By Katie Olson and Chip
Boulder’s downtown district is known as the community’s living room bringing all of us together and also as a well-known, world-class destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. Unfortunately, time and COVID-19 have taken a considerable toll on some of downtown, including the Pearl Street Mall and Civic Area. These are amazing assets for our community, but they are also in dire need of significant investment, improvements and upgrades to extend their longevity, and to increase safety and cleanliness — which are now more important than ever. As a socially and globally responsible city, the public amenities in Boulder’s downtown core should reflect these values.
Specifically, the Pearl Street Mall’s public restrooms at 13th and Pearl streets have out-lived their useful life and need to be rebuilt in a way that ensures that the amenity can be kept clean and safe. Anyone who has used these facilities recently would likely agree.
Some areas of the Civic Area also require significant investment and improvement in order to maintain cleanliness and safety, particularly Central Park and the 13th Street corridor where the Boulder County Farmers Market is held. Quite frankly, due to deferred maintenance, some of the areas within these places have shifted from being community assets to community liabilities.
Thankfully, there is a solution, as well as a window of opportunity:
Right now, Boulder City Council is considering putting on this November’s ballot an extension of the existing Community, Culture and Safety Tax (CCS), which was originally approved by voters in 2014, and subsequently extended in 2017, for four years. The CCS expires this year. It is a sales tax of 0.3% that has funded important city facilities and infrastructure projects, and has provided matching funds for a number of community nonprofit facilities. There are many important projects that have been, and need to be, funded by this revenue, and on an on-going basis.
The current proposal under consideration by City Council would extend this tax for up to 15 years, and potentially generate $200 million in revenue to fund maintenance and improvement of a wide range of city infrastructure, including streets and fire stations. There’s also room to fund the downtown deferred maintenance. The revenue generated from a tax extension is the only source of funding for the work that is necessary to maintain, improve and increase the vibrancy, safety and long-term health of Boulder’s world-famous downtown district assets. If you agree, please let the Boulder City Council know before Aug. 3 when they make the decision on which infrastructure projects would be funded by the tax extension. Please tell them that you would like to see some of that money spent to maintain and preserve our beautiful Pearl Street Mall and Civic Area.
Katie Olson is Board Chair and Chip is CEO of Downtown Boulder Partnership.