Letter to the Editor of the Boulder Daily Camera
Sept. 28. 2018
Why does the relentless march of redevelopment take precedence over everything else? The little, shabbily-painted, well-loved shopping center at the corner of University and Broadway anchors something utterly priceless: functioning, active community. At the tables and countertops of the No Name Bar, Cosmo’s, and Big Daddy’s BBQ, regulars trade stories, mark the seasons of our lives, and experience something fewer Americans have the luck to experience: knowing our neighbors’ names.
This quality and depth of community takes years to build up, defines societal resilience and health, and is supposedly the be-all and end-all of development policy and planning. So why is this not seen as worth more than gold when debating “what to do about the Hill”? Replacing an accessible, fun, familiar community hub with hotels that serve a stream of out-of-town visitors is the equivalent of replacing an old-growth forest with a sterile tree farm. Why are we choosing transience, isolation, loneliness and more tax revenue over embedded joy?
As a resident who can walk to eat pizza, listen to stand-up comics, and drink fantastic cocktails at those businesses, its effacement would turn our neighborhood into a suburb, requiring drives to elusive last vestiges of “offline interaction” elsewhere. When we say that “redevelopment” of the Hill is important, we treat the invisible but priceless community there like a throwaway consumer product. That’s simply wrong. We should figure out how to build on the community that is already there, by augmenting it, making it more dazzling and more vibrant, with public art, better use of space, more pedestrian access.
We can certainly imagine what extra layers of coziness, meaning and beauty could be added to the current development, but cutting out what’s there is the wrong way to start. Good, thoughtful planning should build up community, not destroy it.