July 27, 2022 | 4:30-7 p.m. | Boulder Theater

Good afternoon!

I’m excited to welcome you all to CU Night in Downtown Boulder.

It’s wonderful to see familiar faces and many new faces, too.

I want to especially thank our faculty and staff speakers and exhibitors, as well as Chip from the Downtown Boulder Partnership and Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend.

Both have been wonderful partners and colleagues in our work as a university.

I also want to recognize:

  • Lesley Smith, chair of the CU Board of Regents
  • Regent Nolbert Chavez
  • Regent Callie Rennison
  • Tara Winer from the Boulder City Council

Yvonne and I moved to Boulder more than 45 years ago – it was before Pearl Street became a pedestrian mall.

We raised three wonderful children here, and we are introducing our two grandchildren to the joys of Boulder every time they visit.

It has been fascinating to watch the city grow and shift alongside the university – a good reminder that the only constant is change.

As a global community, we are now facing a type of change that will require exceptional collaboration from the university, city and others all around the world – and that’s climate change.

Global Climate Summit

Climate change is contributing to preventable injuries, illness and deaths as our world experiences flooding, extreme drought, wildfire and other impacts.

Boulder has faced its own natural disasters, but we also know the impacts of climate change place an even heavier burden on the most vulnerable people across the globe.

That’s why we’re proud to partner with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to host the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit this December.

Together with thought leaders from across the globe, the summit will explore climate change through the lens of human rights, and we will identify and commit to solutions

Boulder’s longtime commitment to climate justice provides the ideal setting for these international discussions.

You’ll hear more about the Climate Summit in a few minutes.

But before we get into further details about our leadership in the climate arena, I want to first take a few minutes to share updates on campus initiatives that directly involve the community.

Campus of the Future

My priority as chancellor is to ensure that while we’re serving today’s students, the university is also set up for success generations from now.

We must plan for and build the campus of the future, to ensure that our facilities continue to enhance teaching and research for decades to come.

That vision is formalized in our Campus Master Plan, which was approved by the Board of Regents in February.

A major component of the plan is a focus on renewal of existing housing and identifying opportunities to increase on-campus housing stock by 4,400 to 6,000 beds over the next 20 to 30 years.

The first steps toward this vision include two new residential buildings planned for an area of Main Campus north of Boulder Creek, which we’ll begin designing soon.

The buildings are slated to open by 2026 and will add about 750 beds.

They will enable us, initially, to begin the renewal of older residence halls, and longer term, will provide housing for graduate students and upper-division undergrads. 

We recognize the housing pressures facing everyone in Boulder, and want to ensure the future campus enables more Buffs to live closer to where they study and work.

CU Boulder is planning for modest, half-percent per year enrollment increases between now and 2026-27, which would give us a total of 37,413 students.

Most of that growth will occur through retention of existing students and increased graduate enrollment, rather than the enrollment of new first-year students.

As we plan for modest growth, we also continue working with our partners at the city to continually monitor and address quality-of-life and public safety concerns off campus, especially on the Hill.

The Campus Master Plan also includes:

  • New research facilities.
  • Preserving and enhancing historic campus buildings with an eye toward sustainability.
  • Improving mobility around campus.
  • And targeting improvements to places where the campus interfaces with neighborhoods and the city.

CU Boulder South

Two centerpieces of our “Campus of the Future” include CU Boulder South and the conference center-hotel on Broadway.

Last fall – after decades of thoughtful collaboration among the city, county, university and hundreds of community members – the Boulder City Council approved annexing the 308-acre CU Boulder South property into the Boulder city limits.

The annexation agreement, which is a legally binding document, embodies the best of Boulder:

  • It protects the lives and safety of about 2,300 downstream Boulder residents by adding flood protection.
  • It creates 119 acres of new, permanently protected, city-owned open space, providing safe habitat for our native flora and fauna.
  • It allows the construction of hundreds of units of urgently needed housing for CU faculty, staff and non-freshman students.
    • And five acres will be dedicated toward affordable housing.
  • The annexation also ensures continued public access to the site.
  • And it represents a commitment to the important collaboration between CU and the city, with explicit legal assurance regarding what the university can and cannot develop there.

Plans for the site include the creation of a multimodal transportation hub with connections to the larger network, and we’ll work with the city and Department of Transportation on best practices for traffic engineering to create safe and effective mobility options for all who live in and visit the area.

