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Design Excellence Initiative

Design Excellence Initiative

Downtown Urban Design Guidelines -- Form-Based Code Pilot for Boulder Junction

The Design Excellence Initiative is intended to support a broad community discussion about what is and is not working with current design policies for buildings and the public realm, as well as evaluate built projects to determine the extent to which desired outcomes are being achieved. Its major components so far are the update of the Downtown Urban Design Guidelines and the form-based code pilot for Boulder Junction.

The initiative was informed by the Sept. 16, 2014, City Council motion that directed staff to provide recommendations to help increase the predictability of the discretionary review process, improve the public realm and lead to the design of better buildings.

The primary focus of the Design Excellence Initiative includes:

  • Conducting public design forums through lectures and workshops;
  • Evaluating built projects relative to plans, codes and design metrics to determine if desired outcomes are being met;
  • Identifying specific problems and issues to be addressed in order to meet community expectations; and
  • Developing and adopting specific tools, code changes, process changes, and/or design review criteria to achieve better design outcomes. 

Planning Board public hearing on form-based code, April 14

Thursday, April 14 -- Planning Board meeting
6 p.m.  ●  Municipal Building  ●  City Council Chambers  ●  1777 Broadway

City staff will give the Planning Board an update on the proposed form-based code and ask for its recommendation to City Council for an ordinance amending the land use code to adopt the form-based code for Boulder Junction Phase 1. Go to the form-based code pilot website to read the code and ordinance.

City Council public hearing on Downtown Urban Design Guidelines, Feb. 16

Over the past several months, city staff has been working with the Downtown Urban Design Guidelines (DUDG) working group to edit and update the guidelines pdf, which were last revised in 2002. Members of the Planning Board, Design Advisory Board, Downtown Management Commission and Landmarks Board are members of the working group and have helped produce a new draft of the guidelines. 

On Feb. 16, 2016, staff will present to City Council the draft of the revised guidelines. For more information, including a copy of the draft and the City Council memo, visit the Downtown Urban Design Guidelines website.

Architectural Inspection Process

As a part of implementing the city’s Design Excellence Initiative, a Landscape Plans Reviewer / Development Review Inspector position was created to help ensure high quality outcomes in the built environment. 

While our existing landscape review and inspection scheduling processes will not change, a new architectural inspection process has been created for buildings with discretionary approvals (such as Site and Use Review). Inspections will typically take place at “rough and final siding” to ensure that building architecture, materials and window details are consistent with approvals. These new inspections will be known as “rough and final architecture.” Required inspections will appear on final inspection cards to remind contractors to schedule architectural inspections when necessary. Walk in or in-person scheduling is also available at the Development Services Center at 1739 Broadway, 3rd Floor.

Please feel free to contact 303-441-1880 with any questions.



On Jan. 15, 2015, Victor Dover of Dover Kohl & Partners (the firm hired by the city to provide consulting services for the Design Excellence Initiative) provided recommendations for short- and long-term actions the city should undertake to address concerns with design outcomes. The key components of the recommendations included:

  • Putting a hold on height modifications in all areas except those that have established community vision until a clear guidance is confirmed through policy revisions;
  • Piloting a form-based code as a new tool to improve design outcomes and to create more predictability;
  • Applying a form-based code to other areas, once detailed plans for those areas are created; and
  • Reforming the city’s development review procedures and Site Review criteria.

Since the first quarter of 2015, based on council direction, the following work efforts have moved forward:

On Oct. 29, 2015, the city held a public open house and Planning Board study session on the draft form-based code. On Nov. 19, 2015, the Planning Board held a hearing on the draft form-based code.

Status and Potential Next Steps

Work related to the Design Excellence Initiative is scheduled to continue through the fourth quarter of 2015 and well into 2016.

  • Dec. 8, 2015 – Public open house and joint boards and commissions meeting on the draft update to the Downtown Design Guidelines
  • Jan. 27, 2016 – Boulder Design Advisory Board recommendations on the update to the Downtown Design Guidelines
  • Feb. 2, 2016 – Landmarks Board adoption of the update to the Downtown Design Guidelines
  • Feb. 4, 2016 – Planning Board adoption of the update to the Downtown Design Guidelines
  • First Quarter 2016 - Scope of work to determine other areas of the city for which a form-based code will be developed, areas such as south of Canyon Boulevard (including the Civic Area “bookends”) and/or the Boulder Community Health Broadway campus and its vicinity
  • First Quarter 2016 - Scope of work to update the Site Review criteria citywide
  • Second and Third Quarters 2016 – Continued work on ongoing evaluation of built projects, site tours and design-related community forums and engagements

Council Action

  • Dec. 1, 2015 – City Council first reading of form-based code pilot ordinance;
  • Dec. 19, 2015 – City Council second reading of the form-based code pilot;
  • Feb. 16, 2016 – City Council first reading of an ordinance for the updated Downtown Design Guidelines;
  • March 1, 2016 – City Council second reading of the update to the Downtown Design Guidelines;
  • First Quarter 2016 – As part of the 2016 work plan, identify the next area to apply the form-based code; and
  • Second Quarter 2016 - Update the Site Review Criteria, including requirements for minimum building design standards, to incorporate relevant materials developed through the form-based code pilot to be applicable citywide


Sign Up for Emails


Jim Robertson
Chief Urban Designer
Department of Planning, Housing and Sustainability


Charles Ferro
Development Review Manager
Department of Planning, Housing and Sustainability

Public Visual Preference Exercise pdf

Results of keypad polling facilitated by Victor Dover at a Dec. 10, 2014 public forum that 160 of 185 attendees responded to.

Planning & Design Advisory Boards Visual Preference Exercise pdf

Results of keypad polling facilitated by Victor Dover at a Dec. 8, 2014 joint meeting that 11 members of the Planning and Boulder Design Advisory boards participated in.

Evaluate Recent Projects in Boulder pdf

Fill out this workbook from the Design Excellence tours and then email your evaluation of these five recent projects to Sam Assefa.


Design Excellence Videos

City of Boulder - Form Based Codes

May 15, 2015 - Victor Dover discussed form based codes.

Design Excellence Forum

Design Excellence Forum

Inside Boulder News - Design Excellence Forum

This video is a segment from the December 12, 2014 episode of Inside Boulder. For more Inside Boulder visit

Inside Boulder News - Design Excellence Forum

This video is a segment from the December 5, 2014 episode of Inside Boulder. For more Inside Boulder visit

Design Excellence Initiative in Boulder

This video is a segment from the November 14, 2014 episode of Inside Boulder. It is a discussion about design and development issues in Boulder. For more Inside Boulder visit

Inside Boulder News - City Council Design Excellence Tour

This is a video segment from the October 10, 2014 episode of Inside Boulder News. For more videos, visit: