A change in scenery for the Hill

 

A new plan could reinvent the University Hill Plaza, a building on the Hill that houses 19 businesses.

 

An employee at Dot’s Diner cleans after the restaurant is closed for the day. Dot’s is one of several local businesses that will be displaced by the new development to the neighborhood.

Boulder’s University Hill could face a big change in the upcoming years: the removal of several long-standing local businesses and the demolition of the University Hill Plaza building to make room for a new complex with a hotel, retail space and parking garage.

The project is in tentative planning phases, but as it currently stands, the new structure will contain a hotel with 189 hotel rooms and 10,500 square feet of retail space (the original plan called for 30,000 square feet) and 200 parking spaces. The proposal, which will be heard by the council sometime in January, would cost a total of $22 million.

The University Hill Area Management Commission oversees the Hill and is currently pricing the project out while seeking community opinion to help decide whether or not to partner with Shears Adkins and Rockmore and the city to go forward with and construct the new project.

The idea for a new hotel came from a 2015 economic study given to the commission that stated the Hill needs a “major attraction or anchoring to bring back those regional customers,” Sarah Wiebenson, a member of the commission, said.

In order to remedy the economic stress on the Hill from the three months that CU students aren’t in Boulder and contributing to the student-oriented shops in the area, it was proposed that a hotel with space for stores and a parking garage be built on the block along Broadway between University Avenue and Pleasant Street. In its current place is the University Hill Plaza, a building that contains many businesses and restaurants.

Wiebenson said the study indicated they also “need to address the perception that there’s a lack of parking, on the Hill, you have to look at parking issues. And lastly, you need to fix up some of the run-down portions of the Hill that make it appear or possibly make it less safe for regional customers.”

But it’s the last portion of the study, which focuses on cleaning up the run-down areas of the Hill, that is the driving factor behind the location of the new hotel.

“That University Hill Plaza building has been slated for redevelopment… for years, and they’ve just been looking for the right project. It’s actually literally falling apart around the tenants,” Wiebenson said. “Tenants have had to shut down their business because their ceiling fell down in their kitchen.”

The hope for the new hotel taking the University Hill Plaza’s space is that it will encourage businesses to move to the historic district where there’s a 10 percent business vacancy rate, increase parking on The Hill and include room for new businesses that cater to a less student-focused audience.

There are currently 19 businesses in the University Hill Plaza building that would be forced out of their current location if all parties agree to go through with the new building.

“We’re not interested in moving,” an employee at Dot’s said as he was putting on his jacket to leave after closing. “We want our parking lot so our customers can park, come in and sit down to eat and leave without having to worry.”

Though there is plenty of room in the Historic District of the Hill for Bova’s, Cosmo’s Pizza and the Doozy Duds laundromat, many of them don’t want to move because their current location is both optimal for their businesses and where they’ve always stood.

“True, we do need to improve this area. But when we intend to improve this area, we push out the little guy… Don't kill the American dream. Improve the area, but protect the little man,” Megill Stewart, co-owner of Big Daddy’s BBQ told the Daily Camera in March.

Big Daddy’s BBQ now has a sign posted on its locked door that reads “Restaurant is closed for business, but the food truck is still working, and catering is available… I would like to thank all of you for your support and the fun times. Thank you for all for the love and support. Big Daddy.”

With testimonies from the businesses of the University Hill Plaza building, the extreme cost of the project and many other factors all in mind, the fate of University Hill Plaza won’t be decided until the early weeks of 2019.