Boulder’s Planning Board will have a first look at an apartment and townhome redevelopment at 2747 Glenwood Place, just south of the 28th Street Safeway, on Tuesday, December 6th. The proposed project will replace a 50-year old apartment complex with 48 units and associated surface parking lots with 134 new homes. Of these, 75 percent would be efficiency living units (ELUs), more commonly known as studio apartments.
The Glenwood Court project could add significantly to Boulder’s rental housing stock in an employment and service-rich area. The 28th Street corridor is a target for workforce housing development, and provides many opportunities for walking, bicycling, and transit use.
The project will also test Boulder’s appetite for small units. ELUs are capped at 475 square feet, offering a potential for unsubsidized affordability. They are also popular among single-person households as an alternative to living with roommates or home-sharing arrangements.
The areas surrounding 28th Street to the south of Iris contain many apartment complexes that are reaching the end of their lifecycle, raising the question of what comes next. New development will contain different mixes of units and amenities, and offers an opportunity to rethink the patchwork of buildings and parking lots constructed in the 1970s.
ELUs as a piece of Boulder’s affordable housing puzzle?
The most notable aspect of the Glenwood Court project is its focus on ELUs. Because of their small footprint, ELUs count as “half” units in Boulder’s land use code. That means an ELU-intensive proposal essentially receives a density bonus. The 102 ELUs proposed at Glenwood Court are in fact more units than the site’s RH-5 (high-density residential) zoning typically allows. And they still leave space for 35 larger apartments and townhomes.
While ELUs receive this favorable treatment in the zoning code, when they constitute more than 40 percent of a project they require a separate Use Review. Because Planning Board has been cool to rental housing and tends to favor “family-sized” units, this number is likely to be a significant point of discussion at the December 6 meeting. Several recent projects proposing to build microunits (similar in size to ELUs) in Boulder have met stiff neighborhood opposition and developers have reverted to building larger, more expensive units by right. Achieving more and smaller apartments on the Glenwood Court site will require real community support.
Beyond unit counts
Moving beyond raw numbers, the Glenwood Court project has a number of promising features that could be refined during Concept Review. First, it arranges the ELUs in a winged configuration that allows for greater privacy and natural light, even in close quarters. Second, it moves most parking underground, creating space for a large central courtyard with shared amenities. Facilities for co-working, bike maintenance, pet care, and social gatherings are also included in the plans.
As Boulder begins to construct the next generation of multi-family housing, attention to balancing privacy and community and creating functional and beloved shared spaces should be a major focus of our planning efforts.
How to get involved
To advocate for housing at 2747 Glenwood Place, send an email to the Planning Board (email@example.com) and/or plan to speak at the virtual meeting on Tuesday, December 6. The Glenwood Court project will be the second public hearing of the evening, and is not likely to begin until 8PM or later. A link to watch and participate will be posted 24 hours before the meeting. Learn more about the proposal here.