Boulder City Council Candidates on Historic Preservation 2023

Historic Boulder posed four questions about historic preservation to the candidates seeking election to Boulder City Council in 2023.  The questions are:

  1. A proposal for a Central Park Historic District was initiated at the request of the City Council. The proposed district is composed of the park and nearby city-owned buildings in the Central Park area: the Tate Municipal building, the Bandshell and its seating, the City Storage building (where BMOCA is located), the Midland Savings / Atrium building, and the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. The district would tie together the historic properties in the area and preserve the public gathering place for use by the farmers market and other public events. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?
  2. All studies point to the value of historic preservation in benefiting the local economy by way of heritage tourism. The City of Boulder’s sales tax revenue is supported to a significant degree by tourists attracted by Boulder’s historic districts and places. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?
  3. In the current active development market, historic buildings are sometimes targets for demolition. The high cost of housing in Boulder makes smaller homes on larger lots in our older neighborhoods at risk. However, preservation of smaller homes and adaptive reuse of older buildings can contribute to affordable housing goals. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?
  1. Research shows that the greenest building is the one already built. Demolition of buildings contributes to GreenHouse gas emissions and unnecessary waste in landfills. As a zero-waste goal is important to reducing our carbon footprint; saving historic resources fits nicely with this goal. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

Here are the responses (candidates in alphabetical order):

Taishya Adams

Response not received.

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Silas Atkins

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

I am very much in favor of converting the area the Farmer’s Market uses into an event and public gathering space as part of a larger need to convert more car centric spaces to pedestrian and bike friendly. I am not able to support designating it a historic district as it would limit how the space can be used, reconfigured, and/or rebuilt to meet community needs of every resident and visitor. Most importantly, I do not see any consideration for the history of the creation of the Central Park area and the racism and displacement of our historically marginalized neighbors and community members that occurred to create it.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

This is not an area I am familiar with and I would need to look into it further. I would be interested in what ideas Historic Boulder has and would need to see everything done through a lens to justice for our historically marginalized neighbors to ensure economic benefit is considered with a justice lens as Sales and Use tax is regressive and impacts low-income neighbors disproportionately.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

For smaller homes, I see that Historic Boulder preserved the Woodward-Baird House, former home to one of Boulder’s early black families. I would like to note that a designation on a house like that makes it unaffordable for our current and historically marginalized families, while keeping a single family home on a location that is accessible to multiple bus routes, downtown, Central park, and the Library. I am in favor of an analysis of the cost/benefit of keeping a smaller home preserved and affordable vs replacing it with a more sustainable and multi-unit building to benefit the climate as well.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

I believe that with careful deconstruction processes, like used in Alpine-Balsam, an existing building can be replaced with a more efficient and sustainable building that meets climate goals and affordable housing needs.

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Terri Brncic

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

I am very much in support of creating a Central Park historic district. Since this area is mostly comprised of city-owned property and structures of historic value that have already been individually landmarked, it makes logical sense to tie this zone together and protect it through a historic district designation. Additionally, since a large portion of this area is in a high hazard flood plain, further development opportunities are already limited and therefore, would not be in conflict with broader city housing proposals.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

I think one of the biggest opportunities we have to increase Heritage Tourism in Boulder is in the University Hill Commercial District. Given its location near the University and recent investments in hotel and visitor infrastructure, there is a consistent and growing interest in this area. Creating a Uni Hill Historic District would encourage more investment and contribute to an overall revitalization of this neighborhood.

Often there is pushback on these proposals due to a lack of understanding of the tax credits and benefits that come along with a historic district designation. To head off this resistance, the city should conduct extensive outreach and education with the businesses and building owners to address concerns while conveying the significant benefits that would accompany this change.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

I think we should look at adaptive reuse of older homes as an opportunity to further the city’s affordability goals. Redevelopment almost always leads to more expensive real estate prices. For example, the purchase of an unimproved old house in the Newlands minimally requires $1.2 million. If it’s demolished and redeveloped, the new sale price will need to cover land, new construction, and contractor/developer profits, ultimately resulting in a price tag north of $2.3 million, which is not accessible to most of our community. On the other hand, investing in efficiency improvements and finish upgrades on existing smaller, older homes would result in a much more cost-effective redevelopment approach. While most developers are looking for simplistic approaches and will argue that adaptive reuse is not feasible, I think we need to be more insistent that these options be on the table.

