Now, it's a trash-strewn lot off East Pearl Parkway. But a group of Boulder entrepreneurs sees food trucks, local breweries, a grassy lawn, sheltered seating in converted shipping containers and maybe even a small stage.
"We want to create a destination place for Boulderites," said Matt Patrick, one of the partners, along with Hank Grant and Justin Riley, in the Boulder Food Park venture. "What if we had a nice little outdoor place where people could come and get a great local beer and some great local food and hear some great local music? There aren't a lot of places in Boulder where people can eat and drink and spread out a little."
Boulder food truck operators have long wanted the city to ease its restrictions so they could hold more of the "podding" events popular in surrounding communities, as well as so they could capture more late-night business downtown.
Boulder doesn't allow the trucks to operate within 150 feet of a residential area, within 150 feet of an existing restaurant or after 9 p.m., though the city has experimented — with mixed results — with late-night service in a city-owned lot at Arapahoe Avenue and Broadway.
However, the City Council in May approved a change allowing up to four food trucks on private property when before only two were allowed, and several council members said they want the city to find creative ways to offer more late-night service.
Patrick said Boulder Food Park ideally would have up to six food trucks at a time but would follow all city rules and regulations.
"We're not trying to be in opposition to the city," he said. "We're trying, hopefully, to be what they are looking for. We hope this is something that can maybe relieve that tension."
No official from the city of Boulder was available Wednesday to discuss the Boulder Food Park plans.
Patrick said some anonymous "passion investors" have put money into the idea, and Boulder Food Park has a Kickstarter campaign running through Sept. 10 to raise money and interest in the project.
"We want to be able to say, 'Boulder wanted this; Boulder paid for it,'" Patrick said.
Boulder Food Park is prepared to enter into a long-term lease for a one-acre site at Frontier Avenue and Pearl Parkway.
"It's really ugly right now," Patrick said of the site.
The plans call for a food truck yard, a beer garden, a kids play area, games and a stage.
Converted shipping containers would provide a place to eat and drink that is open when the weather is nice and heated when it is cold.
The industrial area is well away from any brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Patrick said he and his partners have met with nearly every food truck operator and brewery in Boulder and met an enthusiastic response.
The idea is to have a rotating group of food trucks serving a variety of food style and price points at any one time.
"Heirloom makes an amazing pork sandwich that is worth every penny," Patrick said. "But if you are going out to lunch, you don't want to drop $12 on a sandwich every day, so we also want Suburban Wiener."
The beer and wine options are still being developed. One idea is to have a good range of local beers available at all times but to allow one brewery each month to "take over the taps," pour beer and talk to customers directly.
Patrick said Boulder Food Park hopes to do a soft launch in October and a full opening with breakfast, lunch and dinner options in the spring.
Shannon Aten, who owns the Tasterie Food Truck, said the food park is an exciting idea with some challenges to overcome.
The neighborhood and park events that draw large crowds in surrounding communities have a "critical mass" of trucks and options, she said, and that's what makes them a destination. Boulder's limits on food trucks make it hard to develop that critical mass, she said.
On the other hand, there are relatively few restaurant options in east Boulder, compared to downtown, while a lot of people live and work there.
"I really hope that people show up and support it," Aten said. "This might be different in that this is a place to go and eat. If they know there will always be trucks there, especially in the winter, it becomes a destination. This might be the next step that we are looking for."
At the same time, Aten said the city needs to keep working on ways to allow more food trucks downtown.
"As food truck operators, we do a majority of our business outside the city," Aten said. "They're losing out on the sales tax revenue, but also people in Boulder aren't having that opportunity. I think people downtown want to see food trucks, and I think there is still a lot of opportunity to expand downtown without impinging on the brick-and-mortar establishments."