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Vast residential, commercial project lands with Boulder planners

BOULDER — A sweeping redevelopment proposal for one of Boulder’s most-traveled corners would put more than 600 apartments on a site now occupied by some of the city’s most iconic bars and other businesses.

Williams Village II planners seek to build 726,000 square feet of space in six buildings, four and five stories tall, designed to accommodate:

  • 610 residential units, divided between market-rate and student apartments.
  • 77,000 square feet of commercial space, with more than 7,000 square feet intended for restaurants.
  • A 76,000-square-foot hotel.
  • Two parking structures and underground space for nearly 800 vehicles.

The project would rise on a scraped, nine-acre plot in the morning shadow of the original Williams Village and its cluster of high-rise student apartment buildings. The square footage of the plan puts it among the largest mixed-use developments in the city’s history. 

Unclear is whether the World Famous Dark Horse Bar, Cosmo’s Pizza and other existing eateries will be incorporated into the redevelopment, if and when it takes shape. 

A raft of documents submitted to Boulder city planners includes a comprehensive statement from project architects Coburn Architecture that makes reference to those businesses.

“The existing Sprouts grocery store will be retained but moved to a new building and location on the northeast corner, bordering the street. The current retail and restaurant uses will be retained when possible, and new ones will be added,” Coburn’s project description states.

A person who answered the telephone at Dark Horse declined to comment on the proposal.

Coburn project architects Steve Savercool and Bill Hollicky both said in interviews that they preferred to let the public documents spell out the thinking behind their design. Their narrative cites “urban repair” as the guiding intent.

The current site is “auto-dominated and fully paved, with no allowance for pedestrians and zero walkability,” their narrative says. “It is the aim of the site plan to repair this broken urban fabric.”

The site plan for Williams Village. Source: Boulder planning documents

Boulder city planner Chandler Van Schaack said the concept submission is so fresh that it has yet to be scheduled for a concept review, the first step down a path that could be long for a project of this magnitude. 

“For a project of this scope, it would likely require a site review in addition to a use review, and perhaps a subdivision process,” he said. “The big piece is that the design relies on a change in the zoning code” to allow density represented by 600-plus residential units.

Van Schaack said he favored the rationale expressed in the project narrative — to make the site more accessible to pedestrians and retaining open space to separate the massive buildings.

“Overall the site is underutilized,” he said. “It’s a nine-acre site that’s mostly parking lots. Turning it into a walkable, livable area would be an improvement.”

The density adjustment that a zoning change would allow is not the only hurdle that the project faces, Van Schaack said. “There is still a lot to work out,” he said. “For example, hotels are prohibited” in the current zoning scheme. 

If the project moves ahead with the necessary changes, and finds acceptance during a neighborhood review process that is still months away, it would be a positive move for Boulder’s southern commercial core.

“It remains to be seen how the neighbors will feel about it,” he said. “It’s definitely huge. But it’s a big step in the right direction for that area.”

Source: BizWest