Diagonal Plaza redevelopment: Boulder’s third use of eminent domain?
Just the other day, we were looking at a Diagonal Plaza redevelopment plan update, as there’s a public meeting tonight about it (PDF). Here’s a bit of the Camera’s coverage today, which says that the city is recommending a blight study of the Diagonal Plaza Mall.
It’s fascinating for a few reasons, not least of which is that it summarizes the legal definition of a blighted area, which I didn’t know much about. So I tracked down the full definition.
Here’s a summary from a Boulder Urban Renewal Authority document relating to a Diagonal Plaza redevelopment-related meeting in September of last year (PDF):
A “blighted area” is a term defined in Colorado State Statute 31-25-103. There are 11 factors of blight identified in the law, and four of them must be found for an area to be declared an urban renewal area, unless there is no objection by the property owner(s) and tenants, in which case only one factor of blight must be present. If eminent domain is used, five factors of blight must be found. The following factors are used to determine if an area is blighted:
a) Slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;
b) Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout;
c) Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness
d) Unsanitary or unsafe conditions
e) Deterioration of site or other improvements
f) Unusual topography or inadequate public improvements or utilities
g) Defective or unusual conditions of title rendering the title non-marketable
h) The existence of conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes
i) Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration, defective design, physical construction, or faulty or inadequate facilities
j) Environmental contamination of buildings or property
k) The existence of health, safety, or welfare factors requiring high levels of municipal services or substantial physical underutilization or vacancy of sites, buildings, or other improvements
If the study finds the area in question to be blighted, the urban renewal authority may proceed with redevelopment planning under an urban renewal project. A finding of blight also gives the city the right to condemn property using eminent domain.”
Then, in a much more immediate and real sense, the story is interesting because it sheds a little light on the city’s intentions and the bodies buried (er, not literally) under similar projects in the past.
Boulder has only used an urban renewal authority twice: to develop the St. Julien Hotel in the mid-1990s and the Crossroads Mall in the early 1980s. Eminent domain was used to develop the mall.
John Schwartz, a Boulder resident who owns two buildings at Diagonal Plaza, 3300 and 3280 28th St., said there are still bitter feelings among some property owners about how the city acquired some of the Crossroads Mall property.
“I don’t think there’s a landlord in town who likes the idea of eminent domain,” he said.
Schwartz said he understands the city’s desire to redevelop Diagonal Plaza, but he isn’t sure there’s a clear-cut path to do that.
“I think everyone knows Diagonal Plaza isn’t doing that well,” he said. “We appreciate the fact that the city is interested in the area, which I think is positive. (But) even the city’s studies themselves have not exactly given a road map.”