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The front entrance of the Diagonal Plaza strip mall as seen on Sept. 20 in Boulder. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
The front entrance of the Diagonal Plaza strip mall as seen on Sept. 20 in Boulder. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

A special ordinance aimed at kickstarting residential redevelopment at the blighted Diagonal Plaza shopping center in Boulder is set to be introduced at Tuesday’s Boulder City Council meeting.

The measure, an unusual one for the council to consider, addresses a quirk in Boulder’s land-use code that requires a certain portion of the project be dedicated as open space.

While open-space dedication is certainly a worthwhile goal, Boulder officials say, the requirement makes the proposed Diagonal Plaza redevelopment impossible and therefore should be waived in this case.

The developers — a partnership between Boulder Housing Partners and Trammell Crow Co. — have proposed several different iterations of plans for new housing units at the site of a shuttered Sports Authority and underutilized parking lot space at 3320 28th St. The plan to be brought before City Council Tuesday features 213 workforce housing units and 71 affordably priced apartments, according to city planning documents. Coburn Partners is the project architect.

During a July hearing on the redevelopment plan, members of the City Council “acknowledged that the opportunity presented by the proposed project that would not only revitalize the Diagonal Plaza and spur additional redevelopment potential, but that the plans would also provide a variety of much needed residential units in an area that is walkable to a number of services and amenities,” according to a city memo.

Special ordinances, like the one being considered to waive open-space requirements, can be considered in situations where “undue hardship on a property owner could be avoided, in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the city and where consistent with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan,” the memo said.

Such modifications of land-use standards have been applied in past developments, including Trinity Commons, Wellman Creek and the Mapleton mobile home park.

“The project will not have a negative impact on the economy of Boulder,” planning documents say. “To the contrary, its development could contribute to the overall diversity that exists in Boulder by contributing additional residential units on underutilized land and to work with a non-profit affordable housing agency that contributes to the economic vitality of Boulder.”

Councilman Aaron Brockett said in the July hearing that a special ordinance represents the “clearest and most straightforward path” to success for the project.

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