff to work with the developer to increase the density of the site, just like it did at the Diagonal Plaza Concept Review. By reducing the lot area per dwelling unit from 1,600 to 800 square feet, the developer in Phase 1 could provide 40 units of workforce housing rather than 14 large and expensive condos, as well as expanding the number of homes provided on the rest of the site.

Here are three things that can increase the affordability of housing at this site.

  1. Reduce the land area required per unit (from 1,600 to 800 sq. ft.) to allow higher density. What a great site for housing! We need many more smaller attainable units. City Council should do what Planning Board did not: mainly, direct that the site be rezoned so that twice as many units half this size can be built and sold.
  2. Don’t landmark at the expense of housing. In Phase 2, the City of Boulder wants the property owner to preserve as a historic and landmarked structure the Big O Tire building (1971) at the northeast corner of the property. Preserving that building at current density eliminates 6 units of housing. City Council should do a searching inquiry about whether preserving a 1971 “Oblong Box Gas Station” is worth eliminating 6 units or more of housing. 
2546 Spruce Street former tire store (1971) eligible for landmarking

3. No unnecessary pavement. Don’t insist on an East-West service lane that remaining businesses say they don’t need. The BVRC Connections Plan calls for an east-west car travel lane to service commercial businesses. In the diagram below, the travel lane is shown as the dashed maroon line between “Subject Site” and “Pearl Street.” While that lane makes sense to service business uses like the solid maroon travel lane in the next block that services Good Times and the Natural Grocer, it makes no sense where 75% of the entire block is redeveloped not as commercial property but as housing.

Please sign up in advance here to speak on this project November 30, 2021 . The hearing is remote, so speaking from your home is easy. This item 4B on the Agenda will start at about 7:30 PM. If you are unable to testify at the hearing, please Email Council and ask them to add housing to the Spruce Street project at their November 30 meeting. To read the City Council packet on this project, go here. Staff’s description of how density can be added to the site, giving due respect to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, is at pages 176-183 of the packet.

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