Published: Dec. 7, 2017

A student explains his project to a neighborhood resident at the Spring 2017 MetroLab event.The city of Boulder and CU Boulder partnered this fall to gather design ideas from Environmental Design (ENVD) students, neighborhood residents and elementary school students for revitalizing the University Hill area. The area has a rich history as a residential, shopping and music district, and over the last few years the city and local residents have been working toward developing office space, gathering spots, retail shops, hotels and parking areas.  

The results of work by more than 150 students will be displayed at an open house—free and open to the public—from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15, at Flatirons Elementary School, which is located at 1150 7th St. in Boulder. RSVPs are requested.

"Ongoing programs with CU Boulder student organizations have been instrumental in helping shift people’s perceptions of The Hill," said Sarah Wiebenson, Boulder's Hill community development coordinator. "This event brings the hard work and positive energy of the students to the community.”

The event marks the third design workshop organized through Colorado MetroLab, a partnership between CU Boulder and city governments in Colorado. As part of the effort, students interviewed residents and other area users and helped develop design and policy solutions to selected problems. They also helped engage residents and area users in a dialogue about the future of the area.

"MetroLab has been a strong partnership between Boulder and the university. It's been very effective in extending student work to the community and helping students understand community priorities and constraints," said Brian Muller, faculty director of CU Boulder’s Community Engagement, Design and Research Center (CEDaR), which organized the University Hill MetroLab project. "The students did great research over the fall, and at this event, they will present useful designs and concepts to help The Hill move forward."

Environmental Studies (ENVS) doctoral student Jenn Shelby said the students provided fresh perspectives and a neutral platform, which helped moved the creative process forward.

If you go

Who: Open to the public
What: MetroLab University Hill Student Presentations Event
When: Dec 15, 5–7 p.m.
Where: Flatiron Elementary School, 1150 7th St.,
RSVP: Requested  
Etc.: Holiday snacks will be served.

"This project gave students an opportunity to work in a real place, with real stakeholders, designing solutions for real challenges," said Shelby, who coordinated communication between the various classes and neighborhood groups. "So often students are given hypothetical scenarios, but this project gave them a chance to understand the complexity of real-world design problems in a familiar space."  

Participating faculty and staff included Beth Osnes and Nii Armah Sowah from the Department of Theatre & Dance, Jota Samper and Brian Muller from Environmental Design, Kira Pasquesi and Stephen Sommer from LEAD/CU Engage, Mara Mintzer and Cathy Hill from Growing Up Boulder/CEDaR and Jennifer Shelby from Environmental Studies.   

Here are some ways students were involved in the project:

Students from an Environmental Design class researched University Hill's history, interviewed residents and proposed designs showing how a one-block area could look if it became part of a creative district.

Students from the Performance for Community Engagement class interviewed business owners and translated their personal stories into performance art pieces that communicated the diversity, concerns and backgrounds of businesses owners.  

A Growing Up Boulder project, including fourth graders from Flatirons Elementary, elderly residents and ENVD undergraduate students, evaluated how to make a commercial street near their school and senior residential facility more environmentally friendly, artistic, fun, safe and attractive for pedestrians.

Environmental Studies master’s students conducted technical studies of issues such as parking rules, a neighborhood EcoPass program and opportunities for a craft fair.

Students from a CU Engage Leadership class assessed the history of community engagement on The Hill.

Students from a GIS/Smart Cities class evaluated planning, design and environmental conditions on The Hill.

This project is funded in part through a CU Boulder Outreach Award.