Three years of Projects Supported by BHN and its Readers

Projects approved, under construction or advancing with support of BHN subscribers from 2021 to 2024

This article highlights eleven projects that gained approval because BHN readers and other housing advocates supported them with testimony and letters. The conversation surrounding housing at public hearings since 2019 has changed—in large part due to the participation of BHN readers in writing email and providing testimony in support of housing at public hearings. NIMBY complaints about parking and congestion are less shrill when other people in the room are saying, “We just want a place to live.”

Following the listing of projects below is a postscript on the difficult approval process that adds greatly to the cost of every unit.

Waterview Apartments at 5800 Arapahoe. (February 2021). This project, now called Weathervane, is nearing completion and will provide 317 workforce units, 81 of which are permanently affordable.

Diagonal Plaza (May 2021). At the southeast corner of 28th and Iris, this project under construction is creating 259 homes, 64 of which will be permanently affordable; the rest will be affordable to households earning $120,000 or less per year. 

Spine Road. (June 2021). This project in Gunbarrel will build 230 workforce and affordable homes in 20 small two-to-three story buildings with a variety of housing types, from studios and live-work units to three-bedroom apartments and townhomes. The project received entitlements in 2021, but building permits have not yet been issued.

Mt. Calvary project (August 2021) Now called “The Hilltop” Senior Living, this project will build 60 apartments affordable to seniors earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). These permanently affordable units are under construction directly across from the King Soopers at Table Mesa shopping center in south Boulder. They will be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2024.

Grace Commons (December 2021). A four-story building at the NE corner of 16th St. and Walnut will add 30 affordable units downtown for people earning 60% AMI or less. (Tech doc permit has been issued; building permit is in review.)

3300 Penrose Place (February 2022). This Boulder Housing Partners project proposal included 114 units of affordable housing, and BHN argued for an even greater number of units—a result that appears likely when the project goes through site review.

Factory for affordable houses at 6500 East Arapahoe (November 2022). This facility will be able to construct homes for use at Ponderosa Mobile Home Park and other locations. The factory is expected to produce up to 73 homes for Ponderosa, at the rate of 12 to 15 per year.

Artist’s conception of homes constructed within the East Arapahoe “factory” that will be place on permanent foundations at the Ponderosa Mobile Home Park, just west of Violet and Broadway.

Duplexes, triplexes, and middle-income permanently affordable for-sale housing at 28th and Jay (December 2022). We reported again on this project in February 2023. This project proposes 84 for-sale units (34 of which are permanently affordable) and was enthusiastically endorsed by Council Feb. 16, 2023. Nonetheless, the project is going through the cheese grater of Boulder land use regulations, and still requires site review and annexation.

Missing Middle workforce housing at 2747 Glenwood Place  (December 2022). Located just south of the Safeway at 28th and Iris, this project will replace a 50-year old 48-unit apartment complex and surface parking lots with 134 new studio apartments, larger apartments, and townhomes.

North Boulder Creative Campus: A Special Blend of Housing + Art (March 2023). Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art will be the centerpiece of a 3-acre mixed-use housing development at Broadway and Violet that will create 73,000 sf of small 1- and 2-bedroom and live-work housing units.

North Boulder Creative Campus site of BMOCA and as many as 100 homes and live-work spaces. It is at the NW corner of Violet and Broadway.

Micro-units at 22nd and Pearl (January 2023). These 45 efficiency units add much-needed density and the option for minimalist living in a well-connected part of downtown Boulder. These will be the first apartments downtown that can be enjoyed by people of modest means. New condos and townhouses along Pearl to the West are $2.5 million or more.

Postscript. NIMBY opposition to every one of these projects was so pronounced that all were, or are, forced to go through at least four “discretionary” hearings: two before Planning Board and another two before City Council. “Discretionary” does not mean that it is a matter of choice for the project sponsor. Rather, it means that at each one of these hearings, the Planning Board or City Council exercises their discretion about what changes can be required of the developer. 

A California affordable housing study in 2014 assessed the cost of discretionary review where four public hearings are required—such as concept and site reviews by Boulder’s Planning Board and City Council—it adds $19,000 to the cost of each unit. This tax on affordable housing is attributable to the carrying cost of the project and to design changes required by decision makers whose preferences push a project first one way, then another after each review. The California affordable housing study has not been replicated in Colorado. Considering inflation and that interest rates in 2014 were half of what they are now, four discretionary reviews of a project today likely add $38,000 or more to the cost of each unit.

Zoning codes adopted by City Council provide clear direction regarding what can and can’t be built on a given project site.  A handful of neighbors with a NIMBY list of objections—density, height, views, congestion, parking, traffic, neighborhood character—have delayed and added cost to every one of these projects. The one consistent counterpoint to these objections are housing advocates who champion the creation of places for people of modest means to live and fully participate in the life of our community.

So thank you, BHN readers, for your work in providing a countervailing voice in support of those who need more affordable and workforce housing in Boulder.

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