Affordability is only one argument for keeping old buildings – we should also be considering the embodied energy contained in old buildings and expended by new developments. By reducing demolitions, we can reduce energy consumption for and greenhouse gas emissions from the creation of new building materials. The city regularly points to sustainable building materials as a means to address climate change, however, retrofitting old buildings is a much more sustainable option to retain embodied energy and reduce environmental impact.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

Climate sustainability should be the overarching consideration when establishing any policies around housing and preservation. The Landmarks Board should be in close discussions with the sustainability committee when making redevelopment decisions on historic buildings. These discussions should include robust analyses of the relative embodied energy costs and environmental impacts of renovation vs. redevelopment. Obviously, this can’t be the only factor when considering development initiatives, but it should be weighted significantly higher than it currently is. I would like to see the city lead with sustainability first by landmarking all of their significant buildings of historic value and then renovating them to make them super green.

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Jacques Decalo

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

We need to work with the first nation leaders to include representation in our heritage with art, history, story telling, and a community garden with edible native plants to Boulder. We could have historic mining education and land conservation management practices. We need to work to have our history present and give representation to those who came before us.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

We could dedicate a redevelopment of the alfalfa’s building (or another location) into a co-op with affordable housing, an arts studio and a bodega for local produce/ goods to be sold. This could also be used as a community space for events. This development would be ideal at old alfalfas because it centered in a location that does not require cars. We should also ask indigenous leaders if first priority space (or a 40/60 split in units) in a new affordable housing development like this would be a step forward in representation in sharing Boulder. I truly believe we need to break past the limits of basic developments and push for more community.

Boulder as a city needs to increase its energy efficient assessments of old buildings to understand which buildings should be kept, and which building should be retrofitted or transformed into mixed use. It is important for our sustainability that we try to reutilize building that have utilities in existence instead or completely starting over from ground zero. I look forward to possibly increasing our energy assessment requirements in Boulder to insure that we are maxing our sustainable capabilities.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

We need to invest in sustainable redevelopment with energy efficient retrofits while protecting the historically valued structures in our community. We need to look at repurposing vacant and abandoned buildings into sustainable affordable housing, with mixed use zoning. We need to protect the businesses that use older building and incorporate them with sustainable redevelopment and infill for energy efficiency. It important to keep the structures that show where Boulder has came from and give our city a feel of historic character. It is also important that we adhere to the Boulder Charter and follow the guidelines set forth for Boulder to remain in agreement of some common sense.

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Waylon Lewis

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Hell yes. Historic preservation is eco, vital to tourism, and carries the interesting, inspiring, and educational history of our town forward into the next generations. When I travel, for example, I don’t look for a Starbucks in a modern building. I look for history, character, uniqueness.
As an environmentalist who lives in a 1904 home, and grew up on 21st and Mapleton in an 1889 little shabby Victorian, architecture is dear to my heart, and books on Victorians, preservation, and eco building fill my bookshelves.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

Our landmarks staff and groups have done a wonderful job protecting what we have in Boulder, though we continue to lose buildings year after year. From Macky to the Hannah Barker House, to Christmas ornaments and education tours, the work of heritage tourism is vital—not simply quaint, but vital to our community, to tourism dollars, to our sense of place and history.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

A shabby old bungalow was torn down in my neighborhood a few years ago, when it could have been fixed up, moved, with the new main house built in the front or back of the yard. But too often developers and home owners find ways around our worthy preservation efforts.
That said, many beloved buildings have been preserved, and are enjoyed on the daily by so many of us. I will work with Marcy and others at the City to bolster our love affair with historic preservation. It’s dear to me, and joyful, and I’m glad to see the character of our mall and other neighborhoods adapted creatively, instead of bulldozed.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

Exactly. I’m on the board of our local, largely-woman-owned Nude Foods Market—a zero waste grocery! And I love Resource. Zero waste plays out in many different areas—including our buildings. A local alley garage no one thought twice about tearing down was made up of all local-gathered rocks, from around 1900. I tried to save it. I’ve supported Historic Boulder fundraisers over the years, gone on tours, and worked to restore the lathe and plaster in my old sweet home.
Historic is eco—it’s good for tourism, joyful, beautiful, with better craftsmanship than just about anything new. And it can be adapted, expanded upon, celebrated instead of destroyed.
This will always be an ardent, joyful focus of my service if elected.

