What: Boulder Civic Area Ideas Competition and Awards Ceremony
Gallery: The 21 finalist ideas are on display at the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Ave., through Tuesday during regular library hours
Ceremony: The ceremony will be held in the library's Canyon Theater beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Ed Blakely, an honorary professor in urban policy and disaster recovery at the University of Sydney in Australia, this week likened Boulder to the New York Yankees when it comes to civic design, in that the city is always seeking improvements and working to reach new levels.
That's one reason Blakely said he agreed to serve as chairman of the eight-member jury for the Boulder Civic Area Project's ideas competition, a contest that he will help announce the winners of at a ceremony Tuesday night.
"I think the most important thing about Boulder is it was out in front in terms of civic design, going back three decades," Blakely said in the lobby of the Hotel Boulderado on Friday afternoon. "The other feature that often doesn't happen in Australia is the degree of citizen participation in the design process. Here the design process has gone on where citizens are involved from the ground up, and this (competition) is another illustration of that."
The competition, which asked entrants to submit idea proposals for downtown Boulder's "civic heart," defined as the area between Ninth and 17th streets and between Arapahoe Avenue and Canyon Boulevard, drew more than 40 proposed plans from architects, designers, planners and artists from around the world.
City officials, using the community-driven guiding principle for the civic area project, which included a focus on open space and the city's history, narrowed the submissions down to 21 finalists. Those proposals are now available online for public review and comment at inspireboulder.com and will be on display at the Boulder Public Library's Canyon Gallery until the awards ceremony Tuesday night.
"We're very thrilled and we are very grateful for all of the local, national and international submitters," said Boulder senior urban designer Sam Assefa, who is co-managing the Civic Area Project.
There are two sub-categories in the competition, Assefa said: vision projects that set out ideas for what the area could look like 20, 30 or 50 years down the road; and catalytic projects, or goals that could be accomplished in two to four years for less than $300,000. The catalytic projects are meant to help phase in long-term visions.
At Tuesday's ceremony, awards will include best vision project and best catalytic project, as well best idea for creative mix of land uses, and best environmental and flood solutions, Assefa said.
Public comments will factor in the selection process, according to the city.
Blakely, who served as executive director of recovery management for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, said he plans to visit the civic area Saturday before stopping by the Canyon Gallery later on to begin deeper consideration of the finalists. While he looked at some of the ideas online, including one project he said the city had cut but he asked be reconsidered, he said he wants to get a look at the area before any idea can influence his perception.
He said the most important aspect of the civic area for him is Boulder Creek.
"I'm a disaster mitigation person and this area floods," he said. "So making an area that habitually flood into a civic space is intriguing to me."
Among the concepts Blakely said he values in public spaces is "stretching the day," or providing for uses and activities that last all 24 hours of a day. He also is fond of what he calls "attractors," or variable, moveable parts of a space, whether they be art installations or designated areas for performance art that make visitors want to come back.
"I like a space to be offering you new and interesting things," said Blakely, who will be joined by seven other distinguished jurors with varying backgrounds. "I'm just one member of this jury and they'll all bring different perspectives to this."
The competition's idea gallery, which has been open for public viewing since Tuesday, drew several observers on Thursday evening, including 25-year-old Jessica Wigfall.
"I am interested in anything that would improve downtown Boulder in terms of quality of interfacing with the natural part of town," said Wigfall, who added that she always has been fascinated by civic architecture.
Among Wigfall's favorite projects was the "Agora" plan, one of the top-rated catalytic projects on the Inspire Boulder website. The plan calls for the eventual construction of a pedestrian-only path along Boulder Creek that connects four unique solar-powered pavilions, including a large pavilion for the Farmers' Market.
"I like the artistic aspects of Agora because it's functional," Wigfall said.
The ideas competition represents the halfway point of the Civic Area Project, Assefa said. The ideas will be used to draft four or five distinct alternatives for the area that will be presented to the City Council in May.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.