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East Boulder Subcommunity Plan

The city is working with the community to create the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. The plan will describe a future vision for East Boulder that is based on community goals and values. Creating the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan is a two-year process. Once complete, the plan will inform decisions in the area for decades.

Learn more about subcommunity plans

News & Updates

Planning Board and the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) recently received an update on the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan project. Boards provided input to guide the next phase of work, which is Scenario Testing. The Scenario Testing process will consider a range of options for land use changes in the East Boulder subcommunity and test these concepts against a set of measurable indicators, such as population, housing and trips generated to help community members understand how changes to land use could impact citywide goals.

On Sept. 14, TAB asked staff to consider adding bike access, transit access and density measures to the list of indicators being considered.

On Sept. 17, Planning Board members asked for indicators that would provide a more comprehensive understanding of key issues including affordability, diversity and climate adaptability. These included:

  • A housing unit index that would measure the potential for a mix of housing types
  • An indicator that considers the potential for affordable units
  • An indicator that considers the potential for affordable industrial and commercial space
  • An indicator measuring CO2 emissions whose source is vehicles
  • An indicator that consider the types of jobs created or reduced

City staff will work to identify potential methods for calculating the requested metrics and move forward with the next phase of work.

A citywide engagement effort to gain feedback on potential land use changes and impacts in East Boulder will launch in the winter of 2020.

55th and Arapahoe Station Area Master Plan (STAMP)

Background

In late 2019, the City of Boulder received federal funding for detailed planning and design at the 55th Street and Arapahoe Station Area. This area is part of the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan and has been identified by adopted city plans for a future mobility hub and transit-oriented development.

While the area is currently served by a handful of local and regional transit routes, in the future, it will be the location of a State Highway 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station – connecting Boulder to I-25 and beyond with high-quality, high frequency service. This plan will guide long term transformation of the station area into a transit-oriented, connected and livable place that ideally provides a mix of housing types and land uses in proximity to transit.

This plan will be integrated into the larger East Boulder Subcommunity Plan process, but will require a greater level of detailed planning, analysis and design. The city and the consultant working on this project will engage with the working group and the community to evaluate land use and redevelopment scenarios based on community preference, alignment with the East Boulder Subcommunity vision statements and potential benefits and impacts, with the aim of developing a preferred land use and phasing plan.

Next Steps

The consultant team will likely attend the September working group meeting to discuss identifying the station area boundary as a first step in the plan.

East Boulder Vision Statements

City staff, with input from the community and the  East Boulder Subcommunity Plan Working Group , have drafted vision statements that apply  Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan  goals to East Boulder in six areas, including housing, resilience and climate, small local business, access and mobility, design and placemaking and arts and culture.

Earlier this year, community input on the six Vision Statements was gathered via a questionnaire. With 113 responses, there was a wide range of competing viewpoints. Learn more in this report.

Thank you to those that provided feedback on these vision statements. Your input will be used to help inform decision-making and strategies for the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. Feedback received will be used to inform plan concepts that will be discussed at  Transportation Advisory Board  on Sept. 14 and at  Planning Board  on Sept. 17. 

East Boulder Working Group

The East Boulder Working Group supports the subcommunity planning process. The group is made up of area stakeholders and holds monthly meetings that are open to the public. Learn more about the  East Boulder Working Group . To send a question to the working group use  this form  to send a question to the East Boulder Working Group to address at their meetings. 

 


More Information

The East Boulder subcommunity is bounded approximately by Foothills Parkway to the west, Boulder Municipal Airport to the north, 63rd Street to the east and Arapahoe Avenue to the south. The subcommunity boundaries were approved by City Council in 2018.

In subcommunity planning, boundaries serve to provide a defined area for study and analysis but have no regulatory function. Boundary lines will not preclude surrounding properties or land uses from study, planning or engagement during a subcommunity planning process. While boundaries provide a defined area for study, the planning process takes into account an area of influence outside the boundary that may be affected by a subcommunity plan. The boundaries approved by City Council take land use, zoning, natural features, planned capital improvements, recent property sales and existing neighborhood commercial centers into consideration.

  • View the September 2018   Council Study session   discussion on Subcommunity Planning. Click on “Subcommunity Planning” for the memo, or on “VIDEO” for the footage.
  • View the January 2019   City Council meeting   discussion on Subcommunity Planning. Click on “Item 6A” for the memo, or on “VIDEO” for the footage.

