Sean Maher: 6 ideas for revitalizing the Boulder Civic Area
For decades, the Boulder Civic Area south of Canyon Boulevard between Ninth and 14th streets has been overlooked and underutilized. The current City Council and staff deserve credit for stepping up and committing to creating a plan that realizes the full potential of this important space in the heart of Boulder.
The city owns most of the land in the area and it boasts some wonderful community treasures including the Dushanbe Teahouse, Farmers' Market, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder Creek and Central Park.
But if you have spent time there in recent years -- in the park, walking the streets or just cruising the bike path -- you probably agree it has potential to be so much more than it is.
The Civic Area is truly a diamond in the rough and it is overdue for a good polish. Here are some of the stronger ideas that have emerged so far in the planning process:
Farmers' Market:We have one of the best in the country, but it needs an expanded and permanent home. This could include an indoor/outdoor venue featuring a park pavilion similar to those found in urban parks around the world. If it is designed as a multi-use facility, it could also host special events such as weddings, concerts and conferences year round.
Central Park:While it is a great amenity, the park has never lived up to the potential of its amazing location and proximity to the creek. This space could be redesigned into a recreation park that celebrates kayaking, tubing, biking and other outdoor pursuits. It should also include flexible areas for festivals and outdoor concerts. The historic bandshell should be moved to a location elsewhere in the city where it is safe from vandalism and can be better utilized.
Public art:Boulder is one of the great small cities in America with urban amenities not common in communities of our size. One thing we lack, however, is significant public art. The Civic Area is the perfect setting to house outdoor public art for the enjoyment of residents and visitors for generations. Staff time spent researching how the Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland was planned and funded would be well spent.
Performing arts:There is growing demand and support for a performing arts center in Boulder and the Civic Area may be the ideal location. Boulder needs a venue that falls in a size range somewhere between the Dairy Center for the Arts and Macky Auditorium. Assuming there is a viable plan to fund and sustain a center, it should definitely be on the table for consideration.
Housing:As we see in the Civic Area today, public spaces without activity in and around them are notoriously underutilized. We should learn from this experience and encourage the private property owners around the core Civic Area core to develop mixed-use projects that include moderate and middle-income housing as well as limited office and retail uses. This will keep the area energized during slower times of the year. Yes, there are flood concerns, but much of this area is not high hazard. Good planning and engineering can mitigate much of the flood risk.