Last week a member of the City of Boulder Planning Board (who also happens to be a friend) interviewed me as part of a collection of interviews of “luminaries” in a variety of categories in which Boulder is a national leader. I was categorized into a group representing organic, sustainable agriculture but they were also interviewing “luminaries” (I get a kick out of that title) in sports (running, cycling, rock climbing), alternative medicine, renewable energy, high-tech entrepreneurship, and the national labs (NIST, NCAR, UCAR). The point of the interviews is to gather ideas for what the city should do with a parcel of vacant land located in a prominent place in downtown Boulder.

The ideas will be evaluated using the following criteria:

The Flatirons – City of Boulder

  • National eminence
    • Stimulates interest and excitement on the national level
    • Attraction for tourists
    • On-going topic matter of relevance to regional/national/global concerns
  • Authenticity
    • Embodies the Boulder Brand: Boulder’s beauty, brains, quality of life and uniqueness
    • Creation of spirit of place and unique energy embodied in Boulder’s culture
  • Interactivity
    • Activities are larger than the space it occupies. Quality vs. Quantity. Space becomes a ‘gem’
    • High level of visitor engagement. Unique experience during repeat visits
    • Opportunities for unique experiential learning vs. purely didactic learning
  • Evolutionary
    • Ability to change and morph over time-relevant issues/topics/experiences
    • Sustainability-financially/environmentally/socially sustainable
  • Entertaining/ Invigorating
    • Inspires repeat visits by locals and tourists-rotation of topic matter and experiences
    • Creates excitement year round even on a “Tuesday night in February”
    • Lengthens visitors’ stays and turns Boulder into ‘base camp’ from which day trips originate
  • Edgy
    • Presents itself creatively and inventively with an entrepreneurial spirit. Pushes the envelope on the use of multi-media and interactive technology
    • Represents the “edge condition” as in ecosystems; the place where diversity flourishes

Well, those of you who are regular readers of this blog can probably guess where I’m heading with this! Can you imagine any scenario that would better fit those criteria than a Center for Urban, Organic and Sustainable Agriculture? I’m picturing a 3 story building. The first floor opens onto a farm stand selling produce and fish that are being grown in the Center, tickets for the exhibit, and perhaps a small gift shop. The rest of the floor is populated with working exhibits of urban farming systems largely featuring aquaponics. I’d place a small scale replica of a Growing Power style system, plus a Deep Water Culture (raft) system, and a few media based systems under lights. I’d grow lettuces, herbs, watercress and a wide variety of vegetables. I’d grow and sell tilapia, perch, and catfish. I’d add a small chicken coop with access to a fenced outdoor area for warm days. I’d have a vermicomposting exhibit. I’d put signs everywhere explaining the future crises we are facing if we don’t get our food production act together, and how these systems can provide a significant part of the answer.

Tulips on Pearl Street – City of Boulder

The second floor would be an homage to the natural products industry in Boulder and presented as a logical extension of the organic produce being grown below. The third floor would contain classrooms for teaching about these concepts and a meeting space for local groups. Perhaps it would even include an urban farm and natural products business incubator. Of course, the rooftop would feature a rooftop garden exhibit with signage about the amazing amount of insulative value such gardens can provide. The goal would be to use renewable energy sources to provide as much of the energy as possible. I’d love to hear your thoughts – perhaps together we can make something like this happen!