Boulder City Council Candidates on Historic Preservation

Historic Boulder posed three questions about historic preservation to the current Boulder City Council candidates. The questions are straightforward and don’t assume an in-depth knowledge. They are:

Historic Boulder, Inc will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. The nonprofit has been responsible for the rehabilitation and landmarking of several notable structures, wrote the original preservation ordinance, and has championed the landmarking of a wide variety of districts and structures. It has sponsored talks and tours focused on Boulder’s past. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Here are the responses (candidates in alphabetical order):

Matt Benjamin:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

I think the Downtown Boulder historic district is a crowning achievement. This helps preserve so much of what people outside of Boulder think of when you ask them about our community. They tend to say it’s the flatirons and Pearl street mall with its small town feel.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

One area has to do with historic homes that people currently live in. I would like the city to find a better way to allow residents to make meaningful improvements to those buildings. A common concern I hear from friends that live in historic homes is that they want to make the home more energy efficient and find it is near impossible to replace windows or make other improvements that wouldn’t affect the overall historic nature of the house, but would provide a greater living environment for those living there. I want to find a way for our historic building to evolve with the climate goals of our community without losing their intrinsic nature.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Chautauqua Auditorium is my favorite historic building in Boulder. I have seen so many concerts and lectures there. It’s more than just the building, it’s the entire environment.

Matt Benjamin: admin@mattbenjaminforcouncil.com

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Michael Christy

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

I think that Historic Boulder’s education programs are the most significant accomplishment. Historic Boulder’s walks and tours through to their high school essay program have had a significant impact on raising awareness of the importance of Boulder’s history and the buildings that embody it. An educated and informed population is critical to a thriving community as well to democracy itself.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

The world is facing an unprecedented climate crisis, including the impact of our built environment. While it’s important to preserve our historic structures and the heritage they represent, with so many beautiful old buildings in Boulder it is also critical that we find a way to balance preservation of actively used historic buildings with reducing their environmental impact.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

I have two favorite historic building sites, although admittedly, I am biased in my response. My first is the historic brick structure of Whittier Elementary School on Pine Street. This building holds a special place in my heart as it was where my daughter attended elementary school and where my son currently attends school. My son and I ride our bikes to school on most days and I’m always in awe of the building’s beauty and the fact that my son attends school in a building that was originally built as a school in the 1880’s. It’s amazing.

Michael Christy: michael4boulder@gmail.com

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Jacques Decalo:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

The most important accomplishment is the creation of Historic Boulder. Boulder has beautiful, iconic architecture that needs to be preserved. The current project of sponsoring the Boulder Theater restoration is huge. This theater is possibly one the best and most artistically stunning in America.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

Reducing the cost of landmark alteration certificate or fees, imposed to make residential historical building more energy efficient and sustainable. (New windows and doors) This should be in a way that preserves the look and structure, but allows for additions such solar on the front side, as well as battery storage. If this is not permitted or changes, we have to create community solar gardens for these buildings. We have to do everything possible to combat climate change.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

The Boulderado, license 1 is one of my favorite places in Boulder. The Boulder Theater and the Fox Theater are great as well.

Jacques Decalo: jdecalo@gmail.com

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Lauren Folkerts:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

Historic Boulder has done so much to preserve historic structures in our community, but I think Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment is increasing the appreciation within our community for Boulder’s unique history. This was made possible by the decades of consistent work done by Historic Boulder through a variety of educational and advocacy efforts, such as the walking tours and Halloween events. These activities help nurture more appreciation and understanding for why the preservation of historic structures is important, and help keep the history of Boulder alive.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

