BOULDER, Colo. –
A Denver developer, in partnership with Boulder’s Communication Arts, wants to tear down the Camera’s building and replace it with a four-story, mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Boulder.
Randy Nichols, of Denver-based Nichols Partnership, is the highest bidder for the 1048 Pearl St. property that has been on the market since November. Camera officials expect to receive a letter of intent from Nichols within the next couple of days and will review it for signing, said Al Manzi, the Camera’s president and publisher.
Nichols and Camera officials declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal. Media companies E.W. Scripps and MediaNews Group own the property and would split the sale proceeds.
The agreement does include a lease-back arrangement for the operations of the Camera and Colorado Daily newspapers, Nichols said. He did not provide details about the length or terms of that arrangement. Camera officials declined to comment about their future location plans.
If the purchase goes through, which Nichols expects could happen within the next four months, his firm and Communication Arts would move forward on pre-development work and the necessary city processes for the prominent downtown corner, Nichols said.
“It’s one of the best sites in Colorado, in my opinion,” said Nichols, whose firm developed the Clayton Lane center in Cherry Creek and the Spire high-rise in downtown Denver, among others.
Nichols’ partnership based its offer to the Camera on the property’s current zoning, which includes the potential for a 55-foot-high structure, he said. The intention is to construct a four-story building with retail on the ground level facing Pearl Street and residential on the three floors above. Part of the Camera’s property extends to a building on Walnut Street that could remain and would have office space on the first floor and residential on top, said Richard Foy, partner at design firm Communication Arts.
Noting some city officials’ expressed desire for more affordable housing for people such as teachers, retirees and students, Foy said the hope behind a redevelopment of the Camera property is to offer residential units that are more moderately priced than the average downtown Boulder condo, which is about $950,000.
“Every city planner knows that you can only offer affordable and market-attainable prices if you have density,” Foy said. “That’s the key to all sustainable development.”
The development is intended to have 107 residential units ranging in size from 637 square feet to 1,250 square feet, he said. Prices would start around $200,000, with most around $400,000, he added.
It’s also important, he said, for the design to be mindful to neighbors and those who frequent downtown. Constructing a 55-foot tall building would cast a large shadow on sunny days, whereas designing the property like a flat letter ‘E’ would allow for the street to be bathed in sunshine. Also, he’s heard a lot of concern that newer developments on Canyon look too similar.
“We think that this building needs to respect its context, where it’s in a historical district,” Foy said.
It could take a couple of years for a project of this scale â with 102,000 square feet of residential, 13,721 square feet of retail and 22,800 square feet of office â to come to fruition. By that time, the economy should be in a better place, Foy said.
However, some recent actions taken by Boulder’s City Council â notably the rejection of the 54-foot-tall development at 1580 Canyon Blvd., the former home of Robb’s Music â are concerning, Nichols said. The purchase agreement is not contingent of an approval by the city, so the proposal is a “risk we’re going to have to take,” he said.
Nichols said he is optimistic and noted that the lower price point of residential offerings and a possible partnership with the city on a below-ground parking garage could make the plan attractive to the city.
Molly Winter, director of the Downtown and University Hill Management Division and Parking Services for Boulder, had some casual conversations with officials from the Nichols-Communication Arts partnership a couple months ago.
“That is an area that gets a lot of use … I think we need to examine every opportunity,” she said. The City Council currently is taking a look at downtown development regulations, including density bonuses, affordable housing and design issues. Mayor Matthew Applebaum said he wouldn’t compare a redevelopment of the Camera site with the 1580 Canyon project.
“For me, I’ve always assumed that in the main part of downtown, we would see larger, taller buildings with higher densities,” he said.
A redevelopment of the Camera property is exciting, but it’s on a critical corner in downtown and, hence, important to make sure it is done right, he said.
“This is a fabulous opportunity to really integrate the pedestrian mall with everything to the west, to really make it a place that is fully integrated and pedestrian-friendly and meets a lot of the other goals,” he said. “Clearly they’re trying to respond to what the city has said we’d like to see.”
The Camera has operated at the Pearl Street site since 1891.
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or email@example.com.