     

The East Boulder Subcommunity Plan will feature criteria for future change in the area, serving as a framework for achieving citywide goals in the area. As part of this process, the plan will look at these focus areas of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan:

  • Small Local Business 
  • Arts & Culture 
  • Design Quality & Placemaking 
  • Housing Affordability & Diversity 
  • Resilience & Climate Commitment
  • Balance of Future Jobs & Housing 

In early 2019, City Council had staff begin future planning for East Boulder, one of the city's 10 subcommunities. They prioritized East Boulder because of the high rate of change taking place in the area. 

East Boulder is one of the city's top employment centers, home to large employers including Foothills Community Hospital and Ball Aerospace. Many businesses located there specialize in the scientific, research, technology and manufacturing sectors. The area is also home to urban parks, recycling centers and arts and cultural organizations, including Boulder Dinner Theater and KGNU radio.

Project timeline 

Creating the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan is a two-year process and includes multiple phases:

  1. Project kick-off
  2. Inventory & analysis
  3. Concept development (current phase)
  4. Scenario testing & alternative futures 
  5. Implementation planning 
  6. Plan adoption

The final plan will guide change in East Boulder for the next several decades. 

Timeline graphic for phases of East Boulder Subcommunity Plan process

East Boulder Inventory and Analysis Report 

The East Boulder Inventory and Analysis Report pdf examines existing conditions in the East Boulder subcommunity and measures how well the area is meeting the goals of the   Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan  . The report includes feedback and contributions from the East Boulder Working Group, community engagement events, Be Heard Boulder, City Council and Planning Board. The report lays the groundwork for the preservation and future evolution of East Boulder. 

The information included in the report will help answer the question, "Who Does East Boulder Want to Be?" 

Report Summary 

The East Boulder Subcommunity Plan provides an opportunity to meet   Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan   goals. Future plans should take advantage of the area’s existing resources, including local businesses, artists, parks and greenways. Improvements to pedestrian, bike and public transportation facilities are needed to support “15-minute neighborhoods” and regional commuters. Public engagement has found strong support for adding housing and more retail and food options. Integrating these elements will support the creation of 15-minute neighborhoods within East Boulder and reduce transportation emissions and environmental impact. For more details on the report, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the East Boulder Inventory and Analysis tab.

Small and Local Business 

  • Goal: Support Small local business
    • The East Boulder Community is a major hub for business in Boulder. There are 820 businesses in the subcommunity, 47% of which have five or fewer employees. Many people described the subcommunity’s small local businesses as highly valued places in the area. 
  • Goal: Retain small local businesses and provide affordable business space
    • Rising commercial rents in the area are already a struggle for some businesses to afford, despite East Boulder being considered one of the most affordable places for a business to locate.
    • There is community concern about business displacement in changing parts of the city and a strong desire to protect and keep businesses local.
      • “How do we make improvements throughout East Boulder without displacing the local businesses that have helped to define it?” is a major ongoing question raised by the East Boulder Working Group. 
  • Action Item:
    • The city should look to create programs and incentives that create and maintain affordable space for local business. 

Arts and Culture 

  • Goal: Support arts and cultural experiences as essential to community well-being
    • East Boulder is rich with working artists, art spaces, studios and performance venues who have clustered in the neighborhood because of the presence of the relatively affordable industrial spaces needed for their activities.
    • The subcommunity’s numerous parks and greenways provide space to implement public art, cultural events and performances. 
    • Public art and murals could improve the pedestrian visual experience of the subcommunity’s industrial and commercial building facades. 
  • Action Items
    • Utilize key strategies in the city’s   Community Cultural Plan   to build upon the area's existing community of artists and celebrate its cultural identity as a place for the arts.
    • Identify cultural events and festivals that can draw together a physically disconnected subcommunity to create a more unified “vibe,” and strengthen neighborhood culture.
    • Work to ensure affordable living and working spaces for artists and creative professionals. 

