BOULDER - The Boulder Chamber is targeting its current site and the city's Civic Area downtown as its top choices for a new Innovation Headquarters for nonprofit organizations in the city that are focused on business support.

There are lots of steps to be taken, and any sort of construction is likely at least a couple of years away. But the chamber and its partners in the endeavor are taking the first steps to see what such a collaborative space might look like in each of those locations.

Students from the University of Colorado's Program in Environmental Design gave community leaders a sneak peak at the possibilities Thursday when they presented their ideas for an Innovation HQ. Seven groups of students worked on the mock designs throughout the semester.

"It sort of made it real for everybody," the chamber's president and chief executive John Tayer said of seeing the models.

The Innovation HQ is a vision that has grown out of the chamber's Innovation Blueprint 3.0 plan unveiled last year to help foster the innovative and entrepreneurial culture that defines much of Boulder's business community.

The envisioned HQ is a place where organizations like the chamber, the Innovation Center for the Rockies, Naturally Boulder, the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, eSpace, the Colorado Association of Manufacturing and Technology and COLABS could all collocate to make it easier to work together on their efforts in the community.

The chamber, which also includes the Boulder Economic Council, already shares space at its 2440 Pearl St. building with the Small Business Development Center and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Working with architects on the design of a facility is still several months off. Tayer said the chamber is in the process right now of assessing the space needs of each of the individual organizations that might be involved and defining what efficiencies might be gained by sharing a facility. The next phase, possibly beginning in the fall, would entail more specific investigation into sites and financing.

The chamber owns its building, parking lot and the three-quarters of an acre on which it sits, making redevelopment an attractive option.

The Civic Area, meanwhile, "is very attractive because of the opportunity to be located in close proximity to government offices and the folks we collaborate with on so many policy issues," Tayer said.

The Boulder city council adopted the Civic Area Master Plan last year as a roadmap for what city leaders would like to see in the area bounded by 9th Street on the west, Canyon Boulevard on the north, 17th Street to the east and Arapahoe Avenue to the south. In part of the visioning for that plan, the idea of a space where city offices could be intermingled with nonprofits and private businesses was one that was popular.

The city owns multiple buildings between 13th and 14th streets in the civic area and envisions moving many of the city's offices in other areas of town to the site.

"There's just a lot of synergies that could happen if we had a place that brought all those pieces together," said David Driskell, Boulder's executive director of community planning and sustainability. "We think there's a great opportunity to bring them into the Civic Area."

But Driskell reiterated that there is plenty left to work out. Over the next year or so, the city will be taking a closer look at planning and feasibility for different aspects of the Civic Area like ownership and long-term management of facilities.

If an Innovation HQ were to come to fruition in the Civic Area, it would likely include some sort of public-private partnership between the city, the chamber and other participants. If the Innovation HQ were built at the chamber's current site, the city wouldn't likely be involved.

Tayer said the financing is a piece that still has plenty to be determined, such as how the various organizations would contribute.