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Tina Marquis

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

I am excited about reimagining this area with a focus on Boulder’s history, and supporting the city’s efforts to activate our public spaces. I like how the city is already partnering with Growing Up Boulder to understand how youth voice can be incorporated in this project. I also hope the project weaves in the historic ‘values’ of Boulder – community connection, innovation and sustainability – throughout this effort. I would hope the area has a new energy that both draws on our history and our future. It’s also important to find ways to recognize the history that doesn’t exist through the tangible legacy of a structure, such as our mistreatment and discrimination of indigenous people and people of color, and identify ways to make those aspects of our history as permanent and accessible as a building.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

In New York, a non-profit redeveloped the historic high-line as a social and innovative way to connect different historic areas, like the meat packing district and chelsea market, and new additions, such as the relocated Whitney Museum and Little Island, making sense of the history of the neighborhood in the context of the current time. Walking the high-line has become a destination in itself, but also provides access to mulitple historic places. I particularly like the idea of a physical connector that can draw on our recent history and continued leadership in outdoor recreation, especially biking.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

This has been a tough issue since I moved here over 20 years ago. I continue to support our historic districts, but should be transparent that some modifications might be made easier for homeowners to electrify their homes as well as incorporate features to be fire and flood resilient. There are a few examples around town where the historic facade has been maintained while the not-public facing part of a building has been fully renovated or rebuilt. I believe this can be a good compromise.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

I believe the city should explore how to support saving historic resources and how to help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient while maintaining the historic nature of the building.

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Aaron Neyer

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes I think this is a great idea. Central park holds such significance for Boulder and it’s vital we preserve our culture in this way.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

I think this is something we can lean on better communication and outreach with. Working with Visit Boulder and creating material that conveys the significance of Boulder’s history and weaves it into material to attract tourism, and also into our communications within the city. It needs to be embedded in our culture, an understanding of some of the historical significance of these places. I used to live around Manitou Springs, a couple hours south of here, and a friend of mine would take me on a tour to all of the different springs around town and tell me stories about how they came about, I got to connect with Manitou and learn about the history in the process. Let’s do something like that in Boulder, helping to build it into our culture and our community such that people are excited to share about it with friends who visit.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

We should ensure some protection for buildings of specific historical significance, and also ensure that there is protection distributed throughout the city, so that as we do the necessary work of redeveloping to allow for more affordable housing, we can ensure the city doesn’t lose its historical culture. It would also be interesting to work with developers to build houses that work with the historical culture and style of an area even as they are modernized.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

It’s said well here, the greenest building is one that’s already built. We should ensure we aren’t creating excess waste by tearing town buildings that don’t need to be torn down. I think oftentimes it’s more efficient from all angles to upgrade a home rather than tear it down and start from scratch, and that also helps preserve Boulder’s culture.

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Jennifer Robins

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes. Historic buildings and districts define the city’s cultural past. Preserving them helps maintain connections to the past. This is important for cultural identity and pride in our community. Also, these buildings and areas can serve as a valuable community educational tools and provide diverse architecture and design.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

Here are three ideas to expand heritage tourism:

  • Create a marketing campaign that highlights Boulder’s historic districts and places. We can distribute free brochures and maps with information about the historical significance of different areas. We could also create more diverse walking tours and special events around these areas. I envision this to be similar to Boulder’s current UNICF Child Friendly City initiative.
  • I think that the existing events such as the ghost tours and history hikes are wonderful to educate the community and bring people together. I believe we can organize additional historical events and festivals that celebrate Boulder’s heritage. This could include reenactments, heritage fairs, and cultural festivals which would draw both local and out-of-town visitors.
  • We can develop additional educational programs through BVSD, including guided tours by knowledgeable local historians. These programs could cater to students, residents, and visitors, creating further understanding of Boulder’s history. 

