Suggestions for Use of [Downtown] Space

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

Published in Boulder Daily Camera

March 9, 2011

The redesign of the Daily Camera building on 1048 Pearl Street provides a spectacular opportunity for Boulder. I have a few humble suggestions.

Most importantly, the redesigned building must fit in with the context of its neighbors on Pearl Street. That context is walkable, compact, traditional and human-scaled. Given this, the crucial task is almost a no-brainer: the front facade of the building fronting Pearl Street must abut the sidewalk, as its neighbors properly do. The suburbanizing surface parking lot that has separated the building from Pearl Street creates an anti-walkable, gap-toothed dead zone along a critical stretch of Pearl Street. The town center already suffers from the deadening, dispersing influence of off-street surface parking lots along Walnut Street just west of 13th Street. Now is the chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct this surface parking blunder in the walkable Boulder town center.

While removal of surface parking is essential, it is not even clear to me that “structured/stacked/garage” parking is a good idea, as a downtown needs “agglomeration economies” to be healthy. Even stacked parking acts as a powerful (and quite costly) dispersing agent that takes away extremely valuable floor area that the town center needs for vibrancy and economic health.

On the topic of vibrancy, a place intended to be walkable needs to “activate” the sidewalk 24/7 to the extent possible. That means the building should have, if possible, a strong residential, retail and cultural component.

Finally, I believe it is important that town center building design induce civic pride. That means that redesign should shy away from “modernist” architectural style, which tends to be disliked by most people (there is nothing more dated, or bizarre, than yesterday`s vision of tomorrow), and lean toward traditional, contextual, probably classical style, which tends to be more lovable.

More worthy of our affections, as my friend Jim Kunstler would say.

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Filed under New Urbanism: Timeless, Traditional, Walkable Design

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