Boulder Housing Partners takes helm of Pollard site affordable housing project

A project to provide affordable and market-rate housing and possibly affordable retail space at the former Pollard Motors site will move forward with Boulder Housing Partners taking over as the lead developer. (

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

When a private developer pulled out of a public partnership in August, it sent Boulder scrambling to save an affordable housing project on the former Pollard Motors site and preserve $5 million in federal funding. Thursday night, city council gave its unanimous and enthusiastic support for the rescue plan.

Boulder Housing Partners, the city’s housing authority, will take over as lead developer on the project at the northeast corner of 30th Street and Pearl Parkway. The roughly 4.3-acre plot — not including a planned 1.3-acre pocket park — will be divided into four parcels; two will be developed by BHP, two by private developers.

Planned dwellings include 145 affordable units, 25 of which will be for-sale condos or co-housing for middle-income earners. Twenty of the 120 affordable rentals will be reserved for young adults with developmental disabilities. Private developers will build 130 market-rate rentals or for-sale units.

It’s a loss of 60 total dwellings from prior plans, but a shift in strategy in terms of size, said Director of Housing and Human Services Kurt Firnhaber. Zocalo, the Denver-based developer that dropped out of the deal, planned more micro units, while the city focused on one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings, a better fit for families.

The total number of new homes is subject to change, Firnhaber said, depending on how much money is raised by the sale of the two, ready-to-build parcels, which will include approved exterior design.

A proposed affordable retail space is still on the table, too. Ideally, it will be a workplace for some of the resident developmentally disabled young adults. The city is in talks with Ramble on Pearl, Firnhaber said, which already employes that population.

The inclusion of retail in the project might ultimately depend on how the finances shake out. BHP has until the end of 2019 to go through Boulder’s planning process, obtain building permits and close on financing in order to qualify for roughly $5 million in federal funding.

If that doesn’t happen, a backup plan is to pursue more valuable tax credits from the state. Those are harder to come by than the lower-value ones BHP is pursuing now. Megan Herrera, with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, said the agency receives roughly three times the number of requests as it awards funding to each year.

The hard deadline could be an advantage, said BHP Executive Director Jeremy Durham, because CHFA knows there is a narrow window of time in which state dollars can go further by pairing with federal money.

Council members lauded the project. "Fantastic work," said Sam Weaver. "You’ve even got a Plan B in place, which is a really incredible Plan B."

"It’s housing, which is what we wanted," added Lisa Morzel, referring to goals outlined in the 2007 Transit Village Area Plan developed for the site, which itself was acquired in 2004 as part of a 11-acre joint purchase with RTD.

Firnhaber remained cautiously optimistic, noting that it may take a minor miracle to successfully navigate Boulder’s notoriously onerous planning process in 12 months.

"We’re not there yet," Firnhaber said. "This year is going to be really tough."

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, castles@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/shayshinecastle

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