I think we can do a better job of promoting these possible and existing opportunities. I would like to create better community engagement by incentivizing and driving traffic to the City of Boulder website and Channel 8. This can help with both attendance at events and create a better opportunity for engagement in our public safety and disaster preparedness as well.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

I would prefer to maintain as much historical property as possible. Boulder’s housing market makes it difficult to keep rental rates and housing prices low. I believe we need further regulation to ensure that we keep housing affordable, historical or not.
From a historic perspective, we can partner with other nonprofits in Boulder County to help identify historic properties that can be adapted or used for affordable housing. These organizations often have experience in designation and managing both historical properties and affordable housing projects. We can continue to promote our ADU program to help maintain smaller structures that exist on property throughout Boulder.
Additionally, the state and federal government currently offer some investment and income tax credits to those homes that qualify. The city of Boulder offers a sales tax waiver on construction materials and zoning variance exemptions. These types of saving opportunities are helpful for people to keep their properties versus demolition or sale to developers.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

In general, buildings that are historic have stood the test of time. With this in mind, historic buildings used durable materials like brick, stone, and hardwood. They built thicker walls and higher ceilings. All of these lead to less frequent repairs and energy efficiency. Not demolishing buildings and less repairs reduces waste and manufacturing, in turn reducing our carbon footprint. With minimal upkeep, like window replacements, historical buildings can be more sustainable overall.
In addition, historic properties are great examples of resiliency. In areas like ours, prone to fire and flood, the structures that have existed through past disaster provide the standard developers should strive to meet.

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Ryan Schuchard

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

Boulder is one of the most important centers of climate research and expertise, from NCAR to CU centers to our one-of-a-kind atmospheric observatory. Our community is also an incredible natural environment for learning about climate science, with ecosystems spanning prairie grassland to glacial peaks to the headwaters of the Colorado River. I’d be interested to explore ideas for tapping into this wealth of riches to create an organized center of excellence that draws visitors who live in Colorado and neighboring states, or who are visiting the state anyway. Ideally we do this while also significantly expanding our intercity transit service.

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

We should continue to reform zoning in ways that allow more occupancy within existing building footprints. We should enable the historic preservation program to more effectively make way for more creative housing solutions by simplifyjng planning and permitting by lowering requirements involved in the entitlements process, ensuring requirements for development are clear, reasonable, and well-enforced, and pursuing opportunities to remove bottlenecks identified by staff.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

One of our most important opportunities to advance environmental sustainability and at the same time make life better in Boulder is to make zoning transportation improvements that lead to more walkable neighborhoods that enjoy more frequent and proximate transit. We should look carefully at opportunities to improve historic districts and areas around historic buildings by creating amenities that improve access while reducing the requirement people travel to them with cars.

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Tara Winer

1. Q. Would you be willing to support the creation of the Central Park historic district?

Yes. We do have issues with crime and safety in those areas so I would be interested in how making this a historic district would reduce crime and drug use at the bandshell.

2. Q. Do you have ideas about how to expand Heritage Tourism in Boulder?

In the two years I have been on council I have been dedicated to trying to make our downtown safer, particularly the bandshell, under the Broadway underpass, and the creek. I believe it is crucial for us to see positive change in that area for us to truly be successful in heritage tourism.
Recently, The Convention and Visitors Bureau removed the Creek from places to visit due to safety concerns.
We have an opportunity with the Hill Hotel and Convention Center to tdevelop our Heritage tourism, as we will be getting more tourism from the CU segment. I want us to redesign the Arboretum path so that connectivity improves and it’s easier to get from the Hill to the Downtown, and thus easier and more convenient to visit our cultural attractions. 

3. Q. How could the city’s Historic Preservation program provide affordable housing and protect our historic and cultural resources?

I agree. I know from 2 years on council that new builds are more expensive than reusing old buildings. Building more affordable housing by reusing old buildings will bring the cost of affordable housing down and help our environment as well. I would like to see some of our requirements for historic buildings relaxed. For instance, old windows are not eco-friendly. If we were more flexible about remodeling historic homes, we might get more buy-in from the community to keep these historic homes alive. As someone who loves old buildings but also is cognizant that we need to upgrade our building materials to be more fire resistant, flood resistant and climate resilient, I would love to see some innovative options from Historic Boulder.

4. Q How could the city incorporate preservation of our historic building resources into its environmental sustainability programs?

We try as a city to always look at every issue through a climate lens. We should highlight the fact that that saving old buildings should be part of our climate initiatives program. We need to incentivize builders, developers, and homes buyers not to demolish old buildings using this same logic.
One thing to note: According to city staff, sometimes old buildings can be expensive to maintain. So often, they would rather demolish an old building than fix it up for this reason.
I look to you all for ideas that would reverse the trend and keep the beautiful historic buildings that are worth keeping as a cultural heritage and good for the planet as well.

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