Design and Placemaking 

  • Goal: Ensure that redevelopment and infill deliver buildings and public spaces of high-quality design
    • East Boulder lacks a common or beloved building aesthetic. This provides future redevelopment projects a level of creative freedom not available in other parts of the city. 
    • Working group and community members have expressed an appreciation for and desire to retail the “gritty” quality of East Boulder’s places and spaces. 
  •  Goal: Create pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods
    • East Boulder has significant room to improve to create pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods and support pedestrian experiences. 
    • The East Boulder subcommunity lacks key destinations for pedestrians.
      • Essentially, there is nowhere to walk. Daytime workers lack anywhere to grab lunch near their workplaces and need to drive or bike to access food.  
  •  Action Items
    • Maintain the gritty character of East Boulder throughout its future evolution.
    • Identify where and how pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods can be delivered in East Boulder through improvement of existing facilities, installation of new facilities and connections and strategic redevelopment of pedestrian destinations 

 Housing Affordability & Diversity 

  • Goal: Increase the number of affordable units in the city 
  • Goal: Increase the diversity of housing types
    • There are currently zero homes within the boundary of the East Boulder Subcommunity.
    • There is an appetite from area workers who live outside the city to be able to move closer to their workplaces.
    • Community members living outside the subcommunity support the creation of affordable housing within East Boulder. 
  •  Action Items
    • Integrate market rate and affordable housing into the East Boulder neighborhood.
    • Ensure a diversity of housing types within the neighborhood. 

Resilience and Climate Commitment 

  • Goal: Achieve energy system resilience
    • The large roof areas of industrial buildings provide enormous potential for solar power installation and generation - close to 10MW. This would support over 50% of the area's energy needs.
    • There may be opportunities to create ground source heating and cooling services to serve much larger facilities.   
    • Current leasing conditions likely contribute to “split incentives” in which building owners do not have a strong incentive to optimize utility services because tenants are responsible for utility costs. 
  •  Goal: Improve community capacity and resilience to natural and economic disruptions
    • East Boulder lies at the confluence of the city’s major creeks, ditches and drainageways. This makes the area critical to the city’s overall stormwater management, but also at risk of severe flood impacts.
    • The many floodplains in the area will impact the types and levels of development. 
  •  Goal: Reduce carbon emissions
    • A large part of Boulder’s carbon emissions come from transportation. In the East Boulder subcommunity, there are 16,984 jobs and zero residents. The majority of workers drive alone to work and commute in from other cities and towns on the major transportation corridors that cut through the subcommunity.
    • Numerous recycle, reuse and waste disposal sites are located within the subcommunity. 
  •   Action Items
    • Develop new models of “green leasing,” where tenants are incentivized to invest in renewable energy. This could significantly expand the utilization of renewable energy and corresponding reduction in emissions caused by these commercial buildings.
    • Consider changes in utility policy that allow cross boundary energy system integration.
    • Incorporate resilience and flood planning into the subcommunity planning process, including recommendations from the South Boulder Creek Major Drainageway Plan.
    • Increase the access to alternative modes of transportation so that workers are not forced to drive alone to work.
    • Promote and invest in East Boulder as an example of a circular system and economy, with waste production, delivery, recycling and reuse. 
    • Make sustainable and resilient practices as easy as possible for East Boulder businesses and future residents. 

 Balance of Future Jobs & Housing 

  • Goal: Increase access to alternative modes of transportation
    • 76% of commuters to East Boulder drive alone to work. 
    • There is greater east-west multimodal connectivity through the subcommunity than there is for north-south travel.
    • Intersections along Arapahoe Avenue, Pearl Parkway and Flatirons Parkway are common crash sites.
    • East Boulder’s auto-focused development pattern and abundant free parking are a barrier to improving multimodal transportation options in the subcommunity.
      • There are 360 acres of surface parking in East Boulder.
    • A future “mobility hub” at 55th Street and Arapahoe Avenue is being explored. Envisioning this area as a place for regional, local and last-mile connections offers the opportunity to consider advanced mobility modes and technologies.
    • Only 4% of subcommunity businesses offer Eco-pass to employees.
    • There are no parking districts in East Boulder. 
  • Goal: Increase the number of housing units in commercial and industrial areas
    • There is a high proportion of land zoned as industrial in the East Boulder neighborhood that is suitable for integrating housing units. The low-impact industrial uses in the area do not conflict with adding residences nearby. 
  •  Action Items
    • Increase the number of bus routes.
    • Increase the frequency of buses and extend their hours later into the evening to better serve workers whose shifts end later.
    • Provide mobility share programs (such as B-cycle) in East Boulder.
    • Improve public transportation connections to surrounding cities and towns.
    • Improve first and last mile connections (walk and bike accessibility) between public transportation stops and destinations within East Boulder.
    • Improve safety along Arapahoe Avenue, and redesign the corridor to accommodate bus, BRT, bike and pedestrian use.
    • Ensure that pedestrian and bike facilities are low stress for users and form a complete network.
    • Identify and implement transportation improvements named in the  Transportation Master Plan  . 
    • Work towards developing 15 minute neighborhoods through increased connectivity within the subcommunity and integration of more pedestrian destinations.
    • Add housing units, including affordable and diverse types, to the subcommunity to meet the city’s goal of increasing housing units in commercial and industrial areas. 

