BMoCA aims to break ground on new facility in 2027

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Conceptual vignette by Jerry Shapins.

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s (BMoCA) 13th street building wasn’t designed to be a museum. Larger pieces can’t fit through the doors and the floors won’t support the weight of heftier works, like marble sculptures. 

That’s going to change when BMoCA moves into a new space in north Boulder (NoBo) where it will be part of a “creative campus” set to include housing and retail space. 

“The hope with the new campus is that the museum [becomes] even more integrated in the day-to-day life of Boulder citizens than we maybe are now,” says Gwen Burak, BMoCA deputy director. “And certainly, it goes without saying, the lives of Boulder artists. There’s so many artists up in [NoBo].”

But the move is still a few years away. While initial timelines estimated construction would begin in 2025 or ’26, Burak says shovels likely won’t break ground until 2027. 

That’s in part because the new museum is set to be part of a larger creative campus conceived by Boulder-based Emerald Development that will include 17,500 square feet of museum space, 17,500 square feet of commercial space, 67 residential units and 96 parking spaces. Building that will require City Council-approved changes to land use maps and zoning.

It’s hard to know exactly how long that will take — the particular set of processes will be new for the city, says Boulder principal planner Chandler Van Schaack — but City Council and the community have already expressed broad support for the project. While some NoBo residents have concerns about traffic and potential changes to neighborhood character, Van Schaack says the majority of the comments the city received are supportive. 

“This project received a lot more community support from the get-go than most projects that we see,” Van Schaack says. “North Boulder has the North Boulder Arts District, and so there are a lot of artists and makers and people who appreciate art. … People really feel like it’ll be, I think, a valuable addition to North Boulder and kind of an iconic development for the North Boulder Arts District.” 

It’s still early to say, but Burak says initial estimates indicate the building will likely cost around $15 million, which BMoCA plans to fundraise through a mix of individual and foundation donations, government grants and tax dollars through Boulder’s 2017 Culture and Safety Tax. The plot for the site will be donated by the landowners, Burak says.

Some community members have already taken part in a values-based engagement process led by the developer and facilitated by consultants from Centro and Ford Momentum. Through approximately 20 interviews and nearly 200 quantitative survey responses, participants expressed a desire to protect artists, the natural setting, affordability and accessibility in the area throughout the course of development. 

As the project continues, Burak says there will be more opportunities for engagement. Once an architect is selected, likely in spring 2024, Burak says the museum and developer will work with the architect on plans for discussions and feedback sessions. For now, community members can ask questions at the museum’s First Friday booth and send ideas and feedback on the future of the museum to future@bmoca.org

“We place a really huge priority on making sure that the end result of the museum is really infused with the community’s needs and wants,” Burak says. “And that’s beyond North Boulder.”

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