(Author – Kathleen M.) Workforce housing for Boulder’s essential-service workers like first responders, frontline healthcare workers, and teachers could be advanced with the approval of a site plan for Waterview, a new “15-minute” neighborhood planned for the 5800 block north of Arapahoe Avenue in East Boulder. East Boulder has nearly 18,500 jobs, and thousands of in-commuters, but only a few hundred housing units. Waterview aims to help correct this imbalance.
Five years into the Waterview development process, the developer has received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a revised flood map. Noncompliance with FEMA floodplain regulations puts a city’s property owners at risk of losing National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) eligibility. The developers worked with the city over two years to secure FEMA approval, bringing the site into compliance and extending flood insurance coverage for all of Boulder’s residential and commercial properties. The project site plan is now scheduled for a virtual public hearing before the Boulder Planning Board on March 4.
At a virtual community meeting on February 11, Denver-based Zocalo Community Development and others on the development team presented the project plan, discussed how the project has evolved, and answered questions from neighbors, housing advocates, and others.
Named for its location along South Boulder Creek, Waterview is a 15-acre mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhood planned with 10 buildings that include 317 rental apartments and townhomes. A total of 80, or 25 percent, of the apartments and townhomes will be permanently affordable and deed-restricted for tenants earning 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) or less. Affordable units will be available across all home sizes, which include a total of 182 efficiencies, 91 studio and one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom apartments, and 22 three-bedroom townhomes. The development team estimated Waterview would house about 400 people total, at a density of 21.3 units per acre, similar to the Holiday Neighborhood in North Boulder.
The plan also features a fitness center and pool, 15,000 square feet of commercial space, a community garden, a dog park, and 342,000 square feet of open space. Natural areas, including public open space and trails, surround two-thirds of the site, which contains a pond and a riparian corridor.
Bill Holicky, project architect with Coburn Development in Boulder, said the site plan aims to develop currently undeveloped land into “an actual neighborhood with a sense of community.” It calls for a network of two-lane streets with on-street parking, bike lanes, shaded sidewalks, a central parking structure, and a mix of buildings containing homes and local businesses..
In several buildings, the affordable apartments have been integrated on the same floor and with the same size, configuration, and finishes as the market-rate units, says William Shutkin of Boulder-based Shutkin Sustainable Living, a project owner and member of the development team.
Rather than building one large building with all the affordable units, or building the affordable units off-site, “we chose to integrate them so there is real housing equity,” he says. “We know from research by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and other data that the greatest factor in advancing economic mobility is for people from different economic levels and backgrounds to live close to each other, literally.”
The Waterview site is rich with transportation options and the project is purposely aligned with the city’s Transportation Master Plan and the East Arapahoe Transportation Plan, said Shutkin. An RTD bus stop on Arapahoe connects riders with downtown Boulder and communities to the east, and a bus rapid transit station is planned for 55th and Arapahoe. A multi-use path connects the neighborhood to downtown Boulder and open space trails. The site offers quick walk and bike access to Flatiron Business Park, Ball Aerospace, the Jewish Community Center, and local eateries and services. The site’s key commercial area next to the RTD stop features a restaurant and office space targeted at small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The development team has submitted a comprehensive transportation demand management program, providing extensive bike parking, bike sharing, E-bikes, Ecopasses, and other resources to help reduce vehicle use and ownership.
Waterview is aligned with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and rezoning in East Boulder, reflecting the goals of key city policies in planning and sustainability. Waterview will be built for climate resilience and for Silver certification according LEED® green building standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council with systems such as rooftop solar and energy-efficient materials and technologies. Zocalo is noted for building green mixed-use and mixed-income apartment communities in Denver, including 2020 Lawrence, Solera, and Edit, which is nearing completion in Denver’s River North (RiNo) Art District, as well as for the first LEED®-certified multifamily project in the Denver metro market, Riverclay Condominiums, completed in 2008, according to the firm’s website.
David Zucker, Zocalo’s CEO, noted that the original plan called for 40 percent affordable homes.
In working with neighbors, Zocalo agreed to reduce the number of homes from 340 to 317. This concession, as well as the developers’ agreement to reduce the number of buildings over 38 feet from three to one and the lack of available affordable housing funds from the city, led to reducing the number of affordable units from 136 to 80. They also agreed to increase off-street parking to 421 spaces in response to neighbors’ parking concerns and the city’s requirements related to commercial space.
Asked how the project could add more housing units back in, Zucker said Zocalo would not be restoring the original number of units. “The loss of [over] 506 affordable units is a tragedy, but we made a commitment to neighbors to limit” the number of units. He said projects in Boulder involving affordable housing “may be at the tipping point,” where there is too much NIMBYism and adversity. The development team urged housing and social justice advocates to email letters of support to the Planning Board and to register to speak at the virtual public hearing on 5801 Arapahoe scheduled for March 4.