Construction Quest: Projects pick up steam in Boulder

Editor’s note: Construction Quest is a series of five installments that focuses on commercial construction projects in the largest cities and towns in Boulder and Broomfield counties. This second installment focuses on Boulder. The first installment was on Broomfield and was published March 15. Subsequent installments will feature Longmont, Louisville/Superior and Lafayette/Erie.

BOULDER — New commercial construction in Boulder generally takes a back seat to home remodels and tenant refinishes, mainly because of the shortage of undeveloped land within the city’s limits and what some perceive as the city’s anti-development attitude.

Despite that, commercial projects have become more prevalent lately.

“The volume of projects in Boulder is still pretty high,´ said Dave Driskell, the city of Boulder’s executive director of Community Planning and Sustainability. “We haven’t seen a dip in volume, but there have been more larger and more complex projects lately.”

There has been more redevelopment of existing sites than new construction, he said.

Most of the top projects either in the proposal, review or construction stages have housing and mixed-use elements, reflecting the city’s land-use mission.

Driskell describes that mission as making sure new projects in Boulder are “compact, have a mixed-use element and have walkable neighborhoods to cut down on traffic when possible.”

That mission can create a longer timeline from proposal to construction, but some developers think it is worth the hassle.

In the heart of downtown, Ten Eleven Pearl LLC, a local team led by Denver-based Nichols Partnership Inc., is redeveloping the properties at 1048 Pearl St. and 1023 Walnut St.

Late last year, the partnership purchased the property for $13.5 million from Karlin Real Estate, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment and development group that got the ball rolling on the redevelopment after it bought the property for $9 million.

The project, Eleventh and Pearl, calls for the demolition of the existing buildings and a 175,000-square-foot mixed-use building with 125,000 square feet of Class A office and 50,000 square feet of retail and specialty-use space.

Demolition and construction will begin in the fourth quarter of 2013 and the project is scheduled for completion by early or mid-2015. The expected cost of the project is $80 million.

Driskell said the project will include an automated parking system. Cars will be driven onto a robotic trolley, and the car will be lifted and placed in a parking space. “It will use much less space,” Driskell said.

Construction of two new hotels on the current site of the Golden Buff hotel in Boulder could begin late this summer, according to its developer.

The Boulder Planning Board on Jan. 17 approved local developer Scott Pedersen’s plan to demolish the Best Western Golden Buff Lodge at 1725 28th St. and Eads Newsstand at 1715 28th St. and replace them with the hotels and a 35,000-square-foot building for offices, retail and restaurants.

The site will have a 184-room full-service hotel and a 177-room select-service hotel built over an underground parking garage.

Developers are deciding which national chain with which to partner. Pedersen said the two hotels will be affiliated with the same chain.

“We’re working hard on it now,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen also is the developer of the Depot Square project in BoulderTransit Village, a mixed-use housing and a Regional Transportation District transit hub at the northeast corner of Pearl and 28th streets. Pederson said there will be a 140-room Hyatt Place hotel there.

Across the way on the south side of Pearl, a luxury apartment complex is under construction. Junction Place is a mixed-use development that will consist of 3100 Pearl, including 319 luxury apartments at 3100 Pearl St.

The project was started by Pedersen Development Co., which shepherded it through the design and entitlement process prior to selling it for $6.5 million to 3100 Pearl Street Apartments LLC, which was created by ReyLenn Properties LLC based in Solona Beach, California.

The project is pursuing LEED certification. It will include a clubhouse, fitness center, game room, pool and spa, teaching kitchen, bicycle-repair and pet-grooming shops.

Total retail space is approximately 3,000 square feet.

In Gunbarrel, a 100-room, 69,100-square-foot Hampton Inn & Suites is being built at 6333 Lookout Road in the Gunbarrel Gateway Center.

The project is being developed by Boulder Hospitality LLC and McDermid Management Co. LLC. Brinkman Construction is the general contractor.

The developers plan to build three buildings on pad sites near the hotels, and Brinkman Partners will be the broker looking for tenants. The property formerly was the site of a Hugh M. Woods hardware store.

Driskell said developers have been very creative in coming up with plans for the few in-fill lots still available, but there just “isn’t much” undeveloped land within the city’s limits.

One major vacant parcel of land in northeast Boulder has proved to be a challenge to developers. The 16-acre parcel situated where Foothills Parkway becomes the Diagonal Highway in North Boulder, called McKenzie Junction, has been looked at by several developers during the past decade. The land has drawn interest from a big-box retailer, home developer and a private business interested in building a sports complex.

The main hang-up, Driskell said, is how to work around a historic oil well on the site. The land is owned by Birch Mountain LLC headed by Boulder doctor Randy Bjerke.

A seemingly prime 14.9-acre site, on the north side of Arapahoe Avenue adjacent to South Boulder Creek, drew the interest from a developer in Atlanta in the mid-2000s. Wood Partners wanted to build Waterview on East Arapahoe, with 288 residential rental units on the site, but upon further review the plan was scuttled. Driskell said the area, in a desirable location, is plagued with flood issues.

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