History of the Downtown Boulder Area
The History of the Historic Downtown Boulder Area
and the Development of the Downtown Boulder Mall on Pearl Street
In the 1960s as shopping malls were springing up across the country, a group of forward-thinking citizens owning property and working in downtown Boulder began to look for ways to keep the historic center of the city attractive and economically sound. In 1966, the Boulder Committee for the Exploration of Core Area Potential (CECAP) was formed. The group consisted of mostly city officials and downtown property owners, but felt it vital to have citizens participate in all aspects of the planning process and opened the membership to all interested persons.
Later that year, the group changed its name to Boulder Tomorrow and with the assistance of Sally Irwin, the only woman in the group who became the Volunteer Director, began a two-phase downtown improvement plan.
The first phase sought support both in planning and fundraising. Phase One facilitated the move to Phase two, a plan and proposal for downtown development.
Gruen Associates from Los Angeles designed a plan that included four elements:
- the construction of off-street parking structures
- a civic center (which included a new municipal building, a small theater and a museum)
- improved traffic circulation to and through the core
- a superblock/pedestrian mall.
The Gruen design was never implemented, as many of their changes were deemed too impractical, like the proposed lake. Their warnings that without redevelopment, sales and property tax revenues would drop negatively and affect the entire community, did not fall on deaf ears. Giant steps had been taken toward the construction of the Downtown Boulder Mall.
The Boulder architectural firm of Carl Worthington Partnership developed another downtown plan. Worthington recommended a pedestrian mall be built on four blocks of Pearl Street. The plan for underground parking below the mall and was rejected as too expensive and impractical.
With each step, more doors were opening toward construction of the Mall and although bond issues had failed, Mrs. Irwin kept Boulder Tomorrow focused on their goal. In 1970, Governor John Love signed the Public Mall Act into law. Among other things, the law allowed Colorado cities to close downtown streets in order to build pedestrian malls and detailed the suitable methods of financing such projects.
In 1974, the committee of Nolan Rosall, City Planner; R. Gage Davis, VP of the City Planning Board; and Tom Rogers, president of the Downtown Businessmen's Association (DBA), selected another design team, headed by Art Everett of Everett, Zeigel, Tumpes and Hand Architects, Boulder, to coordinate the new plan.
The team they put together included Stuart O. Dawson, Sasaki & Associates, Watertown, Massachusetts; Henry Beer and Richard Foy, Communication Arts of Boulder (graphic/industrial design); Larry Smith and Company (economics); the administrative team of the Boulder Dept. of Planning & Community Development and Boulder Dept. of Public Works. Rogers, owner of the downtown businesses China Jones and Brooks Fauber, describes the cooperation that went into the project, "Wonderful.for the first time business, City and community worked together."
The funding to build the mall was a beautiful example of cooperation. A Mall Assessment District was formed. The City of Boulder applied for and received a federal grant from the 1974 Community Housing and Development Act of $650,000, or 1/3rd of the cost, and the property owners assessed themselves in a graduated system $1.2 million, or 2/3rd's of the cost, to build the four block, brick paved pedestrian mall.
On June 12, 1976, amongst much gayety and celebration, Pearl Street was closed between 11th and 15th streets. The DBA, under the leadership of Director Kay Ryan planned events for curiosity seekers and to draw shoppers all during construction. At Christmas time, all construction stopped for the holiday shopping season and sidewalks in front of stores were always passable as the construction workers strived to keep the area as clean as possible. Admittedly it wasn't all smooth sailing, the construction schedule stuck close to its timetable.
Project designers, managers and engineers lending great assistance to the actual construction were William Zmistowski, Robert Martin and Paul Trementozi. Zmistowski says they often had to adopt a "bite the bullet attitude" and aim for the long range goal. Their stories and experiences in working with the bricklayers to traveling the country to find the right trees and storing them in the coolers at Coors Brewing Company, Golden, to keep them dormant until ready to plant, should be recorded in an oral history.
The time, effort and cooperation of all involved in the building of one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country should never go unrecognized. It was a community partnership and collaboration that let's all the citizens of Boulder feel proud and want to visit their "Crown Jewel," the Downtown Boulder Mall on Pearl Street. City Manager Bob Westdyke perhaps summed it up best by saying, "it is the coalescence of community pride." Dedication day, August 6, 1977, should always be remembered!
Historic photo gallery
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 10:13