As an architect I see a tremendous amount of value in preserving our cultural heritage through the preservation of historic structures. I also recognize there are some improvements that could be made by looking at the methods and outcomes of historic preservation. The current rules focus on age, level of alteration over time, and maintaining the street facing facades. This means many late mid century buildings are not yet protected, and unique examples of an architecturally significant era of our history are being destroyed, such as the bank at the corner of 17th and Canyon. It also means that buildings which have seen a lot of change are more likely to be demolished than rehabilitated. On the flip side, many unremarkable homes that were built cheaply and quickly in the post war period could be eligible for preservation. Moving forward there are three things I would advocate for. First would be placing more emphasis on the protection of unique structures. Second, I would like to see more flexibility and adaptability allowed for less unique structures. Third, I would like to see more incentives encouraging preservation over demolition by allowing additional density or other modification to the zoning that would allow for more adaptation of the property over time, while still maintaining the historic structure.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

My favorite historic building is NCAR. For me its prominent location on the hill represents the importance of scientific research and rational thinking, as well as Boulder’s position as a center for new ideas and technology, a legacy largely due to the concentration of national labs like this one. It also serves as a gateway to so many wonderful trails and climbs. Designed by the internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei, this building draws inspiration from the Anasazi architectural structures at Mesa Verde, and uses local aggregate and a unique surface treatment to create a pink concrete that matches the surrounding flatirons. The layout of the building is designed to create greater interaction among scientists, and also frames unique contemplative views of the surrounding landscape. It is the best example of Brutalists architecture in the state, and is an important part of our local history and identity.

Lauren Folkerts: Lauren4boulder@gmail.com

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Steve Rosenblum:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

In my view, the most impactful and significant accomplishment was the passage of the historic preservation ordinance. Without this visionary community action, Boulder would have been overwhelmed by myopic development and financial pressures and ended up losing the connection to our past, which is one of the many things that makes this city so special to residents, visitors, and future generations. This foresight was of equal importance to the 1967 Open Space tax in preserving Boulder’s unique character and values. Every structure saved and preserved is a gift to posterity, but without the defined organizational framework enshrined in the BRC, a piecemeal approach would have eventually been overwhelmed by the profit motive and short-term thinking.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

Two distinct areas:

1) We face tension between two of our values: historic preservation and addressing the climate crisis. Many current or prospective owners of historic homes care deeply about both these issues, but face challenges in updating their homes to be more energy efficient or independant while respecting their historic or architectural significance. Owners wishing to install solar panels, charging stations, or energy efficient windows find they are either unable to do so or are cost burdened. The maintenance and preservation of a historic home is a labor of love, which is often more costly and time consuming than a new wood and sheetrock dwelling. We should explore processes, products, and potentially incentives to allow homeowners to live both of their values and make it affordable to continue to live in and care for these community assets.

2) University Hill and surrounding neighborhoods are under extreme pressure with the growth of the CU population and encroachment into historic neighborhoods, not only from student behavior and trash, but the steady conversion of homes into student housing. This will potentially accelerate if the ballot measure “bedrooms are for people” passes. Historic Boulder should enter the conversations with the University Hill Reinvestment Working Group to attempt to ensure more historic blocks and structures are not lost to student housing and potential degradation. Consider additional landmark districts to protect structures and neighborhoods.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Two buildings and one neighborhood: The Hotel Boulderado, the Highland School, and the Mapleton Hill Historic District. When walking on the grounds of the Highland School, entering the atrium of the Boulderado, or walking through Mapleton on a winter day when the cars are covered with snow, I feel transported back in time. My spirits are lifted and my thoughts freed from humdrum ruminations. Experiences like this are as nourishing for the soul as a walk in the woods or reading a great novel. Although I don’t live in Mapleton, I amble through whenever I can for a touch of this feeling and I am always grateful to previous generations for their foresight in making this experience possible. We are a young and dynamic country, with rapidly changing fads and a fetish for progress. This of course has its benefits, but demographers and public health experts are puzzled by the large and widening gaps in life expectancy between the United States and European countries. My naive and untested theory is that one component of this gap is due to their daily connection with their history via architecture and neighborhoods.

