Millionaires for vacant concrete pads

Protect Boulder Civic Space is an astroturf group for wealthy condo owners next door

Courtesy: St Julien

A new group, Protect Boulder Civic Space (PBCS) group, has sprung up to oppose development of the 11,000-square-foot Civic Use Pad attached to the St Julien Hotel. As I wrote to Boulder’s Planning Board in April, interest in protecting the Civic Use Pad is not a grassroots movement but a carefully choreographed opposition strategy involving legal and public relations professionals acting on behalf of wealthy neighboring property owners.

The Civic Use Pad is to the east of the St Julien Hotel (900 Walnut St.) and to the west of the Arete condos (1077 Canyon Boulevard). Any multi-story development of the Civic Use Pad would impede the minimally obstructed western views that many of the Arete condos currently enjoy of Boulder’s Flatirons and foothills, potentially reducing the value of this real estate.

The composition of the PBCS group is undeniably shaped by the interests of the residents of the condos. According to Boulder County Assessor’s property records and voter information files, ten of the PBCS members/households own property and eight are registered to vote in the Arete condo complex. 

The combined value of these PBCS members’ Arete condos is $34.8 million. A PayPal account accepts donations to the LLC defending the interests of these wealthy condo owners.

The PBCS group employs a high degree of legal and public relations planning and coordination that is unusual outside of an electoral campaign. According to Secretary of State records, PBCS is an LLC incorporated on Jan. 16, 2024, by Stanley Garnett’s law firm (a PBCS supporter). The domain name was registered on Feb. 8, 2024 and their website is developed by a public relations firm owned by Doyle Albee (also a PBCS supporter). A press release announcing the formation of the group was published on April 5, 2024.

The PBCS website contains draft letters for supporters to submit to city council and local papers opposing the development. These letters emphasize themes like “monolithic and out of character,” “safety/parking” and “original intent” with alarming allegations that a “monstrous 56,900-square-foot complex” would snarl traffic and “completely cut off downtown from the civic areas at the Library and Central Park.”

On April 24, Cindy Lindsay (identified in the April 5 press release as the group’s spokesperson) authored a guest opinion in the Camera emphasizing character, parking and original intent criticisms. Like many other PBCS members, Lindsay did not disclose her multi-million-dollar ownership interest in real estate adjoining the Civic Use Pad.

The PBCS may feign interest in allowing the Civic Use Pad to be developed into alternative public use spaces like a performance venue, but it is unlikely that any multi-story development on this parcel would satisfy condo owners’ interests of preserving their sightlines from development. 

Instead of purchasing the Civic Use Pad to control its (non)use, these condo owners intend to pursue a much less expensive option of abusing planning processes to block or delay the conversion of an empty downtown parcel into usable and productive spaces.

While members of the PBCS are within their rights to petition the city through the Planning Board to oppose development of this space, Boulder’s residents and planning officials should be aware this group is little more than a professionally coordinated astroturfing campaign by wealthy condo owners to protect the value of their real estate.

I encourage the Planing Board and city council to act expediently on proposals to develop the Civic Use Pad into more productive uses for all Boulder residents.

Brian Keegan is an assistant professor in information science at CU Boulder and board member of Boulder Progressives. He is writing in his own capacity, not on behalf of either organization.

Editor’s note: Boulder Weekly reached out to PBCS to provide them with a general overview of this Op-Ed. Stan Garnett, the attorney representing the group provided the following statement:  “It is not our intention to stop development and keep this space empty. Instead, our goal is to foster community dialog and input to ensure any construction on the last civic space with a view of the Flatirons in downtown Boulder meets the needs of the community as a whole. The St Julien’s current plans do not meet that criteria.”

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


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