Boulder's Civic Area Master Plan calls for "preserving central Boulder's historic character while creating a vision for the future" in the downtown areas that run along Boulder Creek.
Participants in Boulder's recent ideas competition were encouraged to "think outside the box" when submitting designs for the new Master Plan. Unfortunately, some of the submissions move—or completely omit—a longstanding Boulder landmark. Why? Some residents believe it's poorly located, poorly used, and to some, even an eyesore.
Weighty community uproar, commence.
The landmark—the Glen Huntington Band Shell—is located in Central Park, and has been a Boulder mainstay since its placement and construction by Denver-based city planner Saco DeBoer in 1938. In 1995, through a community-driven effort to protect the structure from relocation and/or demolition, the band shell was granted landmark status.
Architect Glen Huntington designed the band shell on the inspiration of LA's Hollywood Bowl, attempting to recreate its glitz and glamour. The shell is one of Boulder's rare examples of art deco architecture, and is one of few band shells in Colorado.
But just because the landmark may be in the wrong place doesn't make it bulldozer material. "What's probably not on the table is any proposal to demolish the band shell," says Lesli Ellis, Boulder's Comprehensive Plan Manager. "There isn't a lot of support for that in the community. But we do see some support for moving the band shell to another location where it would be more conducive to performances and have better access."
According to local architect Mark Gerwing, who wrote a recent op-ed on the matter, "Many argue that the band shell is not in the right place—too close to the noise of Canyon Boulevard. Or too under-utilized. Or too attractive to the homeless. Or ugly."
And Gerwing has a point: The band shell is the preferred hangout of Boulder's transient population, causing many Boulderites to avoid the area due to their presence. Not only that, but its current site near Broadway and Canyon has a lot of traffic noise that competes with the music when concerts are held there.
But Gerwing goes on to say why moving the structure would be a bad idea. "Moving the building has implications," he shared, adding that the site is part of the historic aspect. "Once you move a building, it's no longer eligible for the national registry, and that speaks to funding for renovations."
But for every nay, there's a yea. City Councilman Tim Plass, a former Landmarks Board member, said he would support moving the band shell and would like to keep it in central Boulder. He believes demolishing it would violate the spirit of historic preservation behind the landmarks ordinance and set a bad example for the private sector.
"I'm not sure it can still serve its purpose where it is on the corner of Broadway and Canyon," Plass said. "I don't want to see it demolished. I don't want to see it go away. I think it might be moved so that it can better serve its purpose. It's also a prime corner for maybe doing something else."
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said he's never cared for the band shell, and the way it backs up to Canyon detracts from the pedestrian experience of the street, which the city would like to turn into a tree-lined boulevard.
"We have a lot of opportunity to really re-imagine the space, and to do that, I think you have to be willing to talk about moving the band shell," he said.
Lesli Ellis added, "At least one of the alternatives put together by staff will show a new location for the band shell, but other ideas include improving the landscaping and adding other amenities to Central Park."
City planners are still in the process of taking ideas from participants of the ideas competition and turning them into three or four alternatives to present to the community and the City Council.