Published: Feb. 26, 2020

CU Boulder continues to seek an annexation agreement with Boulder that will enable it to develop housing for upper-level students, faculty and staff on 129 acres of university-owned land while supporting the city’s efforts to implement an effective South Boulder Creek flood mitigation plan.

About CU Boulder South
  • CU Boulder owns a 308-acre parcel of land southwest of Table Mesa called CU Boulder South.
  • This week, university and city officials met at a Boulder City Council study session to discuss possible annexation terms, flood mitigation options and costs and related issues.
  • The university is asking the city to annex the land to enable CU Boulder to develop clustered, village-style housing no higher than 55 feet for upper-division students, faculty and staff on 129 acres and an additional 30 acres for community playing fields.
  • The university has committed to designing buildings to protect and complement the city’s mountain views and to modeling future resiliency and sustainability. It would not build large sports venues, high-rise buildings or large research complexes on the property.
  • In exchange, the university has offered to donate 80 acres worth an estimated $18 million for the city’s flood mitigation efforts and will keep the site open to residents who want to continue to bike, cross-country ski and hike in the area and enhance trail connections. In addition, CU Boulder would seek opportunities to protect the scenic and natural value of undeveloped areas.
  • CU Boulder would also create a multimodal hub and performance-based transportation standards.
  • The university asks only that the city allow it to develop 129 acres intact and keep an additional 30 acres for community recreation fields; allow it to connect to city utilities, roads and multiuse paths; and agree to create multiple entries into the property. 
  • The 129 acres were marked as public for future development by the university based on a negotiation between CU Boulder and the region’s four voting bodies under the 2015 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. The entire property is outside the 500-year floodplain, which is less than 50% of the 308 acres owned by the university.
  • CU Boulder has recommended the city not pursue a suggested land swap for city-owned land north of Boulder, as that land is not eligible for annexation under the BVCP and would require significant work and time to make it so. CU Boulder would require that any proposed land for a swap be annexed at the same time the university would convey CU Boulder South to the city, which effectively eliminates this option.
  • The university is committed to working on this negotiation process with the city as a willing partner and seeks an annexation solution that helps both the city’s flood mitigation efforts while enabling CU Boulder to fulfill its mission as the state’s flagship higher education institution.

During a city council study session yesterday, council members heard from city engineers and university officials and discussed the level of needed flood mitigation, available flood mitigation options and the possible final components of an annexation agreement.

“We believe the university can reach a reasonable compromise on terms that would also allow us to fulfill our academic mission as the state’s flagship public research university while allowing the city to achieve its health and safety goals,” said Frances Draper, senior strategic advisor of government and community engagement.

A year ago, the city asked the university to submit an annexation application for a 308-acre parcel of university-owned land known as CU Boulder South. Upon the completion of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) update in 2017, the university agreed to limit development on the site to 129 acres, with an additional 30 acres for recreational playing fields.

CU Boulder also offered to donate 80 acres of the property valued at about $18 million to help with the city’s flood mitigation efforts. The university has further committed to maintaining access to local residents who want to walk, run, bike or cross-country ski on the property. To date, CU Boulder has agreed to many other concessions as part of its efforts to work collaboratively with the city, Draper said.

On Tuesday night, council members discussed the possibility of moving forward with a 100-year flood mitigation option, which would be the most affordable choice for the city, according to site-use studies.

The city has selected a flood mitigation option that creates an earthen dam across the front of the property not far from Table Mesa.

“We let city council know that CU Boulder remains committed to developing housing for upper-level students, staff and faculty on the CU Boulder South property if the city will agree to create multiple access points to the property so that a future housing community would not be isolated with just one road in and out over that dam,” Draper said.

Draper and Derek Silva, assistant vice chancellor of business strategy, addressed city council last night and reviewed many issues and misconceptions raised by the community.

Silva said the university does not recommend pursuing a proposed swap for city-owned land north of Boulder as it currently is not eligible for annexation under the BVCP.

Draper noted that the 129 acres marked for future development are not in the floodplain and that the city has confirmed that the berm on the property does not contribute to flooding downstream.

“We recommend the city keep an existing berm on our property, which would lower overall costs of the city’s flood mitigation project and continue to provide a good walking venue for visitors,” she said.