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The Atrium building near the corner of 13th Street and Canyon Boulevard is seen in Boulder on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
The Atrium building near the corner of 13th Street and Canyon Boulevard is seen in Boulder on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Boulder’s City Council last week agreed to designate the Atrium building as a historic landmark.

The building, at 13th Street and Canyon Boulevard adjacent to the Boulder Bandshell, is owned by the city and was built in 1969. Historic Boulder applied for a historic landmark designation in 2015 but was put on hold as the city discussed potential redevelopment plans for the east end of the Civic Area and completed a feasibility study.

“This has been in the mill for a while,” Senior Historic Preservation Planner James Hewat said in last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The building, which has been used as office space for the city in recent years, represents the regional modern movement in architecture, Hewat noted. The Atrium was designed by architect Hobart Wagener for use as a savings and loan firm.

As such, the city originally recommended naming the landmark the Midland Savings and Loan-Atrium building. However, the City Council agreed that it instead be called the Atrium building, at least in part to avoid association with Midland Savings and Loan, after Councilmember Nicole Speer raised a question about its lending practices.

Speer asked whether Midland Savings and Loan, a company that at one point was located in the building, was involved in the practice of redlining, a discriminatory practice of refusing loans to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk.

While it’s hard to say for certain, Hewat noted the building was constructed a year after the Fair Housing Act passed.

“This particular building was constructed the year after the reforms that the Congress made to try and straighten out what was being really identified as some very problematic lending practices that were occurring, including the whole notion of redlining, which of course was a terrible thing,” he said.

A number of historic preservation advocates and other community members spoke in favor of approving the landmark designation in last Tuesday’s Boulder City Council meeting.

The city ultimately plans to redevelop the east bookend of Boulder’s Civic Area, an area bounded by Arapahoe Avenue, Canyon Boulevard, Broadway and 14th/15th streets.

For architect and historian Len Segal, it’s important to designate the building as a historic landmark before doing so, primarily in an effort to acknowledge the importance of the building before development occurs.

Landmarking the building also ensures its usefulness for years to come by allowing for potential adaptive reuse of the building, he noted, and doing so is environmentally friendly.

“The greenest building is the one that’s already built,” Segal said.

Dan Corson has lived in Boulder for nearly five decades. When he moved to town, the Atrium building wasn’t one that seemed particularly notable, but his opinion has changed with time.

“Time changes our perspectives about what is significant to a community and what makes a community special,” he said.

Because some amendments were made, the landmark designation will be officially approved on the consent agenda during a third reading in an upcoming meeting.

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