If you go

What: University Hill Metrolab students presentation

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Flatirons Elementary School, 1150 Seventh St., Boulder

Cost: Free

More info: RSVP at bit.ly/2zat6FM

University of Colorado students and the city of Boulder have partnered to tackle revitalization projects for an area near and dear to many Buffs' hearts: University Hill.

The collaboration stems from a President Barack Obama-era national program, Metrolab, which links up research universities across the country with their corresponding cities to work together solving design, engineering and community engagement issues in their own backyard.

"Students are really interested in trying to foster a good relationship with homeowners on the Hill," said Brian Muller, faculty director of CU Boulder's Community Engagement, Design and Research Center (CEDaR), which organized the University Hill Metrolab project. "There's a lot of sensitivity to the fact that there have been stresses and tensions with students on the Hill and an interest in addressing those."

The breadth of student projects is wide, with more than 150 CU students working toward improved public transportation, neighborhood conservation, sustainability, small business preservation and more.


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Metrolab, which kicked off at CU in 2016, syncs up classes in relevant fields such as environmental design with ongoing city initiatives so students interested in this line of work can do real-world problem-solving and innovating. Instructors sign on to assist and incorporate the partnership into their classes.

The first semester has been heavily ideas-based, while next semester will be more focused on specific design and policy issues on the Hill.

Some of the students have already made a palpable impact, said Sarah Wiebenson, Boulder's Hill community development coordinator.

One group of students working on city transportation paired up with the city's Hill community development to host an open house for University Hill employees about a pilot EcoPass bus program. Students helped the city crunch numbers to find out what barriers were for employees signing up for the bus pass program and then hosted the information open house.

"They ended up enrolling 22 employees at the open house, which bumped the usage of the program from 35 percent to 42 percent," Wiebenson said. "It had a real-world impact."

Muller enjoys watching the gears in students' brains cranking as they come up with potential problems and solutions for an area of the city where many of them live, work and play.

"Students are very concerned about housing opportunities on the Hill and about the way in which the commercial district evolves and what kind of businesses are present on the Hill," Muller said. "They're concerned about trash. They're concerned about general relationships with homeowners and landlords. Many of them live there, so they'll just have general concerns like what can be done with streets and alleys; how do we walk to school; what are the environmental conditions on the Hill; sustainability concerns."

Students also go beyond their own ideas by reaching out to University Hill stakeholders who live and work in the area to see what needs they'd like met.

"It seems like a real win/win for the neighbors and students to be working collaboratively," Wiebenson said.

An open house will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Flatirons Elementary School in Boulder to showcase the students' project proposals. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested online.

Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, hernandeze@dailycamera.com