During the last 20 years there have been four separate proposals for development at the 20 acre space at McKenzie Junction. This plot, surrounded by highway, first had an office and hotel project in 1998, a five building office park in 2000, and two separate multi-use plans in 2006 and 2015. None were approved due to concerns about noise and the dangers of people settling in a space cut off by highways on all sides.
In April, a plan was approved by the Boulder Planning Board. The same team who made the most recent proposal in 2015 came back with a new multi-use plan.
Called Diagonal Crossing, this plan will consist of 357 housing units, a quarter of which will be affordable housing, with 20 units given to faculty of Naropa University. Additionally, three local nonprofits, Meals on Wheels, Studio Arts Boulder and Bridge House’s Ready to Work, have dedicated space allocated to them.
While the Planning Board has given its blessing, the city council must now approve to proceed. During the next few weeks the council will have the opportunity to examine the proposal, ask questions, and possibly reject the project because previous concerns including, traffic, noise, are still factors.
The Planning Board raised these concerns when reviewing the project as well, but eagerness to develop the site seems to have increased over the last two decades. “While this is not a perfect site, it’s not the worst site either,” Chairman John Putnam said. He added that the access to trails, open space, and access to east Boulder and the Diagonal Highway could be very enticing.
Approximately 10 neighboring areas of the site came to the board with concerns and complaints about the development including Allison Management, Trammell Crow Residential, and Coburn Partners. “It just doesn’t seem like a nice entrance into our Boulder town,” Gary Carmichael stated. “There’s just too much density on this, and it needs to be lightened up.”
One board member, David Ensign, also shared concerns about the project being the first thing people see coming into Boulder. “We can talk a lot about the positive aspects of this, but I also know that as you’re driving in on the Diagonal, you’re going to see this very isolated pool of housing surrounded by these highways. It doesn’t seem like something that is a gateway to me.”
“We have horses, cattle, dogs, kids,” Erin Harding said. “To hear that it’s going to be an active area 24/7 is very disconcerting to us, because that’s not our lifestyle out there. … The density is everyone’s huge concern.” Many also noted that McKenzie Junction already suffers from traffic problems that this development would only exacerbate.
When the plan was proposed in 2015, many of the council members made it clear that the location rather than the plan was what made them believe the project wouldn’t work. What might give this plan more of a chance than it had two years ago, according to board members, is the decrease in available housing.