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October 1, 2014

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Council approves new look along Boulder Highway

Henderson's plan to reinvent its eight-mile stretch of the Boulder Highway Corridor won unanimous approval Dec. 16 from the City Council.

The Boulder Highway Investment Strategy is the city's plan to rezone, redesign and essentially redevelop the area. City planners and outside consultants have been working on its formulation for more than two years, in response to the Regional Transportation Commission's announcement that it will install a bus rapid transit system along Boulder Highway.

The RTC plans to have the service running by 2011.

Though the city's strategy began as a response to the transit plan, planners have said that it has evolved to the point that it does not depend on the transit.

"I honestly hope that this is going to be an improvement for the area, because it has so much potential," said Henderson Principal Planner Gloria Elder, who leads the Boulder Highway planning effort. "There's so much developable land and so much opportunity there."

The plan creates new zoning standards that focus on mixed-use projects, which combine living, shopping and working.

Though several such projects have been constructed or approved around the city in recent years, the ones that the city envisions along Boulder Highway are meant to be pedestrian-friendly.

"Instead of pushing the buildings back and putting the parking lots in front of them, we swap that and reduce those setback requirements so that those buildings are right up on the sidewalk," Elder said.

After a workshop five months ago, the council and Planning Commission sought more time to study the plan.

"I think the key thing for us is to take in something that is so far off," Mayor James B. Gibson said. "Even when development was at its peak, there was no notion that (Boulder Highway) was a hot spot."

After that meeting, the planning team added shade requirements to address one of the council's concerns, Elder said. In addition, linear parks on the sides of Boulder Highway, which had been drawn at up to 100 feet wide in some places, have been reduced to 55 feet and limited to one side of the road.

The strategy now shows a linear park on the west side of Boulder Highway from Russell Road to College Drive, then on the east side of Boulder for the rest of the corridor.

"A lot of that pavement is already on the ground," Elder said. "There are some gaps, but for the most part it's in and the only thing that's lacking is the landscaping."

The required rezoning will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February, and Elder said she planned to have a landscaping manual for the corridor also ready for approval.

Some longtime Boulder Highway businesses, including the Mystic Lodge and Mugshots casinos, are already remodeling their buildings according to the new guidelines.

Elder said it is difficult to guess how long it will take for the corridor to begin to look like what the city is imagining, especially given the recession.

"What we're hoping to do is prepare the environment by having that flexibility and that zoning in place so that when things do pick back up, this will be an area that development will gravitate toward," she said.

Jeremy Twitchell can be reached at 990-8928 or [email protected].

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