Sean Maher: Busy year ahead in Boulder
Boulder is well known for a cautious approach to new development, which is why the pipeline of new projects in town is truly amazing. There are dozens of major development and redevelopment efforts on tap to be started or completed in 2013.
To review the list, let's start with the sexiest topic, which is retail.
After more than a decade of lusting for Trader Joe's, Boulder finally will get its wish in the fall of 2013 at Twenty Ninth Street. One of just two in Colorado, the Boulder TJ's will be the one that does not sell wine and liquor, which is disappointing to many.
However, beer lovers certainly have no reason to fret. The former post office at 38th and Walnut soon will be home to Sanitas Brewing Co., Boulder's seventh microbrewery. And, later this year, Avery Brewing will begin construction on a $27 million brewery and restaurant in Gunbarrel.
Looking toward downtown, many wonder why the former Borders store on Pearl Street has been vacant for so long.
The answer is that Borders had a lease and was paying rent until 2011 when they went out of business. Then the owners of 1600 Pearl decided to expand the building by adding a third floor of office space. It did not make sense to lease the lower retail space until the new construction is complete. That work is now under way and should be finished next summer.
There is significant interest from tenants in the old Borders space, so stay tuned. My bet is you will see the long-vacant bookstore occupied this year.
And, of course, the big story downtown is at the corner of 11th and Pearl streets.
After a long and painful process, the redevelopment of the former Daily Camera site finally was approved and the site quickly was sold to Nichols Partnership from Denver. This is good news as Randy Nichols has a stellar track record of building first-class projects with exciting tenants. Clayton Lane in Cherry Creek is just one example.
Construction at 11th and Pearl should start late this year.
Next up is the hotel market.
The Boulder Outlook and the Golden Buff were sold last year for redevelopment, so we will lose 274 rooms, which is unfortunate. The good news is that we have four hotels in the pipeline that will add 601 rooms for a net gain of 327 hotel rooms in Boulder.
The first to open will be the Hampton Inn in Gunbarrel this summer with 100 rooms. Next is the 140-room Hyatt at Boulder Junction, which will start construction this year and open in 2014. Finally, there are two hotels with 361 total rooms planned to replace the Golden Buff. Those should both be permitted in 2013 and open late next year.
Something else we are always short of in Boulder is office space.
Too many companies start here only to be forced to move down the turnpike when they need to grow. There is good news on this front. Eleventh and Pearl will include more than 100,000 feet of office space and the third floor above Borders will provide 18,000 additional square feet in the tight downtown market.
WW Reynolds is proposing a 55,000 square foot office building at 1301 Walnut that would connect to the Colorado Building. This project will start through the approval process later this month.
Last but not least is the housing boom that continues in 2013.
More than 1,000 new rental units are proposed or under construction in a dozen projects around town and more than 200 owner-occupied units are planned. Some question whether there is a market for all this housing. Others point to the huge influx of commuters every day (50,000-plus) as proof of demand.
Time will tell but, given the tightness of the market, I tend to agree with those who think the units will be absorbed easily.
I do not have space to detail what is happening on campus, but the University of Colorado is planning more than $270 million in upgrades this year -- mostly improvements to existing buildings.
Whew! That is a long list of projects on tap this year. Keep in mind though that most of this new construction actually is replacing existing buildings that are obsolete. The net increase in space is not so daunting when you subtract the square footage of the buildings being replaced.
All in all, 2013 is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year in Boulder.
Sean Maher is the executive director of the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District. Views expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect the position of the Business Improvement District or Downtown Boulder Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.