From the Opinion Panel: East Boulder’s new subcommunity plan

Boulder City Council reviewed and gave feedback on the 90% complete East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. What is your vision for the East Boulder of the future? What things should the city consider doing more of or less of?

A commercial property redevelopment on Central Avenue in East Boulder in April 2022 (courtesy Eric Budd)

Saturday, April 23, 2022
Chelsea Castellano: Make East Boulder a place for public art

The East Boulder Subcommunity Plan will be Boulder’s first subcommunity plan created in the 21st century. While the term “subcommunity plan” may seem nap-inducing, this idea of completely reimagining a large section of Boulder is truly an exciting endeavor. It’s an opportunity to ask ourselves: If we could create our most perfect neighborhood, what would it look like? And perhaps even more importantly, what would it feel like? 

When I envision my ideal future version of East Boulder, I imagine many of the charming features that are already included in the plan, which is now 90% complete. The plan calls for the creation of mixed-use neighborhoods that are thoughtfully connected through bike paths, bus lanes and pedestrian-oriented enhancements. Research shows how compact, car-light neighborhoods help mitigate climate change, spur economic growth and social cohesion, and improve quality of life.

The vision to build neighborhoods where you can live, work and play all within a 15-minute walk is not new. Historical examples can be found in the market squares of ancient Rome where housing, shops, offices and libraries were intermixed. It turns out that ancient ideas can also be timeless. 

In addition to mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods that help address our housing shortage, what more should we be asking for in East Boulder? When I think of the places that I have loved visiting, they have all had an abundance of public art.

Imagine murals on every corner, small expressions of creativity sprinkled throughout, and dedicated spaces for local artists and craftspeople to share and sell their work. Not only does an abundance of art give communities a strong sense of place and identity, it also amplifies the voices of different cultural identities and perspectives that often go unheard.

Despite Arts & Culture being one of the visions laid out in the plan for East Boulder, I would argue the plan could and should go farther to ensure that the vision to create a vibrant and diverse sub-community is realized. The plan outlines seven recommendations for achieving the Arts & Culture vision, most of which are continuations of programs that already exist. It is my hope that our solutions to bring more art to our community can be just as innovative as the art itself. 

After all, if a subcommunity plan is a blank canvas, it is the artists who will make that plan and place come to life.

Chelsea Castellano is an organizer with Bedrooms Are For People and member of the city’s Landmarks Board. More about Chelsea.

Jane Hummer: Create true 15-minute neighborhoods in East Boulder

Boulder should be very excited about the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. City staff and the East Boulder Subcommunity Working Group have sought an enormous amount of community feedback on this plan over the past three years. Take a peek at their Engagement Scrapbook; it documents a remarkable series of dozens of community meetings, tours, online questionnaires and creative efforts to capture community input. 

More than anything, I hope that future elected officials, Planning Board members and city staff honor the level of community effort put into developing this plan so that individual development projects aligned with the plan can move forward with minimal bureaucratic headaches. 

This part of town is currently dominated by lifeless surface parking lots and underutilized office parks. It also contains some of our most important community-serving organizations (Boulder Community Hospital and the Humane Society), cultural institutions (Boulder Dinner Theatre and  Avalon Ballroom), recreational facilities (Stazio Ballfields and Valmont City Park), and beloved restaurants, breweries and coffee shops (e.g., Efrain’s, Upslope, Blackbelly, Ozo).

How great will it be to create whole new residential neighborhoods right in the heart of all these amenities?

My hope is that East Boulder will develop enough dense housing and safe street design to support 15-minute neighborhoods. In a 15-minute neighborhood, residents can safely access businesses and amenities such as convenience stores, pharmacies, coffee shops, playgrounds and parks — without getting in a car. 

Some of these amenities already exist in East Boulder, but unless there is enough foot traffic (i.e., density) to support these businesses and streets are intentionally designed to prioritize safe walking and biking, a 15-minute neighborhood will not result. 15-minute neighborhoods enhance quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. Boulder’s children want to live in these kinds of neighborhoods, but most parents don’t allow their children to navigate unsafe streets. 

The Holiday neighborhood is a great example of a dense, mixed-use development using narrow streets to slow traffic and enable kids to walk to the park, corner library or bus stop. Holiday is a vibrant and attractive area, and it was the first significant development in North Boulder after the North Boulder Subcommunity Plan was adopted.

Coincidence? I think not. 

Jane Hummer lives in Boulder and works as a clean energy consultant. She is a Better Boulder board member. More about Jane.


Boulder Beat Opinion Panel members are writing in their own capacity. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Boulder Beat.

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