Breckenridge, Colorado

Projects are Changing the Face of Boulder

Posted by The Daily Camera

By Sean Maher, CEO

As I dealt with the annual wave of returning University of Colorado Boulder students a few weeks ago, I thought back to when I moved here in 1989. Like most people, I fell in love with Boulder and it didn’t take long to develop some regular habits. One of them was heading to the Harvest House on Friday afternoons for their famous Friday Afternoon Club. Enjoying friends, music, beer and Boulder Creek on a sunny afternoon was a perfect way to end the week.

When it came to stocking the refrigerator at home, I quickly became a loyal Liquor Mart customer. Before moving to Boulder, I had never seen a liquor store on that scale or one that boasted a walk-in beer cooler!

But, even here in Boulder, time marches on and sometimes we are forced to change our habits. After decades of dominating the local market, Liquor Mart was pushed aside as Boulder’s favorite place to stock up on beverages when Hazel’s opened in 2012. The store eventually closed in 2020 and was demolished last year. It is being replaced by a mixed-use project that will house retail on the ground floor and 146 apartments on the second and third floors. The new building should be complete next year sometime.

While the Harvest House is still standing, its days are numbered and the weekly Friday festivities by the creek are a distant memory. The midcentury hotel is slated to be torn down and replaced by 300 student apartments. The developer will start the site review process this fall and is hoping to start construction next year.

Another frequent stop during my early days here was Crossroads Mall. Most of the old mall was replaced long ago by Twenty Ninth Street but Macy’s was left intact and survived another 20 years. Walking into that store was always like stepping into a time machine. It finally closed in January of this year and construction is now underway on a 130,000-square-foot office building that will house retail space on the ground floor. The plaza to the south of Macy’s is also being redone with the goal of creating a more active public area. The project should be done about a year from now in August 2023.

Like most students in Boulder, I also spent a lot of time on University Hill in those early days. It was a more vibrant place back then with a more diverse mix of businesses and more energy. Over the years, the commercial district has gotten tired and a little shabby. But that is about to change thanks to two major new projects.

If you have driven by the campus on Broadway lately, you have no doubt seen the crane towering over the street. It is part of the construction for a new hotel on the Hill to be operated by Sage Hospitality Group. The hotel will feature 189 rooms and 9,000 square feet of retail space. Completion is targeted for December of next year.

Across the street, the university is teaming up with Aspen Ski Company to build the long-awaited CU Conference Center. This project will include a 250-room Limelight Hotel, a 15,000-square-foot ballroom and 25,000 total square feet of meeting space along with retail on the ground floor. It will also feature an outdoor rooftop pool area with Flatiron views and 500 new parking spaces in an adjacent structure. Excavation for the Conference Center and Limelight is slated to begin late this year with completion targeted for spring of 2025.

Both Sage Hospitality and Aspen Ski Co. are known for creating world-class projects and amazing experiences for their guests. Together these two hotels with be a game changer for University Hill and tremendous additions for the Boulder community and CU Boulder.

This town has indeed gone through many changes in the years since I got here. Most of them are positive and important to moving us forward. But I have to admit that I sometimes still miss that walk-in beer cooler at Liquor Mart and those sunny Friday afternoons by Boulder Creek.

Sean Maher is the CEO of RRC Associates in Boulder. He can be reached at

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