Denver developer proposing 32 row houses for 30th Street in Boulder

BOULDER — A Denver-based developer has decided to alter the design of a newly proposed housing project on 30th Street in Boulder rather than try to butt heads with the city over its moratorium on granting building-height exceptions — a quest he perceives as futile.

Jason Lewiston of Greenius LLC said the version of The Boulder Junction Rowhouses that he takes before the city’s planning board for concept review on Thursday night will feature 35-foot-tall buildings rather than the 37-foot versions he’d proposed when meeting with city staff for pre-application reviews earlier this year.

Lewiston, who is planning 32 units of about 2,700 square feet each for a 1.85-acre site at 2751 and 2875 30th St., said Monday that getting his project approved and built in time to mesh up with the opening of Google’s planned campus just down the street is more important to him than fighting for the extra height.

The Boulder city council earlier this year enacted the two-year moratorium on allowing developers to ask for height exceptions save for a few designated areas in the city. The Greenius project lies within Phase 2 of Boulder Junction in the city’s long-term plans, which is not one of the areas exempted from the height moratorium.

“I’m not Don Quixote. … We want to be open when Google is open,” Lewiston said, referring to the 300,000-square-foot campus Google is having built at the southwest corner of 30th and Pearl streets, the first phase of which is slated to open in early 2017. “We’d like to get started right away, and we think demand will be significant.”

The Boulder Junction Rowhouses would be on the west side of 30th street on the site of what is now an empty lot and a recreational vehicle repair store.  Greenius owns the southern property, and is under contract to buy the northern property.

As proposed, the project would include 32 market-rate rowhouses spread among four buildings that surround a central park area, along with underground parking. The units would each be three stories tall plus full basements. They would include three bedrooms each and balconies overlooking the open space. Various green aspects would be included in the project, among them solar hot water and electricity, electric vehicle plug-ins and Nest thermostats.

The original plans by Greenius had added to those features a rooftop terrace. Creating a staircase and door to the terraces was what was going to necessitate the extra height. Greenius officials originally had hoped that since the site, zoned Business Transition-1 now, is slated for Business Main Street zoning as part of the Boulder Junction Phase 2 plans, that city officials might be open to a height exception. While building up to 35 feet is allowed in BT-1 zoning, BMS zoning allows building heights up to 38 feet.

But in meeting with city staff and the Boulder Design Advisory Board — a city council-appointed group of residents — said it became clear that contesting the height moratorium would be a waste of time.

“We’re very happy with the unit (in spite of the changes),” Lewiston said. “It’s an excellent three-bedroom unit.”

Thursday’s concept review will provide an opportunity for Greenius to gather feedback on initial designs before submitting a more formal site review application.

Other concerns city staff have raised in communication with planning board leading up to the meeting center around access to the project’s parking as well as the fact that the project is entirely residential in an area where a mix of uses is envisioned in the Boulder Junction plans. Current vehicle access to the site is proposed to come from 30th Street, though Greenius notes that is slated to change once Bluff Street is extended from 29th Street all the way to 30th, at which point the access point from 30th Street would go away.

Lewiston said he believes that there will be enough commercial, retail and restaurant uses around his project to make up for it being residential only. He said he’s going after families with the design of the larger units, and said he doesn’t feel that including a restaurant or bar on the front of the project would be appropriate.

Greenius intends to pay cash in lieu to the city rather than offer a percentage of the units as permanently affordable housing. Lewiston said the intent right now is to rent the units out rather than sell them individually, though rental rates are to be determined.

The Boulder Junction Rowhouses is the first major Colorado project for Greenius, which had a long history of development in southeastern Michigan before Lewiston moved to Colorado.

“We like the long-term growth in (Boulder Junction),” Lewiston said. “There’s going to be fantastic energy, nightlife, living opportunities, offices. Frankly, we’d like to stay a part of it.”