Last fall I and other representatives from Community Cycles participated in a discussion with the city and various stakeholders regarding upcoming redevelopment along Pearl Parkway. I wrote about the experience and the Transit Village Area Plan (TVAP) more generally from the perspective of a human-powered urbanist. Mostly, we looked at different possible streetscapes for Pearl Parkway between 30th and the railroad tracks. The property at 3100 Pearl Parkway is slated to be developed in the near future, as a 320 unit rental apartment complex, and as one of the first major developments in the area plan. The city is interested in experimenting with novel street treatments in order to try and make the place special and attractive. Community Cycles got involved largely because the TVAP “Connections Plan” had, with minimal fanfare, superseded the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and removed the bike lanes which had long been planned along Pearl Parkway in favor of off-street only infrastructure. We felt that this change was not necessarily in the best interest of cyclists, and wanted to ensure that whatever did end up getting built would be safe and efficient.
I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown, reading, sipping coffee, and taking pictures. I was surprised to see that Boulder had apparently been invaded (in the best possible way) by stylish olive skinned women wearing high heels, until I got to the Tea House, and remembered it was Persian New Year (also known as the Vernal Equinox). The music and dancing was just winding down, but the outdoor space was still filled with people, and social buzz.
Boulder has about 100,000 citizens, and about 100,000 jobs. Of course, a lot of us aren’t working. Some of us are climbing bums; some of us are four years old; and some of us are climbing bums staying home to take care of four year olds. 50,000 people commute into Boulder every day to work, and about 10,000 leave the city to go work somewhere else, for a net influx of roughly 40,000 workers, making up for those of us too old, young, lazy, or busy to have a so-called “real job.” (The kind you tell the IRS about). That’s a lot of people moving around, and a lot of lonely driving, since around 2/3 of those commuters are in single occupancy vehicles. If only there were more places to live in Boulder, especially more places that service employees could afford, maybe so many people wouldn’t need to move around. This is how the story goes anyway, and while it’s not quite that simple, I think it’s close to true given the 5:1 ratio of in vs. out commuters.
One of the few remaining large tracts of low-density land within Boulder’s borders is the light industrial area between 30th St. and Parkway, straddling the Pearl Parkway, between Valmont and Arapahoe. The northern portion of that area is now slated for redevelopment, following the 2007 Transit Village Area Plan (TVAP). The general idea of the plan seems to be to create an eastern downtown locus, and to eventually have an urban spine running through central Boulder along Pearl St. and Pearl Parkway, from 9th St. all the way out to Foothills Parkway, and to ensure that transportation within this urban core is functional by de-emphasizing the use of private cars and providing excellent connectivity to the rest of the city via transit, foot, and bike. Additional regional mass transit connections are also planned to this eastern core, including both BRT and rail. As a human powered urbanist, this idea sounds great to me, and much better than the ocean of asphalt and big boxes that 29th St. unfortunately turned into. I’d love for Boulder to accept the role of being a small city rather than a big town, while aggressively enforcing the existing well-defined geographical boundaries, and avoiding high-rise buildings. If we can pull that off, then we will have an interesting, beautiful city of intrinsically human scale, and I can’t think of a nicer kind of place to live. I haven’t been around for the years of debate leading up to the present situation, instead being preoccupied with graduate school, and unsure whether I would be staying long enough to actually see anything actually get built. But now I plan to be here, have the time to pay attention, and am interested to see what happens.