Marpa House redevelopment overcomes opposition to win Boulder City Council support

An artist’s rendering shows the exterior of the redeveloped Marpa House. Boulder planning documents.

This story first ran on BizWest.com, a BusinessDen news partner.

A plan to redevelop the historic Marpa House at 891 12th St. in Boulder into student housing is moving forward despite an ongoing uproar from neighbors concerned about student behavior and community character.

The Boulder City Council mostly supported the proposal Tuesday, although several conditions were foisted upon the developer in advance of a final vote on a non-conforming use review in two weeks.

Developer John Kirkland, along with a group of investors who purchased the Marpa House in 2019 for $5 million, intends to “reconfigure and reconstruct the interior layout of the building to replace the high-intensity group living quarters and large party rooms with 16 separate and self-contained residential units,” planning documents show. Each unit of the building now dubbed the Ash House will be three bedrooms.

The Ash House was originally built in 1923 to serve as the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house and was taken over in 1973 and converted into the Marpa House, which provided housing for members of the Shambhala community.

The Boulder Planning Board voted in February in favor of the proposal but added a host of conditions: limiting the number of cars renters are permitted, 24-7 onsite management, occupancy limited to one person per bedroom, quiet hours, good neighbor agreement with surrounding property owners and assurances that the units would be marketed to more than just students.

The Boulder City Council added their own conditions Tuesday: quiet hours from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and the use of a single address for noise complaint enforcement. The second condition allows authorities to revoke the property’s rental license in the event of multiple violations, regardless of which tenant is responsible.

The redevelopment plan has been unpopular with some in the community since it was unveiled, but complaints have only grown louder since a March 6 incident during a raucous party on the Hill drew law enforcement and national media attention.

“I think it’s going to exacerbate difficult conditions already present on the Hill,” Councilman Mark Wallach said of the proposal, summing up many neighbors’ complaints.

Representatives of the developer pushed past the criticism.

“We’re extremely empathetic and receptive to the range of very emotional pleas from neighbors who have shared their views on this from the beginning,” project consultant Rob O’Dea said, adding that the developer “get[s] where they’re coming from.”

However, he said, “It will be hands down the nicest, highest-quality and best-managed property in this area.”

An artist’s rendering shows the exterior of the redeveloped Marpa House. Boulder planning…

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