BOULDER - New recommendations from a city-formed task force regarding the development of the civic-use pad next to the St Julien Hotel & Spa in downtown Boulder include partnering with the hotel's owners on a project that would alter city leaders' original visions for the site.

City staff and members of Civic Use Task Force IV will present its proposal to city council at a Jan. 28 study session.

The proposal calls for a 65,400-square-foot building to be constructed on the concrete pad. Included would be 8,500 square feet of event space on the 14,660-square-foot first floor for shared hotel and civic uses. The second, third and fourth floors would be for hotel use, which Bruce Porcelli, managing member of St Julien Partners LLC said right now is envisioned by the hotel as extended stay suites. A multiuse rooftop terrace would be shared for hotel and civic use.

The building likely would be developed by St Julien ownership. The hotel owns the land at the civic-use pad through a condominium association with the Central Area General Improvement District, which operates the parking garage underneath the pad.

The proposal is a diversion from the development restriction put in place when the St Julien was built in the early 2000s. As part of approval of the hotel development, the city stipulated that 20 percent of the site must be devoted to civic uses spelled out in the 9th and Canyon Urban Renewal Plan. That meant that the civic-use pad was targeted for a 37,000-square-foot structure that would benefit the cultural, scientific, educational, entertainment, artistic or civic life of Boulder.

Three previous task forces have worked during the past 15 years to explore different ideas and concepts for the site. But, largely due to financing obstacles, viable plans have been tough to come by. Everything from a children's museum to the Boulder History Museum to a 500-seat performance venue have been proposed in the past.

Requests for information sent out by the current task force early last year seeking input from developers on identifying obstacles to development of the site, as well as incentives desirable for a successful project, received no response.

Sam Assefa, senior urban designer for the city, said it has become apparent that 37,000 square feet was too large of a space to be sustained for civic use by one nonprofit organization or other entity.

"If it was financially feasible in a site like that right downtown, it would have happened a long time ago," Assefa said in echoing the feelings of many who have worked on finding a use for the site.

Time is of the essence from the city's standpoint. The development restriction on the use pad expires in 2020, meaning the St Julien would have more leeway in doing what it wanted with the property.

But Porcelli said it also benefits the hotel to get a project in place sooner. Currently, the pad is used by the hotel for weddings and other functions.

"I think certainly what's good for downtown helps us all and helps the St Julien," said Porcelli, who is a member of the task force along with a trio of city council members and other representatives of nonprofit organizations and business associations.

In the new proposal, the general idea is that the St Julien would build the new facility and likely operate the event space. Local nonprofit organizations would have priority on reserving the space, Porcelli said, paying some nominal rental fee to help cover the costs of upkeep. When the space isn't reserved by such organizations, the St Julien could rent out the space for other private events at market rates. Porcelli said nonprofits using the space would likely be able to either seek their own catering and event staff or use St Julien staff.

At the city council study session Jan. 28, city staff will present the proposal and ask council if the new vision for the civic use pad is worth exploring further. Council would also need to support revisions to the 9th and Canyon Urban Renewal Plan and other legal documents in order to approve the event space, which wasn't previously an approved civic use as defined in those documents.

The study session is a preliminary discussion about the proposal. Formal approval by city council of changes to the development agreement for the site would come at a later date. The project would also have to go through the design review process before the planning board.

Assefa said the recently approved Civic Area Master Plan for the area running from Ninth to 17th streets between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue has re-energized the hopes of many for the civic-use pad, given that it sits just across the street from the civic area.

Porcelli said the event space as proposed could accommodate banquet seating for 500- to 600-person events and cater to a wide range of groups, exhibits or trade shows.

"To have an event space of that magnitude in the downtown venue excites a lot of people," said Porcelli, who estimated that the new building could cost in the $10 million range. "I think just after considering all the other uses and having thousands of man hours spent on it, this makes sense. It's a smaller build-out of civic use than originally proposed in the urban renewal plan. So that makes it more viable and feasible."