Published: April 28, 2017

If you go

Who: Open to the public
What: Celebration of CU-city collaborations for the redevelopment of the old Boulder Community Hospital area
When: Monday, May 1, 4 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Off Campus, eTown Hall
RSVP: Requested

University of Colorado Boulder students and faculty, city of Boulder officials and local residents plan to come together to celebrate city-university collaborations and to present student research and design work inspired by the Alpine-Balsam redevelopment project.

The event marks the first anniversary of the national Metrolab partnership announced in spring 2016 between CU and the city of Boulder, which was started in an effort to include the community, faculty, staff and students in sustainable urban design and to broaden the discussion about design by introducing student ideas and research.

On Monday, May 1, the students’ final designs of the local Alpine-Balsam project will be on display at an open house and community party. The project team hosted a similar event back in December to share student presentations and discuss community involvement.

"This partnership between the city and university brings more people into planning discussions and adds creativity and innovation," said Brian Muller, faculty director of CU Boulder’s Community Engagement, Design and Research Center (CEDaR), which connects the university's design research to city projects.

"The students genuinely contributed new ideas that others had not thought of."

Jim Robertson, the chief urban designer for the city of Boulder, said the MetroLab partnership provided city staff with an opportunity to engage with students about their ideas and to be inspired by the students’ creative design proposals.

Environmental design student explains her research to a community member

Environmental design student shows her research to a community member.

"Although it will be several years before actual design choices are made for the site, the student projects provide insights and energy to ensure innovation is a key consideration as area planning begins," Robertson added.

How the project started

In 2015, the city of Boulder purchased for $40 million the 8.8-acre property known as Alpine-Balsam, which includes the former site of the Boulder Community Health’s Broadway campus at

the corner of Balsam Avenue and Broadway Street, as well as two properties on Alpine Avenue and two small properties on North Street. The city’s idea was to maintain and enhance the character of surrounding neighborhoods and to align redevelopment of the site with the community’s visions and goals. 

Funded through a CU Boulder Outreach Award, the university’s role in the Alpine-Balsam project, with CEDaR support, has involved in the last year more than 200 environmental design, environmental studies and Masters of the Environment students in researching the site history, mapping the site, interviewing neighborhood residents and creating ideas.

The project was led by environmental design professors Brian Muller and Shawhin Roudbari and environmental studies professor Joel Harter. Instructors included Stacey Schulte and Paul Glasgow.

This spring, 30 students were involved in team projects to address redevelopment of the area. Student projects addressed current debates such as the height ordinance, affordable housing and transportation and topics including food retailing, accessible transportation, engagement of the LGBTQ community, stormwater and flood management, among others. 

Reese Shaw explains his Alpine-Balsam research to a community member

Senior environmental design student Reese Shaw explains his Alpine-Balsam research to a community member.

Schulte, an instructor in the Program in Environmental Design, said the project provided an opportunity for her students to participate in a highly visible, real-life experience.

"Our students learned from hearing many perspectives from the different stakeholders, including city staff, professional designers, local residents and university faculty," Schulte noted.

"The students learned that there are many different viewpoints and not a single ‘right’ design for the site."

The open house

The May 1 event will take place at eTown Hall, a multi-purpose building in the heart of downtown Boulder, located at 1535 Spruce St.

Light food will be provided, and there will be a cash bar. The event is open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.