Boulder puts hold on residential development in commercial zone on The Hill

BOULDER, Colo. - Residential development on The Hill in Boulder is now on hold due to concerns about excessive partying and forcing out small businesses.

The moratorium on development on The Hill was passed by City Council this week.

The moratorium on residential development only applies to the three block commercial district on The Hill. It does not include residential building outside the three block commercial district, and it does not prohibit remodeling and renovations of existing businesses in the commercial district.

“The concern is, does this kind of development change, fundamentally, the nature of the commercial district?” said David Driskell, executive director for community planning and sustainability for the City of Boulder. “In terms of residential building, what’s the long-term impact to the commercial district itself?”

City Council has ordered a quick study and will bring the issue back for review in late August.

Opinions vary about what this means for the future of The Hill.

“It’s a great vibe,” said Jessica Cole, who has been coming to The Hill ever since she was in high school. “It’s changed. It was clean, it was safe, it was fun. The businesses were different. I would have to come to The Hill to get it.”

Cole still frequents a skin care and beauty business on The Hill called Brazil on the Hill.

Lately, developers have been gobbling up property on The Hill, and it’s no wonder they see it as prized real estate.

“They rent on a per-bedroom basis,” said Driskell.

Developers are building three and four bedroom apartments and renting each bedroom for up to $2,000 per month, much to the chagrin of those like Cole.

“We were petitioning. The restaurants were petitioning,” she said of one development. “And they still developed those apartments.”

The emergency moratorium on residential building puts the changes on hold, for now.

“We may decide through this that we want (residential development),” said Driskell. “But, we feel like it’s important to press the pause button and have the conversation and make sure that’s what we want.”

Not all businesses see a moratorium on student apartments as a good thing.

“There are a lot of affluent students here and that’s not going to change,” said Brendan Costeloe, owner of Doomd Ink custom t-shirt shop. “I opened up a business because of the students here. I think the character is the students. If you want more tourists, higher traffic flow and the demographics of the general population as a whole, then you go down to Pearl Street.”

Costeloe is launching Doomd Ink in August.

“I think reducing the available apartments is probably bad for the numbers,” he said.

He sees transients as a bigger problem than more apartments.

“They’re begging for change, drinking on the streets,” said Costeloe. “Just a week ago, I saw some girl who had a raccoon as a pet. That can keep away anyone, regardless of class, regardless of their student status.”

But Cole said something needs to be done to curb residential building.

“The sense of community here is already being lost,” said Cole.

“It is always going to be student oriented. The concern is that if it’s students only,” said Driskell.

“Businesses will succeed here if they cater to that market,” said Costeloe. “And the market is students.”

Driskell said if residential development is allowed to continue after the moratorium, there could be regulations, or even incentives for developers who focus on commercial.

Again, the issue comes back before council in late August.

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