Steve Rosenblum: steveforboulder@gmail.com

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Nicole Speer:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

Historic Boulder’s four roles of education, advocacy, rehabilitation, and celebration are all important. I consider education through talks and tours to be the most significant accomplishment, and really the foundation of all other efforts. Boulder and our region have so much human history, including more than ten thousand years of indigenous presence in the Americas. None of the big issues we discuss today can fully be understood without their historical context. Questions of growth and development, the

relationship between the city and CU, homelessness, and race and class all have deep roots right here in the Boulder Valley, and far beyond. Educating our residents, workers, and visitors about our history is crucial to helping us all understand the present. I am so grateful for all Historic Boulder does in this capacity.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

We’ve done a great job of preserving the grand homes of the wealthy and powerful, but that approach to preservation presents a distorted and misleading view of our history, since most Boulderites of the past did not live in large, architect-designed homes. We’ve not done as well preserving the history of places like the Little Rectangle, which has a long history as, first, where African Americans were allowed to live, and later as a predominantly Latino area; or the Jungle, at the west end of Water Street (now Canyon Blvd). We need to work to provide a more representative view of life for former Boulderites, as well as those who have been pushed out of the city.

We’ve also done better at preserving the physical material of buildings than preserving the stories of the area’s people and the context of their lives, their joys, and struggles. It is challenging to capture the general feel of an area when only one building is preserved. Other than in a few places like Chautauqua and Floral Park, the entire streetscape has changed and I wonder if there are different ways we can capture the history. The theory is that the wood and stone of a building will tell the story of its inhabitants and the broader area, but it does so in a more limited way. How can we come up with better approaches to preserving our rich history?

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Yes. My church building, First Congregational United Church of Christ, on the southwest corner of Pine and Broadway. As the oldest congregational church in Colorado, we were the first church built in the city of Boulder. Our early members, including our first pastor, helped found the University of Colorado Boulder. Our first building in the city, constructed in 1870, was located where the Carnegie Library now sits. Construction on our current building was completed in 1907, and we recently finished major renovations that made our physical space one that benefits the entire community.

My church connected me with a large group of people, some of whom have lived here for over 50 years, who share my values of justice and compassion. When I step into our sanctuary, I am surrounded by the presence of many generations of Boulderites who

have worked to create a city where everyone is welcome. It is at once inspiring and humbling. Groups in the community use our space to expand our mission of service beyond our congregation, including Mindful Works, which was recently toured by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.

In the midst of a climate emergency, physical spaces that strengthen our connections to each other by bringing people together to celebrate, mourn, learn, and serve are not just nice to have but are critical to our survival. Communities with better social infrastructure suffer fewer deaths in extreme weather events. Boulder’s many churches and public spaces like our libraries and art spaces serve an important role in our town, particularly in an increasingly uncertain world.

Nicole Speer: nicolekspeer@gmail.com

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David Takahashi:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

I would say the idea of bringing the past back to life through historic theater. What comes to my mind is Settler Day up at Walker ranch, with a horse plowing, a period baseball game, a butter churning, and a sense of literally being in another century.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

I believe what HB can do best is instill in our contemporary society a sense of place. I believe a sense of place stretches all the way back to geologic time: for instance how did our iconic flatirons come to be? Who were the people that ranged the land between then and 1858? Did the Arapaho, Ute, and Cheyenne get along? Then once the town was established things happened pretty fast! In the late 1800s apples and honey were an industry here. In 1905 the hydro in the canyon was commissioned. Chautauqua went from an apple orchard to a summer camp of sorts. There was a trolley from Chautauqua down the hill. So much should be told? With all the silt coming from the mountains shouldn’t our eastern soil be deeply alluvial and well suited to regenerative agriculture?

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

I am a climate champion and as such am very sensitive to renewable energy replacing coal and gas. I really am drawn to the turbine house for the original Boulder Hydro plant at the mouth of the canyon. The engineering to bring water down from Nederland, and the sheer vision and pragmatism of the Chinese and Irish workers, and the fact that people had to clamor around in the pipes is a testament to some ‘can do’ spirit. With all the water we have falling I am curious if the past might not repeat itself only better?