Since the annexation was approved by City Council last fall, city staff have worked diligently on flood protection design and permitting so we don’t face devastation like we saw in 2013.

Last fall, Boulder voters recognized this urgency and voted down Ballot Measure 302.

This fall, CU Boulder South is on the ballot in the form of a public referendum, which seeks to overturn the annexation completely and halt the work on flood protection. 

I remember the devastation of the 2013 floods, and we can’t risk that again in our community.

If you feel, as I do, that we can’t wait any longer on flood protection, the responsible creation of additional housing, and the establishment of permanent open space, I urge you to vote “No” in November.

Conference Center-Hotel

In addition to the progress being made at CU Boulder South, I’m also excited to share that our development partners are on track for a late fall groundbreaking for the Limelight Hotel Boulder.

This transformative conference center and hotel, to be located on the northeast corner of University and Broadway, is another prime example of town-gown collaboration that meets a long-standing need identified by the community.

The hotel will feature roughly 250 rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 15,000-square-foot ballroom – a space unmatched in Boulder County or anywhere between Denver and Fort Collins.

Our community will soon be able to comfortably host high-profile events that link the university, research, business and nonprofit communities in Boulder.

The Little Nell Hotel Group, which will develop and operate the conference center and hotel, has been a wonderful partner for the university and city.

Limelight Hotel Boulder is slated to open in spring 2025, and I couldn’t be more excited for the ways this space will showcase the exciting innovation and leadership occurring in Boulder.

Renee Crown Wellness Institute

Just across Broadway from the future conference center site, by The Sink, is the home of the Renee Crown Wellness Institute. 

If you’re not yet familiar with the Crown Institute, I urge you to learn more about the incredible work happening there.

The institute develops research-and-practice partnerships aimed at building a world in which health and wellness are promoted and protected for all children and youth.

It’s wonderful to see mental health and wellness in the spotlight in this way, as it continues to be a priority at CU Boulder and for the broader Boulder community, as we emerge from the pandemic.

The Institute is working with educators in Boulder Valley School District and beyond to provide training on mindfulness, compassion and dignity that our local teachers are using to meet the holistic needs of today’s youth.

That’s just one example of the diverse work stemming from the Crown Institute that’s helping educators, parents and families create positive change that benefits our entire community.


Finally, I want to acknowledge the “Buffalo in the room,” so to speak. 

What about athletics?

As you know, both USC and UCLA announced in June that they plan to depart the Pac-12 conference in 2024.

While we were disappointed by that decision, we are committed to the Pac-12 conference and are continuing to participate in conversations about media rights negotiations with the Pac-12 Board of Directors.

It’s a fact that the landscape of college athletics is changing rapidly, but CU Boulder remains in a strong position to navigate those changes.

As we contemplate the path forward, CU Boulder and Athletic Director Rick George are committed to ensuring that we make the best choices we can for our student-athletes, coaches and support staff, and our fans.

As I hand off the mic to our next speakers, I encourage you to learn more about these upcoming initiatives from our CU representatives and the exhibits set up throughout the theater.

As I hope you can tell, “stagnant” is not a word in our vocabulary at CU Boulder. 

And I know the same is true across the city of Boulder.

The vibrancy of this community is part of the reason I’ve spent my entire professional career at CU.

I love Boulder, and we are our best when the university and city are working together.

It’s the energy, innovation, and care within this community that gives me hope that, together, we can chase the opportunities and address the challenges before us.

From the shape of our campus footprint to the global threat of climate change, there’s a spirit in Boulder that keeps its nose to the grindstone and its eye to the horizon.

Thank you for being part of that community spirit.

Go Boulder, and Go Buffs!

And now I’d like to welcome to the stage Chip, CEO of the Downtown Boulder Partnership.

Chip has led the downtown Boulder business district since 2019.

Having worked in Downtown district management for over 20 years, Chip is a strong proponent of building sustainable and equitable cities and supporting social infrastructure.

Prior to coming to lead the Downtown Boulder Partnership, Chip served as the executive director for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz.

Chip came to the world of Downtown management through experiences in event production, arts administration, civic engagement, restaurant and venue management, and even a stint with the circus.

Thank you, Chip.