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Downtown Boulder: The value of first impressions - Why downtown Boulder is more important than ever

Category: Boulder Blog

downtown community at Bands on the Bricks on the Pearl Street Mall
Bands on the Bricks | Pearl Street Mall

Last Wednesday at 5 p.m., rain poured, thunder clapped and drenched shoppers fled into shop alcoves and doorways to escape the wind. Then, as quickly as the storms arrived, the skies cleared, and later that night, hundreds of happy concertgoers enjoyed the inspiring tunes of Hazel Miller and the Collective playing at Bands on the Bricks. Just another amazing summer night in downtown Boulder.

Yes, ladies and gentlefolk, it’s officially my first summer here, and as I drink up all of the dynamism of this incredible place, I’m keenly aware that my seasons of firsts will end. For those of you readers who have had the privilege of being in this community for many years, I invite you to think back to your first walk on the Pearl Street Mall, your first visit to the Boulder Book Store, to Peppercorn, to the Farmers’ Market. That first experience created quite an impression, didn’t it? The fact is, first impressions matter.

And speaking of first impressions, Boulder is about to get lots more new visitors. Have you been to the Moxy Hotel on the Hill yet? It opened late last month, and its modern façade, hip interiors and attractive landscaping have already enlivened the Hill. These hotel guests are making themselves known and bridging the short distance between CU Boulder and downtown.

This influx of visitors is just a preview of what’s coming in 2026 when the Limelight Hotel and Conference Center will open, bringing another 252 rooms, meeting space for up to 1,000 people and 500 additional parking spaces. Limelight is known for its properties in Aspen, Snowmass, Ketchum and Denver.

These long-anticipated new amenities will bring in visitors who will provide much-needed economic activity, vibrancy and connectivity to downtown. As we look at efforts to fill office vacancies, address public safety concerns and create the next iteration of success for Boulder, it’s exciting to imagine what could happen. In this group of business travelers, there could be an entrepreneur who falls in love with this place and moves here to launch the next Celestial Seasonings, Crocs or start the next Shakespeare Festival. And speaking of festivals … do I dare get excited about the possibility of Sundance moving to Boulder? Big thanks to Visit Boulder for making the pitch for that creative juggernaut to relocate from Park City.

But if celebrities and tourism aren’t your thing, here’s a more practical example of how Boulder can continue to thrive by making a positive first impression for new businesses. On June 20, City Council voted to approve some much-needed land use code changes to make development review processes simpler and more consistent. In layman’s terms, it will now be easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to start and grow new businesses, especially in the use review process (i.e., a new restaurant moving into an old restaurant space will have an expedited process). This positive change has been a long time coming, and with a 30% commercial office vacancy rate downtown, we need all the help we can get to get new tenants in and operational.

We may only have one chance to make a good first impression. And just like the weather, it can change at any moment. Let’s keep our heads up, keep supporting downtown and loving the local.

Bettina Swigger, CEO of Downtown Boulder Partnership, is deeply interested in public space and the intersection of creativity, commerce and community.

This article was originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera on June 30, 2024.

Mentioned in this Post: Boulder Book Store, Boulder County Farmers Markets, Peppercorn

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