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Master Plan draft presented to NCA members

The working draft of the Niwot Master Plan 2023 was presented to the Niwot Community Association (NCA) on Jan. 23 at the Left Hand Grange No. 9. The master plan is the first step in imagining how Niwot might look in the near and distant future, and includes an update to the 2012 Transportation & Connectivity Plan that has guided Niwot projects for the past decade.

This vision for Niwot has been developed by the Niwot Local Improvement District Advisory Committee (LID) in conjunction with the Niwot Business Association (NBA) and manifested by Fletemeyer & Lee Associates, Inc., (FLA) an architecture and planning firm located in Niwot.

The effort to develop a master plan began with the design of the Niwot underpass supplement to the CO 119 Safety, Mobility and Bikeway Project (Mobility Project), in order to safely connect residents and visitors between Niwot and the Bus Rapid Transit station to be located at the present Park-n-Ride stop between the lanes of the Diagonal on Niwot Road. The LID funded the rough draft of the underpass design produced by FLA, and Boulder County has now refined the design and incorporated it as part of the Bikeway Project. Funding is being sought to pay for the construction of the underpass.

The LID has launched a series of outreach presentations of the master plan to community groups and to the public, including the NCA and the Niwot Business Association (NBA).

Eric Bergeson, vice-chair of the LID and president of the NBA, provided the NCA an introduction to the effort. Regarding the sales tax money that the LID allocates to projects that are deemed to benefit the business district, Bergeson said, "It would be a good idea to put together what's basically a long range plan for Niwot that we have some consensus around that would help guide us in terms of what we want to do and where we want to spend the money moving forward. What we're trying to balance, though, is a sensitivity towards the historic nature of Niwot and what Niwot is in its essence, a quiet town, this quiet oasis, in Boulder County and I think most people like that, and we respect that so we're not trying to change that, but we're trying to make some improvements that we think would help the business district, make it more attractive and also facilitate maintenance and things like that moving forward."

Bergeson then introduced Dave Lee, architectural principal of FLA, to present the master plan. Lee has been a resident of Niwot since 1994 and moved the business to Niwot 10 years ago. Lee began by defining "master plan," explaining that it is a long range vision, not a construction plan. He said the goal is to create a common vision for all of the parts of a town, including private and public entities and the general population.

"When I show you this long-term vision you're gonna say, 'Well, I'm not going to see this in my lifetime'," Lee said, drawing laughter from the audience. He pointed out the value of a master plan lies in agreeing upon a common direction for town improvements that can be implemented over time by successive groups of people.

Lee identified several improvement areas in Niwot and went on to describe details of the vision of each, which were not in order of timing or priority. He emphasized that parts of the plan will require coordination with and authority from a number of organizations and entities that own property in the areas, and thus the vision is very preliminary.

Lee began with the area east of the Diagonal around 2nd Avenue, including from the Murray Street parking lot near 3rd Avenue to Whistle Stop Park. The goals there are to enhance Whistle Stop Park and Children's Park, possibly expanding the former and possibly providing the endpoint for the underpass path to the Bus Rapid Transit station. Future businesses in this area could expand on the railroad theme.

A significant part of the plan is to provide visual continuity between the downtown Niwot and Cottonwood Square business districts. Lee said that could be accomplished by the color and texture of the roadway along 2nd Avenue and continuing in a straight line to the west side of Cottonwood Square (See the concept image accompanying this article.)

One focal point of improvements downtown would be expanding the use and value of the Left Hand Grange hall for community events, which could include enhancing the east side of the building, creating a courtyard on the south side for entertainment in place of the fire station behind the Grange.

Lee noted that the site of the Sculpture Park could be enhanced as a connective hub and village green. He also said that Cottonwood Square could be improved by creating an enhanced location for Niwot's many special events and festivals held in the current parking lot, which include Dancing Under the Stars and the Niwot Jazz Festival.

A pedestrian sidewalk improvement eastward from Cottonwood Square on the south side of Niwot Road was requested in the 2012 Niwot Transportation and Connectivity Plan and is now seeing some progress from the Boulder County Public Works Department. The sidewalk could be extended to the LoBo trail at the Niwot Road underpass.

Left Hand Valley Grange Park could see expansion and enhancement, with the cooperation of Boulder County Parks and Open Space. The vision for this area expands the park to the south side of Niwot Road, and could include a children's fishing pond, a climbing rock and a fitness park, while preserving or enhancing wetlands.

The park vision also includes a local Native American history tribute area where the restored carvings of Eddie Running Wolf would be placed under the protection of an artistic teepee-like structure. One member of the audience expressed their view that these developments would harm the park's value as a natural area.

Finally, the master plan identifies locations of access points that would receive new signs identifying, directing and welcoming people to Niwot.

After the presentation, Lee was asked how he feels about developing a master plan for the community he lives in. "When you design pieces of the built environment in the town you live, it is more personal, meaningful, and more rewarding....In this case, our direct client is the LID and many of them are our friends. But the greater client is our community, my neighbors," Lee replied.

David Limbach, the President of the Niwot Community Association summed up the evening saying, "It went very well. Dave [Lee]... kept people on message that this isn't a plan set in stone, it's a conversation piece that future development can work towards."


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