The city of Boulder began experimenting with active public spaces on University Hill earlier this year when they installed a tiny "parklet" in the area formerly occupied by two parking spaces on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of 13th Street.
On Monday city officials held an open house seeking input and feedback on ideas for grander scale changes that could be made on the same stretch of Pennsylvania to transform it into a vibrant public space.
If all goes as officials hope, Pennsylvania from 13th Street over to the alley between 13th and 12th could someday be a pedestrian-friendly "event street" that could host things ranging from live music to community art projects and be easily shut down to car traffic to host large events welcoming people from all over the city.
"I think's it's awesome," University of Colorado student and Hill resident Eileen Sherman said at Monday's open house. "I think the street as it is now is a bit of an eyesore and an 'event street' would boost infrastructure and would be a great asset."
Sherman, who is preparing to start her senior year at CU, is the director of city and neighborhood relations for CU student government. She said in limited talks with other students, she had heard a lot of enthusiasm for creating more public space on the Hill, especially the prospect of an outdoor stage that could host live music. She also said the prospect of a creating a space more focused on pedestrians and cyclists--a central element of all of the rough designs the city presented at the meeting-- is a good thing.
"I think it would be good to have a structured street to slow cars down because as students so many of us walk these streets everyday," she said.
Molly Winter, Boulder's director of Downtown and University Hill Management Division and Parking Services, said representatives from city departments from forestry to streets participated in coming up with conceptual plans for the "event street."
The City Council late last month enacted a 6-month moratorium on new development on the Hill while city leaders contemplate uses that could more frequently attract non-students to the area.
Winter said the "event street" is one of three University Hill projects--along with installing irrigation fro street trees and adding lighting in the area's high density residential areas-- Boulder hopes to finance through a short-term sales tax measure that will go to city votes this fall. The tax, if passed, is expected to raise $3 million for the Hill.
"The Hill doesn't have any public space so we want to create more opportunities for public events and gatherings," Winter said. "The idea is to make it work for all modes of transportation, so it doesn't favor the car. The question is what do we want to have happen here and how do we capitalize on the Hill's unique cool?"
In addition to filling out comment cards, attendees at the meeting did some "visual preference voting," using blue (good) and red (bad) stickers to indicate if they liked ideas either written down or sketched out by officials on large sheets of paper. There were also photos of unique public spaces from across the county and around the world that attendees also marked one way or the other.
Among the most popular written suggestions were creating something that "is modern, edgy and has an alternative appeal," and something that is "designed to be inviting at all times."
Popular drawings included a sketch of Pennsylvania as a gently winding street laid in brick and accompanied by large landscaped areas with trees.
The meeting was held at Cafe Aion, 1235 Pennsylvania, which opens up on to the tiny parklet. Owner Dakota Soifer opened his doors, typically closed on Mondays, to hold the event and is very excited about the city's ambitions.
"I think it would be great for the neighborhood and for business," he said. "I think the Boulder community at large doesn't really think of the Hill as a destination. And I think embracing the street as a space for events, especially live music, is really great."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org