5:00am

Thu April 12, 2012
Business

Private Developments Advance Despite RTD Delay

The Regional Transportation District’s decision to build bus rapid transit in the Northwest Corridor rather than rail has caused controversy among supporters of rail service.

KUNC’s Emily Boyer spoke with Boulder County Business Report Publisher Chris Wood about how the changes will affect private developments.

Boyer: RTD is proposing extending rail service to Westminster but would build out the service to Longmont with bus rapid transit until more funds are available for rail.

A lot of developers were counting on rail for redevelopment project. What’s happening to those plans?

Wood:Somewhat surprisingly, it looks like all of the plans are going forward, Emily. We recently spoke with developers of transit-oriented development projects in Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont and Louisville, and each of them says they plan to continue with the projects, even though it might be at least two decades before rail is completed to Longmont.

Boyer: Now, you used the phrase transit-oriented development. What exactly does that describe?

Wood:A transit-oriented development is one that includes easy access to transit, whether that be bus or rail service. You’ll often see projects with fairly high density of development, including residential, retail and office uses.

Boyer: So what kinds of transit projects are being contemplated in the Boulder Valley?

Wood:In Broomfield, one project is called Harvest Station. It’s a Greenfield development that would include apartments and commercial buildings, near the bus rapid transit stop in the Arista development along U.S. Highway 36.

In Louisville, developers are planning a mixed-use project in an area they have dubbed “Downtown East Louisville.” That development likely will include office projects.

In Boulder, multiple developers are working on projects in the Boulder Junction development at 30th and Pearl streets. We’re likely to see a mixture of residential, commercial and hotel uses there.

And Longmont is proceeding with its First and Main development, with connections between RTD service and the FLEX bus service to Northern Colorado. That project is still waiting on development proposals.

Boyer: So, Chris, why are these projects proceeding if rail service is in question? It would seem that these developers are taking a big risk by moving forward.

Wood:Developers always take risks, I guess. And it’s not like these developers are happy about RTD’s change in direction. Many feel that it’s a bad idea, but they say they understood the risks when they launched their projects and that their redevelopments aren’t dependent on RTD rail service. In the end, they’ll proceed if they and their lenders feel that the market will support their concept.

RTD officials, by the way, encourage developers to ensure that their projects can stand alone, with or without transit.

Boyer: RTD has voted to continue with its hybrid bus and rail plan for the Northwest Corridor. What is the next step?

Wood:Right now, it’s up to the Denver Regional Council of Governments, which will take up RTD’s hybrid plan by June. If they give the go-ahead, voters in November will decide whether to OK the sales-tax increase to pay for it. In the meantime, it looks like these private developments, at least, will proceed.

Boyer: Chris Wood is the publisher of the Boulder County Business Report