The North Boulder Creative Campus: A Special Blend of Housing + Art

By BHN Contributor Jerry Shapins, Artist/Citizen Advocate/Retired Landscape Architect and Urban Designer

The Planning Board will review a concept plan on March 21 of the expanded Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMOCA), moving to North Boulder from Downtown. At the new location, BMOCA will be the centerpiece of a 3 acre mixed use housing development located at Broadway and Violet. The Planning Board packet is here. This work integrates housing and art. Its location and design will energize the North Boulder Arts District. Car light, attainable and compact housing are planned to complement a new world class museum surrounded by a mixture of studio spaces, light industrial, commercial uses and public spaces.

The “BMOCA creative campus” idea reinforces the intentions of the NoBo Art District to provide a place to both live and work as an artist surrounded by exhibition spaces, art maker spaces, the new and distinctive 17,500 sf BMOCA and other eclectic services. This project will strengthen the vitality, appearance and lifestyle opportunities in NoBo.  The proposed BMOCA expansion will create a hub of activity at the southern entrance to the art district and advance its evolving identity as an art destination. The campus is an easy walk to the Ponderosa neighborhood, Broadway bus stops, local parks, the future NoBo Library and Shining Mountain Waldorf School. Housing and art linked by inspiring and flowing outdoor spaces—this is something new in Boulder..

The plans include 73,000 sf of accessible and attainable housing, in sixty-seven 1- and 2-bedroom and live-work units. Parking is reduced; services and open space amenities are shared; the units are relatively small. Residents can live and work within the same unit or do both at different locations on site. This supports the creative lifestyles of artists, workers and residents.  The use of public space will encourage both planned and spontaneous gatherings, desirable characteristics for artists, workers, teachers, and others who desire to live, work and visit here. 

The connected and three part interior public spaces are framed by buildings, linked to the sidewalks and adjacent Four Mile greenway. The site is conceived as an extension of the new NoBo Library, with direct access via the new underpass. The Library participated in conversations to incorporate community amenities into the BMOCA.  The outdoor spaces will be comfortable settings for residents, workers, and visitors, combining hardscape and natural characteristics. These seamless public spaces will come alive during First Friday art walks, and enable BMOCA and others to extend their programming outside for residents and visitors.   

In summary, the concept supports both community and privacy in a design that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable.  

There is one significant improvement that could be made to the plan. The corner of Broadway and Violet deserves a strong presence. In the current concept, the building at that corner is actually the lowest part of the development.

The museum is in a great location at the top right of this site diagram, next to Four Mile Creek, with an easy walk beside the creek to the NoBo Library (under construction) and on to the riparian city greenway and park to the east. But the developer should be given the height to strengthen the corner building: go higher, make it monumental, a proud entry to the Museum and NoBo Arts District to the north. With added height, for more work shops and housing, the developer can also extend the paseo (the arrow)  through a cleavage in a taller corner building to the sidewalk.

How you can get involved

E-mail: Email Planning Board to express your views. Any correspondence you wish the Board to review must be received via email at least 24 hours prior to the beginning of the meeting.

Attend or speak at the Zoom meeting Tuesday evening, March 21, 2023. The meeting begins at 6pm. The Zoom link is posted here 24 hours before the meeting

The BMOCA presentation will begin at about 6:45 PM, followed by questions from Board Members, and then the Public Hearing begins at about 7:15. [These are estimates.]  Raise your hand when staff asks who wishes to speak about the project.

Share this post