Ideas for new civic center considered at first focus group meeting

By Jennifer Rios

 

After their first meeting to dream up plans for the Broomfield Civic Center, it appears residents want to linger in whatever new space is created for the city and county.

Whether it’s over a nice meal and glass of wine, a great book at the end of the day, or a live music performance, they want to stay in Broomfield.

Dozens of ideas were tossed out at Thursday night at a focus group meeting led by Joe Vostrejs, with City Street Investors, and Dana Crawford, chief executive officer of Urban Neighborhoods, the company chosen to design a space that will help Broomfield create a community identity, bring in tax revenue, and support small business.

When Crawford first began working on redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station, she knew she wanted a hotel and to open a great historic building to the public, Vostrejs said, but she started with focus groups.

“Turns out what they wanted was to drink alcoholic beverages,” he said, drawing laughter from the room.

Before they organized the Denver groups, designers thought people wanted a place to wait for train, but it turned out that the public wanted to use the building every day, Vostrejs said, even if they had no intention of using the train.

Denver wanted the space to offer an Colorado experience.

“Then we created it, and it’s been wildly successful and people love it,” Vostrejs said. “As a developer, that’s more rewarding than coming up with something no one likes.”

Before they began brainstorming, he asked the Broomfield residents to consider what they would use the space for — not what they think their friends or neighbors would like.

“What we do not want is something that looks like an ordinary shopping center,” Crawford said. “The number one complaint I hear across America (is) ‘everywhere I go, I’m going to see the same tenants and the same merchandise.’ We don’t want that.”

A land planner and architect will come later, and develop images of how the space will look, but Thursday’s meeting was the first of three focus sessions.

The project is expected to be 12 to 15 months away from construction, Deputy City and County Manager Kevin Standbridge said, and even that may be ambitious.

The area designated for the Civic Center is 61 acres and includes the George Di Ciero City and County Building, the police station, Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library, the Broomfield Auditorium, North Metro Fire Rescue District headquarters, the 9/11 Memorial, the Broomfield Community Center, the ball fields and The Bay Aquatic Park.

Nearby business owners have been contacted and will be kept informed with plans and asked for their input, Standbridge said.

A questionnaire was handed out at the beginning of the meeting to help developers gauge people’s feelings on different topics, including how the space should reflect history and culture and its importance.

Broomfield’s railroad station and its agricultural past were mentioned as some historical context, but some residents, like John Mowery, wanted the center to be unique and “defining a future Broomfield.”

“I see Broomfield really growing in the next couple of decades,” he said. “I see an influx of retiring people and an influx of young families.”

He said he wants the Civic Center to be a place where “everyone feels comfortable.”

Mowrey said Broomfield does a great job with open space, a point repeated several times throughout the two-hour meeting. And, it has a good master plan and respects historical sites. He just didn’t want “lace doilies and an old western town” design.

“I think you can incorporate pieces of history that pay tribute to our past and at the same time be a forward-looking development,” Lisa Fahrenbruch said.

Joe Ziegler, co-president of the Broomfield Art Guild, pointed to Old Midway as a place with cultural pull, but one that has seen that diminish as businesses moved out over the years.

“It’s not only respecting history, but looking forward to opportunity,” he said.” We have more of a tabula rasa here than elsewhere to define what it is now.”

When Vostrejs asked about favorite places, Pearl Street in Boulder was mentioned, the Art District on Santa Fe and a community garden in Westminster. One woman mentioned the Broomfield Senior Center, where she does yoga and connects with friends, and another a place in Paris, Texas with huge instruments, like gongs, that are lit up at night and open to the public.

While considering what will work in Broomfield, residents mentioned enduring architecture that will last for years and be adaptable for different uses.

One woman suggested a business that hires adults with disabilities — a sector she works with in her daily job.

Others want programmable art space, weekend festivals and an ice skating rink. Walkability is a plus, although as some pointed out, without wading through goose poop.

It’s unclear how the old Safeway building, which Broomfield bought last year, will be incorporated into the Civic Center.

The group also talked about residential, how it could serve seniors and students, and the parking issues that could accompany that type of housing.

When Vostrejs asked the room to imagine they had a magic wand and could name one quality or attraction for the new space, things such as connectivity, permeability and affordability were tossed out as well as more concrete concepts such as a bath house, an artistic taproom/restaurant and a sculpture garden.

Others called for a collaborative education space and something with a “natural” feel that “nourished the soul.”

The focus group, made up of about 30 people, will meet twice more over the next two weeks to further flesh out ideas for the Civic Center. Their ideas will be shared at a public meeting Feb. 4 at the Broomfield Auditorium where the public will have an opportunity to give feedback.

“It’s a very important step for Broomfield in a long line of important steps that have been taken,” Crawford said.

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