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Citywide Retail Project


In 2018, the Boulder City Council directed staff in the city's Economic Vitality Division to develop a strategy to support the retail needs of Boulder's community members and the resilience of the city's sales tax base. The Citywide Retail Project was conducted in three phases: study, strategy and implementation.

The project began with a year-long study (completed in July 2019) that provided the City Council with an assessment of the city's current retail base and survey input from Boulder residents, employees and retail business operators.

In its discussion of the study findings pdf, the City Council requested that staff return with additional information on three topics. The additional research report addresses:

  • An assessment of additional occupancy costs contributing to the perception or reality of high commercial rents in Boulder
  • An assessment of whether Boulder has historically attracted a large portion of its retail sales from non-resident consumers
  • An assessment of the relative strength of Boulder food store sales to understand possible broader shifts in consumer behavior

The findings of the additional research was included in the Jan. 21, 2020 Council Meeting Information Packet Item reporting on Boulder’s Small Business Support.

The project is now in the implementation phase, beginning with the recommended strategies that promote greater affordability and inclusion.

In the most recent update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan community members called for two retail-related goals:

  1. Supporting a vital retail base
  2. Maintaining affordable retail space

The 2018 budget funded a comprehensive Citywide Retail Study that will inform a strategy for how to pursue the retail-related BVCP goals.

Staff met with City Council in a July 2018 study session to begin to outline key questions for the study to reflect the city’s core values , namely:

  1. Welcoming and Inclusive:  Can Boulder residents at all income levels and from a variety of backgrounds meet their basic needs for goods and services within the city?
  2. Sustainable:  What key factors affect the ability of small and independent retailers to remain in Boulder? How do Boulder retailers perform compared to neighboring communities and peer communities nationwide? Can we provide more shopping opportunities throughout the city to meet the needs of Boulder’s daytime population?
  3. Environmental Stewardship:  Which of the city’s retail areas are accessible by public transit, and pedestrian and bike access? Which areas of the city would benefit from the addition of walkable retail? What environmentally sustainable practices are already required of retailers in Boulder?
  4. Sense of Place:  What place-making traits do community members seek in shopping areas? Are there opportunities to bring more community events to shopping areas throughout the city?

In addition to pursuing the goals of the BVCP and the city’s core values, the Citywide Retail project builds upon the findings of the  Downtown Boulder Retail/Vibrancy Study completed in March 2018. The project outcome is intended to support updates to the city’s  Subcommunity and Area Plans and  Transportation Master Plan .

The Citywide Retail project has three primary phases:  study, strategy and implementation.  

A detailed overall project timeline is as follows:

  • July to Oct. 2018 : project scoping and preparation of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to engage a retail planning consultant and survey firm
  • Nov. 2018 to Jan. 2019: consultant selection and finalizing the scope of work
  • Feb. to March 2019: study design and data collection
  • April to May 2019: data analysis and recommendations
  • May to June 2019:  preparation of the final study report
  • July 2019:  presentation of the final study report and council input on strategy objectives

Citywide Retail Strategy phase timeline:

  • Aug. to Oct. 2019: community engagement and strategy development
  • Nov. 2019: preparation of the final strategy report
  • Dec. 2019: presentation of the final strategy report and council feedback
  • Jan. 2020: initiate strategy implementation

The City of Boulder wants to know whether the goods and services available in Boulder meet the needs of its residents and workers of all ages, incomes, backgrounds and areas of the city. Community members were invited to participate in a questionnaire as part of the larger, in-depth study of the current Boulder retail environment that responds to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan goal of a vital retail base. Additionally, staff reached out to retail business operators for a separate retailer questionnaire. The shopper questionnaire received almost 900 responses, and the retailer questionnaire received close to 60 responses. The information collected, as well as other analysis conducted in the preliminary data gathering phase, was shared with the public as part of a  presentation to City Council on May 21, 2019.

Public outreach in the data collection phase included:

  • Mailer to 6,000 randomized Boulder households
  • Postcards distributed at public libraries, recreation centers, senior centers, the Municipal Building, and at various locations throughout the city
  • Promotion at the What's Up Boulder city open house on April 4, 2019, through an "Inside Boulder News" feature, and on the city's social media platforms
  • In-person interviews at Boulder Housing Partners, Emergency Family Assistance Association, and through the city's Community Connectors
  • In-person engagement at more than 100 Boulder retailers throughout the city
  • Engagement to reach employee populations through community partners such as the Boulder Chamber, Downtown Boulder Partnership, The Hill Boulder, University of Colorado, Boulder County
  • Youth engagement through the city's Youth Opportunities Advisory Board, and Families and Educators Together 


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Contact Info

For further information, contact Sarah Weibenson, Hill Community Development Coordinator, Community Vitality Department,  [email protected] , 303-413-7335.