It wasn’t the biggest discussion item at council this week, but a suggestion from a Boulder commission could change the course of another major issue: the city’s partnership in a the proposed University Hill hotel development.
Council in September was set to approve (or not) a joint development agreement for a parking garage and hotel along Broadway between University Ave and Pleasant Street. A vote was postponed due to the absence of a council member and the bizarre revelation that one of the property owners was opposed to the project.
At Tuesday’s study session, the University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission suggested another move: that Boulder sell the University Hill General Improvement District (UHGID) parking lot on Pleasant Street to the hotel developers. The Hill Reinvestment Working Group recommended using the proceeds of the sale to build an above-ground parking garage at a 49-spot UHGID lot nearby on 14th Street.
“What we heard in September was kind of, ‘Go back to the drawing board,'” said Sarah Wiebenson, hill community development coordinator. “That a $22 million underground garage that gets you 200 spaces was not a proposal they wanted to continue considering.”
Due to the unique topography of the Hill site, costs were projected at more than $100,000 per parking space. Subsequent study revealed that the Pleasant Street lot was underutilized by the public, but an important asset for workers on the Hill. Selling the lot would allow the Hill hotel to move forward by providing needed land; a garage on 14th Street would hopefully generate revenue for UHGID.
It’s unclear what the possible per-space price would be to build parking at 14th Street, or how many spots could be funded by the sale of the Pleasant Street lot; its value won’t be known until an assessor is hired, Wiebenson said. Staff will wait for direction from council before further studying that and other factors, such as potential parking demand.
Generally, above-ground spots are far cheaper to build. than underground ones. In a November discussion of possible uses at the former BCH hospital site on Alpine/Balsam and Broadway, staff estimated that each above-ground garage parking space would cost $30,000 to construct, while below-ground garage spaces could cost $50,000 each.
In any case, the city wouldn’t be building the garage: A private partner would be brought on for that, and the city would execute a ground lease in exchange for a portion of the garage revenue.
City Council will revisit the proposed JDA at a January 22 study session.
Author’s note: This article has been updated to include quotes from Sarah Wiebenson