By Jeff Thomas
BOULDER — Google’s campus under construction at 30th and Pearl streets represents the highest-profile development along 30th Street, eventually employing 1,500 workers, but a wave of other projects promises to transform the corridor from the Diagonal Highway south to Walnut Street.
Google is building a three-building campus totaling 300,000 square feet on the west side of 30th south of Pearl Street. But other developments will bring thousands of square feet of office and retail space, along with hundreds of housing units.
The 30th Street corridor has seen its fair share of development in recent years, including the Two Nine North apartments and various projects within Boulder Junction — the transit-oriented development on the eastern side of 30th and Pearl.
One key aspect of Boulder Junction’s appeal has been FasTracks, which currently serves the Flatiron Flyer bus rapid transit system and eventually would bring commuter rail to Boulder. But the Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks northwest line has been delayed, probably for decades, because of lack of funds for the project.
But that delay hasn’t caused development on 30th Street to miss a beat.
“I don’t think the light rail is really an important ingredient, and the reason is all you really need is bus transport,” said Lou DellaCava, owner of LJD Enterprises, and a serial developer in Boulder and Boulder County. DellaCava, who along with Denver developer Darren Fisk sold the Two Nine North Apartments at Walnut and 30th streets for $94 million in 2014, looks on the area as one of primary interest to any developer.
“What we really needed is supply (more housing),” he said. “The city has awakened to the fact that you have to provide housing because you are unbalanced” in the number of jobs versusavailable housing.
More housing on way
The attraction and reality of the housing-versus-employment discrepancy is obvious to even the most casual observer and has not been lost on other developers in the transit area, the first phase of which is loosely defined by Valmont Street to the north, Pearl Parkway to the south, 30th Street to the west, and the rail tracks between 30th and Foothills Parkway.
But action along 30th extends far beyond Boulder Junction.
The proposed Boulder Junction Rowhouses, slated for the west side of 30th just south of Valmont, would include 32 market-rate rowhouses spread among four buildings that surround a central park area, along with underground parking.
Jason Lewiston, president of Greenius LLC and managing partner of the project, said the 2,000-square-foot rentals are very much targeted at incoming Google employees. Greenius is partnering with Sagebrush Cos. of Denver to complete the project, which is awaiting a site review by the Boulder Planning Board.
“We’re appealing specifically to people with kids who want an urban lifestyle,” Lewiston said. “There are people who are coming in with Google, (who) don’t want to buy one of the million-dollar homes in Boulder. They are moving every four to five years.”
Each of the buildings overlooks a central half-acre park, and Lewiston suggested the units’ green rating might actually surpass “net-zero” in that there would be electric vehicle plug-ins that could be powered by solar-generated electricity. Other various green aspects include solar hot water, Tesla home batteries, and — not surprisingly — Google’s Nest thermostats.
“We expect that they (the prospective renters) will be very educated and very technical oriented” and expect their buildings to be as environmentally friendly as possible, Lewiston said. Each of the buildings is framed with energy blocks that insulate against almost all heat transfer and also create a very efficient sound barrier, he said.
Lewiston’s project actually is in Phase 2 of the Boulder Junction project and could be rezoned for higher density. However, given the timing of the Google campus opening, possibly by this time next year, Lewiston decided to go with the existing low-density residential zoning.
Working around delays
Similarly, DellaCava, who is building an office building at 30th and Iris streets, said he once had an option on the property now housing the luxury apartments at Solana 3100 Pearl, on the south side of Pearl. However, the city was so slow in approving new projects in the Junction area that he moved onto the Two Nine North project in 2008, which already had the necessary residential zoning.
While planners were somewhat blaming the FasTracks delay in getting to Boulder for their hesitation, DellaCava said, the opening of the bus terminal at the Depot development last year was a bigger development impetus than rail anyway.
The new Regional Transportation District bus station opened in August amid a large pedestrian-oriented development known as Boulder Junction at Depot Square Station, at Junction Place and Pearl Parkway. The development included a 150-room Hyatt hotel, and the Depot Square apartment complex that came with 71 affordable-housing units.
“There are some things that are very attractive about rail, but trains have many limitations,” DellaCava said. “Bus rapid transit has a lot more flexibility.”
The Steel Yard development, between Mapleton and Bluff streets on the east side of 30th, also recently completed its residential development. Townhomes still are available for purchase there, as city planners consider whether to allow the development to be completed by adding two four-story commercial buildings that would be bordered by 33rd Street and the railroad tracks to the east of the Steel Yards.
Recently given tentative final approval by the planning board in the Junction area is a six-acre mixed-use development at Pearl Parkway and 30th Street known as Rêve, featuring 244 home-rental units, as well as about 120,000 square feet of office space and flex space that can be used for offices, retail and restaurants.
While numerous areas, especially in-fill areas, are under consideration for land-use changes, two large remaining properties will have the largest visibility. The first of these is the former Sutherland Lumber location — known as S’Park for Sutherland Park — with almost 11 assembled acres destined for mixed use, including market-rate and affordable townhomes, as well as roughly 114,000 square feet of office space and 24,000 square feet for retail and restaurants.
Another site still being transformed is what was an 11-acre site housing Pollard Friendly Motor Co. In 2004, the city purchased eight acres on the west portion of the site, while RTD acquired 3.2 acres for its transit facility. Pollard signed a lease for 5.5 acres of the site through 2016.
The city’s acquisition of eight acres of the Pollard site originally was intended to advance its multimodal transportation agenda, but also noted at the time that creating a range of housing types was also a consideration.
In a recent memo, city staff suggested to the city council that the area still could be developed as a mixed-use commercial and low-income housing mix, which would result in maintaining the city’s original goals of housing and commercial mix in the Junction area. However, other memos indicate that permanently affordable units, as well as resident-owned units, may be lagging in the area, and the Pollard site could undergo a significant land-use reassignment.
Affordable goal in sight
City spokeswoman Deanna Voss said there have been 1,020 residential units either completed or in process in the Boulder Junction area, with 175 or 17 percent designated as affordable. While somewhat short of the original transit-area plan of exceeding 20 percent in affordable units, that goal still could be attained.
“Housing that is either completed or in process in Boulder Junction is 88 percent multifamily apartment-style housing and 12 percent townhomes (85 percent rental versus 15 percent for sale)” Voss said. “The Transit Village Area (Boulder Junction) plan envisioned a mix of housing types including townhomes. So, arguably, the mix could include more for-sale and townhomes.”
Included in those figures is S’Park, which included 33 percent affordable rental homes, said Scott Holton, a principal at the lead development group, Element Properties of Boulder. Originally partnered with the Sutherland family, S’Park now is being developed with two Chicago development firms, John Buck Co. and Kinship Capital.
Holton said the project is applying for infrastructure building permits, and demolition could begin in April or May. The design firms are seeking an overall LEED neighborhood design for the project, based on an overall sustainability profile.
The city’s examination of the project was more than thorough, Holton said, although not any more than experienced Boulder developers would expect and certainly rewarding in the end result.
“I think what ultimately got us approved is the care that the design team took in this project — the streetscape and the open areas in the public realm,” Holton said. “We have a new team saying, ‘Public space is the new anchor tenant. Public space is what brings people to your project.’ ”
The S’Park project also is the designated location for a FasTracks depot. Although RTD has not taken an option on any property in the development, a designation location for a depot remains, Holton said.
“We just reserved an area for future negotiation. If the train ever comes, we can make sure that it stops in Boulder at our site,” said Holton, who arranged the $18.3 million sale of the Sutherland property and assembled four additional acres to create room for the development. “This is something I’m really proud of. This is going to be my mark on the city.”
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