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‘Will Vill II’ business owners face uncertain future.

BOULDER — The new owner of Moe’s Original BBQ in south Boulder doesn’t shy from talking about a developer’s plan to flatten the strip mall that houses his restaurant to make way for 610 apartments in six high-rise buildings. 

The same cannot be said for the owners of other businesses at the southeast quadrant of U.S. 36 and Baseline Road, including the landmark Dark Horse Bar, the award-winning Carelli’s Ristorante Italiano, campus favorite Cosmo’s Pizza and other establishments on the nine-acre site.

Alex Kuzel bought the Moe’s franchise in July and during the past couple of weeks has heard rumblings about the redevelopment proposal that would put the apartment buildings and two parking structures enclosing 726,000 square feet of space.

“I had really only heard a few things through the media, so I didn’t know all that much,” Kuzel said. “I called our landlord, and got a copy of the plans.”

For the near term, Kuzel can’t worry too much about Will Vill II, as the project might become informally known if and when it takes shape. It’s officially known as Williams Village II.

Kuzel’s got bigger things on his mind for the moment, including feeding the 160-member Colorado University Buffalos football organization following their Rocky Mountain Showdown with the Colorado State Rams on Saturday night. Oh, and another 350 barbecue tailgate meals for a CU student party prior to the game. Then there are all meals for the ESPN Game Day broadcast crew while they’re in town.

“We’re all so excited about that,” Kuzel said. “It’s going to take our entire crew, and then some.”

Riding the “Prime” wave for now steers Kuzel’s attention away from the uncertain future of his business. He is aware that the project developers have expressed intentions to fold the existing businesses on the site into the public-facing ground floors of the mixed-use development. In fact, the development team has carved out more than 7,000 square feet of the planned commercial space for use by restaurants that now operate on the site and others that will come. 

“The question is, what do we do while they’re building this thing?” Kuzel said. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to support myself and my family while that’s happening. That’s going to take a while.”

Calls to project owner George Williams and partner Peter Williams were not returned over a two-day period. Business owners were likewise silent, with messages for Dark Horse owner Dave Tobin, Italian restaurant owner Greg Carelli and Cosmo’s Pizza regional operations manager Adam Shorter not returned.

Should the Cosmo’s location be cleared away for Williams Village II, it would mark the second time Cosmo’s has had a Boulder location close to make way for new development. The pizza chain’s store on The Hill at 13th and Broadway closed in October 2021 to accommodate new construction.

The project description prepared as part of the developers’ concept review package contains language that specifically addresses the presence of Sprouts Farmers Market on the site. The store would be “retained but moved to a new building and location on the northeast corner, bordering the street.”

Whatever is in store for Williams Village II and the businesses it would displace, that future is a distant one. Those connected with the project, including project designer Coburn Architecture and Boulder city planners, agree that it will likely take years to rise out of the ground.

Developers have to await the fate of a proposed ordinance to amend current zoning, allowing much greater density on the site than is permitted now. Plans for a hotel in connection with the project would also need a change from the status quo. 

Kuzel said he is of two minds about the project: He said he favors the development’s design, even while he is wary of what it will mean for the Moe’s BBQ future. “The emphasis on student housing, the pedestrian and open space features are great. It’s a good plan and would be a good development.” 

He said he would await word from the project owners on ways he and other business owners could bridge the gap between closure and reopening in new spaces.

“I understand that change has to happen,” Kuzel said. “I just hope it can happen with us.”

Source: BizWest