Boulder City Council Moves Ahead With University Hill Hotel

A hotel project on Boulder’s University Hill is set to move forward following a Boulder City Council study session last night. KGNU’s Roz Brown says while no formal vote was taken, there was unanimous support for the redevelopment project.

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The Uni Hill commercial area has had many facelifts – new benches, more artwork, improved lighting – but nothing as dramatic as the nearly 200-room hotel proposed for the corner of Broadway and University. With eight members of city council present for a study session last night, council signaled its support for the project. Councilmember Bob Yates said it will complement a conference center and separate 250-room hotel that CU plans to build across the street at Grandview and Broadway.

“You’ll remember that we previously asked the University to build its conference center on the Hill and not on Folsom Street,” said Yates. “The University said they could not build enough hotel rooms on their side of the street to accommodate everyone so this hotel is synergistic with their conference center which is what council insisted on.”

An earlier study found that a hotel would not bring the kind of jobs or revenue that an office or retail development project might bring to the Hill, but councilmember Aaron Brockett believes the hotel will invigorate the business district, which has one of the highest building vacancy rates in the city.

“As someone who has been on council for four years, we’ve been considering variations of this concept for even longer and the approach has gotten better at every step and we have an opportunity to move forward on a catalytic project that will have huge synergistic energies with the CU project,” said Brockett.

The proposed hotel would replace stores such as Bova’s Market – a fixture on the Hill for more than 35 years. The city hopes other existing businesses will move to some of the vacant storefronts farther up the Hill, and the hotel developer has agreed to provide $200,000 in relocation assistance to tenants the hotel would replace. Councilmember Sam Weaver noted there would be trade-offs.

“I am quite eager to have this conference center built because it can host a lot of technical conferences that will highlight things going on at the Boulder labs and at CU and right now those conferences are held outside of town,” said Weaver. “It’s an important amenity culturally and scientifically, and to have the added hotel rooms nearby helps meet our climate goals.”

The city’s Planning Board is scheduled to review a concept plan from the developer in March. It would ideally include selling-off the city-owned parking lot at Pleasant and Broadway. That raised concerns from Councilmember Mary Young who is worried about transportation for those who will work at the hotels as well as affordable housing.

“We know a lot of these jobs will be shift jobs and evening jobs and there won’t be public transit available,” said Young. “And like a lot of other minimum wage jobs, the people taking them won’t live in Boulder,” said Young.

Business owners on the Hill often struggle because CU students are their primary customers. Some hope the new hotels and conference center will attract more visitors and foot traffic. But Councilman Mark Wallach was not convinced it will provide a larger revitalization of the area.

“I am skeptical that this project will revitalize the rest of the Hill, “ said Wallach. “But the project stands on its own merits and I’m in favor of it.”