Boulder City Council talks future of Boulder Junction

Sep. 23—Boulder is beginning the second phase of planning and redevelopment in the Boulder Junction area, kicking off a two-year process that will likely end with changes in the ways in which land can be used and an update to the transportation connections plan.

The City Council on Thursday had its first chance to provide input on the proposal, a priority the council agreed upon in its annual retreat in early 2022.

The 2007 Transit Village Area Plan, known as TVAP, outlines the future for Boulder Junction, a 160-acre area located in the geographic center of Boulder, bounded by Valmont Road on the north, 30th Street on the west, Foothills Parkway on the east and the railroad tracks on the south.

According to a staff memo from Thursday's study session, the plan anticipated the development of new major transit facilities and envisioned the area as a lively, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented place where people will live, work, shop and access regional bus and rail services.

It ultimately led to redevelopment of the area with some 1,500 residential units, about a quarter of which are affordable, a regional bus station and new transportation connections. It also led to new taxing districts that help provide funding for some of the transportation projects.

Among other things, city staff took the age of the plan into account when considering the second phase of the plan as well as the fact that there were fewer residents in the area and a limited focus on racial equity when the plan was approved in 2007.

Generally, the implementation plan identifies a number of projects for the second phase, including upgrades to Old Pearl; a feasibility study regarding the extension of Bluff Street west of 30th Street; a traffic signal at Pearl Street and Frontier Avenue; and additional pedestrian, bicycle and multi-use paths.

The City Council generally supported staff's proposal, with most arguing the allowed land uses in the Boulder Junction area could use a refresh.

"In particular, I think (the land uses) need to focus much more carefully on housing," Mayor Aaron Brockett said. "We know how much of a need we have for housing in our community."

On the other hand, he noted the transportation connections plan might not be outdated, though it would be worth having Boulder's Transportation Advisory Board consider it.

Some City Council members recommended taking advantage of the lessons learned through the three years of work on the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan the city recently concluded.

Boulder worked with its community connectors on the plan guiding the future of east Boulder to gather information from traditionally underrepresented groups, including non-native English speakers.

Indeed, staff agreed it would be useful to build off that work.

"What we've learned out of east Boulder is going to help us move forward quickly on some of the changes that we might look at here," Comprehensive Planning Manager Kristofer Johnson said Thursday.

Now that it's discussed its plans for Boulder Junction with the City Council and received support for the lengthier iteration of the work that could include land use and transportation-related changes, Boulder staff will now begin to refine its plan moving forward.

It will then update the Planning Board and City Council later this year or early next.