Yesterday was spent in and around Boulder, Colorado. I’d been to Boulder a couple of times before, most recently in 2016 for the first YIMBY conference. It’s a beautiful place, but not without its own housing supply and development fights.
When you look at the satellite photo of the city it’s mostly low density residential, but there are three areas that stick out to me, the central Boulder business district, around the Pearl Street Mall, the University of Colorado – Boulder campus, and the area around 28th Street on the east end of town.
In the 1970s, Boulder created parking districts around the Pearl Street Mall and the UC-Boulder campus. No parking was required in these districts and district parking would be provided and paid for by an overlay property tax. Money from on-street and garage parking is spent on pedestrian/bicycle improvements, community events, and on transportation demand management (transit passes, mostly) for district employees.
As you can see from the satellite imagery, these districts are walkable, lively, and compact. Boulder was a pioneer, for American cities, in the park-once & walk concept. I think this is no longer a great strategy for many cities, because of the risky investment that parking garages are today (and increased costs) but they pulled it off and it works well.
The area east of Central Boulder, however, is a sea of surface parking supporting chain and big-box stores.
But thanks to the majestic Flatirons, nearly every lot in Boulder has great views. The views from the top of downtown parking structures are 360 vistas.
But these lots don’t compare to the horseshoe shaped lot at the nearby National Center for Atmospheric Research on Table Mesa. The center itself is a beautiful I.M. Pei designed campus with great exhibits on weather and climate change. The parking lot has beautiful up-close views of the foothills and Flatirons and a commanding view of Boulder and the surrounding prairies. It may be among the country’s most scenic parking lots.