CU Boulder South
CU Boulder South is a 308-acre parcel of land near U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive currently under consideration for annexation into the city of Boulder.
The University of Colorado Boulder purchased its CU Boulder South property in 1996 to ensure the university’s long-term future and to provide Colorado citizens with access to quality education for generations to come. At the time of the land purchase, CU Boulder did not have specific or immediate plans for development, and that remains true today. After the completion of our 10-year campus master plan update, which begins in 2020, we expect our plans to evolve.
It has long been clear that the city of Boulder could use a portion of our land for a flood mitigation project to protect our downstream neighbors, and CU has continuously expressed its willingness to allow that use. In 2015, after years of floodplain studies and flood mitigation project planning, the city invited the university to bring the property into the 2015 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) update process to pave the way toward annexation.
Later conversations led to the 2017 adoption of the 2015 BVCP update, which included changes to the property’s land-use designations in anticipation of future annexation and the development of the guiding principles that will apply to future development on the property. We supported the inclusion of the guiding principles in the BVCP.
From there, the Boulder City Council directed city staff and consultants to further evaluate existing flood mitigation options and to identify changes that could achieve a 500-year level project while minimizing floodwater inundation on the open space-other area and on the 129 acres for university development. They also encouraged CU to proceed with its annexation application so progress could continue expeditiously, and we agreed to do so.
Ultimately, staff and consultants found it was not possible to minimize inundation in both the open space-other area and CU’s 129 acres for development. The resulting flood mitigation option, known as Variant I – 500, is projected to inundate some 30 to 36 acres of developable land, cover our existing tennis courts, and would no longer accommodate playing fields within the flood detention area. In addition, it would be significantly more expensive for both CU and the city while not providing any greater flood protection than other available options.
CU Boulder has previously stated that Variant I – 500 would not be workable for the university, and was dismayed that the city council seemed inclined to select that option anyway. Even so, we worked diligently to provide the city with options that would balance or minimize the negative impact of Variant I – 500 on CU’s ability to use its own land.
We submitted our annexation application on Feb. 4, 2019, offering significant benefits, including conveying up to 80 acres of our land – valued at $18 million – for flood mitigation at no cost to the city, as well as three options that would mitigate the negative impacts of Variant I – 500 to CU’s ability to use its own property in the way it deems necessary.
If we able to reach an annexation agreement with the city, we would use CU Boulder South in the future to develop housing for faculty, staff and upper-level and graduate students and to explore some academic uses. Other planned amenities include recreation fields, expanded hiking and biking trails, multimodal transportation and other value-added features for the community.
However, the city council announced on Feb. 5, 2019, that it plans to move forward with Variant I – 500. In the city’s March 28 response to our annexation application, the city indicated that none of the proposed mitigating options are feasible. As landowners, we therefore found it important to promptly inform the city council that we could not agree to flood mitigation plan Variant I – 500 and strongly urged council members to cease further taxpayer-funded expenditures on the plan.
We remain optimistic and fully committed to working with the city to select one of the other options that city staff and experts have presented to meet our separate and mutual goals. We are confident that such a resolution can be reached through one of the other flood mitigation options available to the city. We have asked the city for a study session as soon as possible to determine a viable path forward and look forward to getting down to work on that.
Learn more about CU Boulder South on the city’s website.