610 units of housing will be considered by Planning Board at Williams Village II on Jan. 16, 2024

By BHN Editor Macon Cowles

In this mixed use redevelopment of an aging strip mall on Baseline, a developer is proposing to add commercial space for additional businesses and 610 units of housing for students and non-students. The location is just west of the Williams Village student towers and east of US 36.

Williams Village II is one of eight neighborhood centers in the City—commercial and mixed use hubs that are gathering spots with services and stores that provide significant benefits to adjacent and nearby residents.

The existing grocery store, Sprouts Farmers Market intends to remain on the site. The plan proposed by Coburn Partners would provide the following:

  • 610 attached residential units (285 student housing units and 325 non-student housing units) comprising roughly 82% of the total floor area of the development, 
  • 69,382 square feet of ground floor commercial uses (comprising 8% of the floor area)
  • 76,530 square foot hotel use (comprising 6% of the floor area)
  • 7,796 square foot restaurant use (comprising 1% of the floor area).

This site, congested with cars as it now is, nonetheless has a very high bike score and walk score. (See below.) 

Scores for 2592 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO, from www.walkscore.com

This is already a 15 minute neighborhood, as called for in §2.14 of the Boulder Valley Comp Plan. It is thus an ideal place to add housing, which will also add to the success of the businesses that will be located in the redeveloped property by bringing more people to shop, gather and activate the public spaces.. 

We have been talking about the importance of increasing the number of Fifteen Minute Neighborhoods in our city for twenty years. It is time that we viewed all projects from the standpoint of how it will affect the area’s attributes as a Fifteen Minute Neighborhood. This redevelopment will retain the grocery store and add a modest amount to existing commercial and restaurant space that will increase the stores and services for residents in adjacent neighborhoods, increasing their walk score and bike scores. And because it will add a substantial amount of housing, the redevelopment will increase the ability of these businesses to thrive. 

Current conditions within the site make it harrowing for people to safely walk or bike through the site or along its northern or eastern edges because of the twelve motor vehicle access points and the fact that there are relatively few buildings amidst large and ugly parking lots. The overhead view of the current site makes that abundantly clear. The yellow and green wedges show nine vehicle entry points to the strip.

The walkability of the site and its attractiveness as a bicycle destination will be enhanced by the developer’s reducing the current chaos and land devoted to surface parking.

Some people have expressed concern about using the full height allowed by The Charter for the four and five story buildings at the northeast corner of the site. This concern is out of place for this neighborhood center, which is sandwiched between Williams Village towers (157 feet) and the 25 foot retaining wall for a highway that carries 49,000 vehicles per day. The only detached residences are those catty corner to the redevelopment, all of which are rental properties, shown in blue on the figure below.

Source: City of Boulder Rental Properties Map

There is no neighborhood character here crying out for a transition zone from density. This site is unique: unlike any of the other seven neighborhood centers in Boulder, like Ideal Market or Table Mesa Shopping Center. Ensuring “appropriate scale transitions to neighboring residential uses” (language appearing in staff comments) makes sense for the other seven neighborhood centers. But on this site, losing housing units by reducing the height of buildings lets the tail wag the dog.

Our housing crisis has gotten so much worse in the last ten years, that the countervailing BVCP policies supporting housing should override the suggestion of the need to reduce height at the edge of the property. One of those is §2.14 of the Comp Plan: the  “Commitment to a Walkable and Accessible City.”

“The city will promote the development of a walkable and accessible city by designing neighborhoods and mixed-use business areas to provide easy and safe access by foot, bike and transit to places such as neighborhood centers, community facilities, transit stops or centers and shared public spaces and amenities (i.e., 15-minute neighborhoods).” BVCP, §2.14

Finally, the City has spent tens of millions of dollars on eight bicycle and pedestrian overpasses and underpasses within ¼ mile of this site to enhance the walkability and bikeability of this area. Let’s not throw that investment away. These pathways are the very foundation for fifteen minute neighborhoods. When there is the opportunity to add housing to an area that already is a fifteen minute neighborhood, it should be embraced.

Get Involved: How you can reach Planning Board

E-mail: Email Planning Board to express your views. Attend or speak at the Zoom meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 16, 2024. The meeting begins at 6pm. The Zoom link for the meeting is here.

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