David Takahashi: the.dragons.be.here@gmail.com

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Mark Wallach:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

Well, I will be referencing the same building for the answer to 2 questions: I believe the landmarking of the interior of the Dushanbe Teahouse represents a large step forward for the landmarking movement in Boulder, as it is the first interior space to be so designated. There was a robust (to say the least) conversation concerning our ability to landmark an interior space, and in the end the precedent is limited as it is an interior landmarking of a city-owned structure, but I hope that the precedent can be expanded in the future.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

To date we only landmark with the consent of the owner, but the ability to landmark based solely on architectural merit, age and historical significance would be an improvement over the current policies, provided such a step is taken very judiciously.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Again, the Teahouse; it is unique in Boulder. In time, the library should be landmarked, as it is a building of architectural merit and extraordinary community significance,

Mark Wallach: mfwallach@gmail.com

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Dan Williams:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

When I moved to Boulder 15 years ago, I was so impressed by the preservation work done in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood. I understand this was the result of years of advocacy and hard work. The results of that hard work show and are truly remarkable. A close second is the preservation of so many historic facades on Pearl Street. As the heart of our city, what has been done there has been critical to giving our downtown a sense of place.

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

I have not yet studied the mechanics of the City’s preservation program in enough detail to recommend improvements to it at this time. As we think about improvements, I am committed to hearing from a wide range of stakeholders well beyond the usual suspects. How do BIPOC communities, certainly including indigenous peoples, view our historic preservation goals? Where do children, teens, and young families fit with respect to these questions? How do our historic preservation rules affect Boulder’s small business community, its maker community, its musicians and artists, and its nonprofit sector? As we think about modernizing historic preservation, I’m excited to hear from the diverse voices that make up our City.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

The old Boulder County Courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall. It is in a central location in the City with a large courtyard in front that serves as a community gathering place, which together represents making justice accessible to all. The Courthouse’s Art Deco style was born out of an era of optimism and faith in social and technological progress. The nature motifs celebrate the beauty of our world. It’s a unique style and many great examples of this style lack protection and are being destroyed. Also it was listed as a landmark because of it’s role in LGBTQ rights: https://www.historycolorado.org/story/colorado-voices/2018/10/24/why-boulder-county-courthouse-recognized-its-role-lgbtq-history

Dan Williams: dan@danforboulder.com

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Tara Winer:

1. What do you consider to be Historic Boulder’s most significant accomplishment?

I will name 2 major accomplishments. The 1974 Historic Preservation Ordinance that established Boulder’s preservation regulations. It gave the vision needed to ensure Boulder’s preservation of sites and areas that are significant to our past. The saving of our treasured historic buildings like the Boulder Theater, the Highland School, and the Hannah Barker house. I love the quote on your website that says: We are the only country in the world that trashes its old buildings. Too late we realize how very much we need them. – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

2. How do you believe the city’s preservation program could be improved?

I think evaluating our preservation ordinance would be a good idea. Is the 50 year threshold adequate or do we need to look at that? We don’t’ want to miss important buildings that are not yet 50 years old.

Have we hit on the right criteria for looking at demolition of older buildings? As I am just learning about the preservation ordinance, I look forward to learning more!

Let’s reevaluate whether or not homeowners of our historic homes can replace windows with more energy efficient options that blend in well with the facade of the house. According to one of my neighbors that lives in a historic home, the historic homes could be quite drafty.

3. Do you have a favorite historic building or site in Boulder? Please tell us why.

Historic Fire Station #2 on the Hill is my favorite building. The facade is so unusual, it’s a step back in time. And it’s a great example of how to reuse and repurpose buildings, as it now houses the Pottery lab. It fills a dual function by not only showing us part of Boulder’s history in firefighting which is so relevant right now, but it also serves Boulder’s creative arts community. As a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, I am particularly proud of the role our parks department has in preserving so many of our historic sites.

My favorite place to take a walk in all of Boulder is the historic Chautauqua neighborhood, which is just up the road from me. The historic home tours are a favorite activity of mine. Chautauqua is another great example of reusing and repurposing historic buildings for modern times.

Tara Winer: tara.winer@gmail.com

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