|By Heath Urie, Daily Camera, Boulder,
Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 20, 2011--Boulder's vision for a key component of the planned "Boulder Junction" development has changed significantly, adding a 101-room hotel, a five-story parking garage with room for nearly 400 cars and a possible commercial use for the city's historic train depot.
The Boulder Planning Board on Thursday night will consider a revised concept plan for a 3.2-acre corner of the future Boulder Junction development -- a 160-acre site northeast of 30th Street and Pearl Parkway which the city envisions as a mixed-use community where cars aren't necessary to get around.
The new plan, spearheaded by developer Scott Pedersen, president of Boulder-based Pedersen Development Co., is a rewrite of the concept first considered by the city in 2008. That plan called for the corner of Pearl Parkway and the future Junction Place road to contain only the historic train depot, a surface bus station and a parking lot.
But that plan was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response by city leaders.
"The fundamental criticism of the original concept plan was that it was too suburban," said Randall Rutsch, a Boulder transportation planner.
But neither the city nor the Regional Transportation District, which owns the 3.2-acre site, had the money to further develop the site. So the decision was made to send the project out for a "design-build" bidding process that allowed for a totally new approach to the property.
Pedersen won the contract with a design for a 101-room hotel at the corner of Pearl Parkway and Junction Place, a large parking structure and 80 permanently affordable apartment units that wrap around the property.
An underground bus station -- the third RTD station in Boulder -- would feature seven bus bays serving local and regional routes. The design also would include better access from a pedestrian plaza to the historic train depot. The depot, which was moved to the property in 2008, could be used for a commercial purpose such as a restaurant.
"It just makes it a much better project," Pedersen said of the new plan. "It's better for the city."
Pedersen declined to say which company has signed a letter of intent to run the Boulder Junction hotel, but he did say it would be "upscale and modern and fits the image of a transit facility."
"The RTD site is probably one of the more complex projects in the city," Pedersen said. "It's a great challenge."
Bill Sirois, a senior manager at RTD, said putting the project out for a design bid resulted in plans for a "better functioning transit facility."
He said putting the bus station underground would allow additional uses on the surface and would help separate buses from other traffic while loading and unloading. He also said that RTD expects the future station to increase ridership between Boulder and Denver -- one of the city's goals for the development.
Pedersen and RTD officials are now negotiating over who should own what land at the site. Pedersen said he wants to purchase the entire 3.2 acres, which RTD and Boulder bought for $11 million in 2006 using a $7.8 million federal grant. The total cost of the project could now be between $45 million and $50 million, according to Pedersen.
Pedersen also is working to sell the development rights for a 5-acre, $65 million apartment complex off of 3100 Pearl St. He said selling that development to California-based ReyLeen Properties would allow his company to focus on the hotel and bus station instead.
Sam Assefa, Boulder's senior urban designer, said he believes private companies can invest far more in making the site fit the city's vision for Boulder Junction than RTD or Boulder ever could on their own.
"If you look at the objective of the plan, it's to create a truly transit-related development," he said. "You have to have the right mix of different types of uses."
Assefa said that, once Boulder Junction is complete, it could become as popular of a destination as downtown Boulder.
"You're really creating a new place here," he said.
The Planning Board will provide comments about the concept plan Thursday, but Pedersen will have to return with a final draft later this year for a site review. The City Council would have the final say on the plans.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Boulder Planning Board meeting
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
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