Government & Politics  February 2, 2024

Boulder officials to scrutinize Dark Horse redevelopment effort

BOULDER — The Boulder City Council on Thursday elected to call up plans to redevelop the site of the World Famous Dark Horse Bar, a mainstay watering hole for University of Colorado students. 

The move allows city officials, including members of the Design Advisory Board and Transportation Advisory Board, to provide input on a proposal that would see one of Boulder’s most-traveled corners transformed.

The Williams family, which owns the property that includes a significant amount of underused surface parking area, and its development partner Morgan Creek Ventures seek to essentially scrape the roughly 10-acre site on the 2900 block of Baseline Road that’s home to a Sprouts Market, the Dark Horse, Cosmos’s Pizza, a liquor store, a bank and other businesses to build 726,000 square feet of space in six buildings, four and five stories tall. The proposed development would accommodate:


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  • 610 residential units, divided between market-rate and student apartments.
  • 77,000 square feet of commercial space, with more than 7,000 square feet intended for restaurants.
  • A 76,000-square-foot hotel.
  • Two parking structures and underground space for nearly 800 vehicles.

“This is an enormous project, and we have had significant community input on it, not all of it favorable,” council member Mark Wallach said. “… This is an appropriate project to call up if there ever is one.”

When the conceptual plan from the Williams family, the donor of the land to the University of Colorado for the construction of the Williams Village dormitory complex, was reviewed last month by the Boulder Planning Board, many locals spoke out in favor of maintaining the existing Dark Horse business, which representatives of the property owner said has long been subsidized in the form of lower-than-market-rate rents. 

During the January meeting, representatives for the developer said the property owner would make it a priority to provide a new space for the beloved Dark Horse. 

However, critics of the redevelopment proposal questioned whether that prioritization will survive the early phases of the project, which, despite the longevity of the Dark Horse, does not sit upon a municipally landmarked historic site. Project representatives said the phasing of construction is still in early phases, but the residential elements are likely to be built before commercial spaces. 

The homes that the developer proposes would include “285 student housing units and 325 non-student housing units,” according to city planning documents. Morgan Creek, in a memo to planning officials, indicated that it plans to pay cash in lieu of building on-site affordable housing.

The Boulder City Council will call up the Williams Village redevelopment project.

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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