As part of the planning process, the city is collecting Subcommunity Stories to showcase the diversity of experiences and perspectives of community members who live, work or play in this area of town. These stories offer a glimpse into the ways in which East Boulder is already a community – and seek to shape a meaningful conversation about its future.

Subcommunity Stories: East Boulder Community, Marti Hirsch  from  City of Boulder  on  Vimeo .

 

Subcommunity Stories: East Boulder Community, Valmont Bike Park   from   City of Boulder   on   Vimeo    

Subcommunity Stories: East Boulder Community, Blackbelly Market   from   City of Boulder   on   Vimeo    

Subcommunity Stories: East Boulder Community, Studio 5.5   from   City of Boulder   on   Vimeo   .

View the  Engagement Plan  for this project and the project's  Engagement Scrapbook , which details all engagement events to date.  

Focus Group Summary

The city is utilizing many engagement techniques to inform the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. Recently, focus groups were held to gather collaborative feedback from community members. Focus groups covered topics from the arts to climate commitment to local businesses to housing affordability. Participants contributed many hours of ideas, needs and interests to the subcommunity planning process. There were several areas of general agreement among participants, as well as areas identified for future inquiry and analysis.

Key areas of general consensus reflects broad conclusions drawn from focus group discussions. These topics can serve as a springboard for future alternatives evaluation, scenario planning, community engagement and improvements. Areas of general consensus include: 

  • Increasing the walkability of and multi-modal transit options within East Boulder
  • Providing options for a commuting workforce
  • Holistic approach to support equity, access and affordability
  • Supporting small local businesses and nonprofits.
  • Promoting development that compliments the industrial character of East Boulder
  • Protecting natural spaces and views
  • Infill and addition of small homes, tiny houses, mixed zoning and multifamily buildings
  • Creating spaces for arts and culture
  • Mitigating impacts to preexisting communities in East Boulder
  • Improving access to and amenities near Arapahoe Ridge High School

The next phase of the subcommunity planning process will include evaluation and testing of different scenarios. In this phase the city will begin to explore tradeoffs, primary and secondary impacts and feasibility. Topics identified in the focus groups as areas for further inquiry include:

  • City and subcommunity transit options beyond RTD
  • Potential private-public partnerships
  • Zoning changes to promote mixed-use and expanded housing opportunities

Read the  full report

 

Growing Up Boulder East Boulder Subcommunity Planning Report 

In the fall of 2019, Growing Up Boulder conducted engagements with three groups in the area: second grade students who attend Eisenhower Elementary School, child, teen and parent residents in the San Lazaro Manufactured Home Community, and adolescent members of a bird-banding club at Thorne Nature Experience. These engagements provided stakeholders the opportunity and freedom to be visionary about the future of East Boulder. All engagement groups completed the same worksheet, then held verbal discussions, to answer the question, “what should we keep, improve, and add in East Boulder?” Below is a summary of answers across all groups. 

Read the full Growing Up Boulder report Report on East Boulder Subcommunity Planning pdf.

 

Have questions for city staff?  Email us  at [email protected] 

Sign up  for the city's Planning & Development Services Department Newsletter to receive project updates.


Interactive Subcommmunity Boundaries Map

The East Boulder subcommunity is bounded approximately by Foothills Parkway to the west, Boulder Municipal Airport to the north, 63rd Street to the east and Arapahoe Avenue to the south. The subcommunity boundaries were approved by City Council in 2018.