Plans call for hotel, offices on Baseline

BOULDER – A group of local developers has submitted concept plans to the city of Boulder for a redevelopment project that would bring 180,000 square feet of Class A office space and a 100-room hotel to the intersection of Baseline Road and 27th Way.

Dubbed Baseline Zero, the development covers five parcels that total 3.1 acres. The area is bounded by Baseline to the north, Moorhead Avenue to the south, 27th Way to the west and the Boulder Turnpike and the Martin Acres neighborhood to the east and southeast.

The plans tout the proposed four-story, 55-foot-tall office building on the west side of the property as “the greenest office building in Boulder,” complete with large rooftop solar arrays and a vegetated roof. That’s in addition to carbon-absorbing wood framing, laminated high-density wood beams and other ventilation and lighting aspects geared toward energy efficiency.

“We’re looking to push the envelope and do something that would really set a whole new benchmark for Boulder,´ said developer Bruce Dierking, who noted that LEED certification would likely be sought for the buildings, which also will come with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

West Baseline Investors LLC, led by Dierking and Jim Loftus, purchased the five parcels of land for $6.6 million in 2008. The same group, under the name East Baseline Investors LLC, at the same time bought three parcels east of the Boulder Turnpike along Baseline. The latter were since redeveloped into the 16,000-square-foot Baseline Crossing, which is a mix of restaurants and retail. Scott Reichenberg and Neil Littman are also partners in both redevelopments.

Dierking said it’s too early to place an estimated price tag on the Baseline Zero project.

The Baseline Zero site currently is home to a Boulder Gas station, Grease Monkey, Baseline Liquor Store, Nick’s Auto Repair and a former Wendy’s building that now is shuttered.

The development sits in an area zoned Business-Community 2, defined as “business areas containing retail centers serving a number of neighborhoods, where retail-type stores predominate.” Chandler Van Schaack, a planner with the city of Boulder, said the office building and hotel are allowed uses for areas zoned BC 2 in some instances through the use-review process despite the narrow definition.

Van Schaack said the project looks promising overall so far, but he noted that there is plenty of room for varying opinions. He said that the nature of the project will ultimately come down to how the planning board and neighbors feel, and whether the developers can prove there won’t be any undue impacts to the surrounding area.

“They’re trying really hard to address the impacts and make it an appropriate use,” Van Schaack said. “I think it could work.”

East of the office building, across a Skunk Creek wetlands and buffer area, will sit the four-story hotel. Each building will include two levels of underground parking. The developers are seeking an exception for the 55-foot building heights in an area where 35 feet is allowed by right. Some setback variance and parking reduction also is being requested.

The developers will go before the planning board Jan. 16 for concept review, and Dierking said there likely would be a neighborhood meeting before that. Concept review is a period for comment by the public and planning board meant to address concerns before developers return to the board for the more formal and binding site review process.

“We don’t really see a lot of pushback” on the height, Dierking said. With the highway to the east, “we’re not going to block anybody’s view.”

The plans note that Element by Westin is a possible hotel brand for the site and represents the basis of the design. Plans note that the hotel would be an “ecologically focused, extended-stay, lifestyle brand targeting 30- to 45-year-old professionals and frequent travelers.”

Dierking said current tenants of the site have known that redevelopment is coming for a while, and said their leases have been honored. He said part of the delay in developing this site versus Baseline Crossing was that there was some environmental cleanup that had to be done at the Nick’s Auto site because of a former gas station there. There was also cleanup that had to be done by a former tenant at the Boulder Gas site.

Dierking said he expects site review before the board sometime late next year, and hopes to break ground sometime in 2015 if things go according to plan.

He said he expects the office space to fetch similar prices to downtown, somewhere north of $30 per square foot plus operating expenses. However, he noted that the energy efficiency aspects of the new building likely would mean lower operating expenses than those for comparable buildings.

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