Listen
About KGNU

Boulder to Build Vast City Underground

Posted: April 1, 2016 at 9:13 am by , in Featured, Morning Magazine

Council: No Depth Limits For Affordable Housing

The Boulder City Council has approved an ambitious plan to develop five square miles beneath the surface of the city. The project is being hailed as a solution to multiple issues that have challenged the community for many years, including affordable housing, parking, homelessness, bike lanes and creation of a municipal utility.

“Put it all underground,” said one council member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Problems solved.”

Hailed by planners as a cutting-edge example of “New Sub-Urbanism”, the project has been dubbed “Lower Boulder” or “LoBo” in reference to its subterranean location.

“This is the template for cities of the future,” said John Smith, of CityCity PlanPlan, a design firm working on the project. “The prairie dogs have shown us the way.”

Phase One of the project will focus on construction of 6000 units of permanently affordable housing with geothermal heating and cooling. The city council spent several hours debating whether or not to mirror the current 55-foot height limit on above ground buildings with a 55-foot “depth limit”. But council members ultimately decided to waive any restrictions on how deep developers could go in constructing affordable units.

“If we are serious about our commitment to affordable housing,” said one council member who asked not to be identified, “We should not restrict its depth underground. We need to go deep on this.”

Council also encouraged planners to take full advantage of proximity to pockets of natural gas to maximize energy efficiency. One hundred units for the chronically homeless are also planned for a site near a recently discovered stalactite cavern.

Phase Two of the LoBo project calls for a series of bike and pedestrian tunnels linked to the surface by holes and rope ladders. Planners also hope to connect with abandoned mines to the east and west to create a network of underground trails throughout Boulder County.