Mixed-Use Building Rises on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall

Summer 2015
When it is completed in 2016, PearlWest will include office and retail space in a new, four-story structure with a landscaped plaza as well as a rooftop garden that will be open to the public.

PearlWest has attracted new office and retail tenants to downtown Boulder, Colorado, even before its completion.   

DRIVEN BY A HIGH-TECH and natural foods-based local economy with a booming creative class, Boulder, Colorado, neatly checks off all the boxes for a desirable community. With that desirability, however, come high price tags and huge hurdles for a developer committed to delivering a commercial infill project. Despite those challenges, a mixed-use project known as PearlWest is now under construction on the city’s famous Pearl Street Mall. 

Set in the heart of downtown Boulder, Pearl Street prides itself on locally owned restaurants and stores that host hundreds of thousands of tourists, business clients and residents each year. The Nichols Partnership and Gibbons-White Inc., primary developers of the PearlWest project, recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on this historic and unique pedestrian mall when they purchased a 60,000-square-foot site at the city’s intersection of “Main and Main” (11th and Pearl). 

After the developers spent three years working with the city to garner entitlements and final plan approvals for a four-story commercial project with over 130,000 square feet of creative class office space and 45,000 square feet of retail space, PearlWest’s architectural firm, Shears Atkins Rockmore, designed the mandatory public benefit components required by the city. These include a 15,000-square-foot rooftop garden that will be open to the public and will filter rainwater runoff, a four-screen indie movie theater with 200 seats and another public, landscaped plaza on the street level of the Pearl Street Mall. 

rooftop garden and seating area

Robotic Parking and More

PearlWest will also feature the first fully automated robotic parking garage in the western U.S. The automated guided vehicle (AGV) system, produced by New Jersey-based ParkPlus, will use laser technology to scan cars entering the garage. A car then will descend on an auto elevator and be greeted by a four-foot-tall robotic valet. The valet will park the car in an efficient and dense array, allowing four times as many cars to be parked at PearlWest as in a traditional garage of the same size. When the car needs to be retrieved, the driver simply swipes his or her card at the kiosk or keys in a code, and the car will be returned within two minutes. The AGV system will operate 60 parking spaces in the building, which will also contain an additional 220 traditional underground parking spaces.  

“PearlWest will be the crown jewel of premier office buildings in downtown Boulder when construction is complete,” said Randy Nichols president of The Nichols Partnership. With 50 percent of the building already leased, Nichols continued, “I’m not surprised at how high the leasing activity has been, as the location, large office floor plates and amenities of this property are unparalleled. In addition, we are seeking LEED Platinum designation, one of only a handful of private, commercial buildings in Colorado to do so and the first in Boulder.” 

Some of the features included to seek LEED Platinum certification include premium reserved parking for low pollution-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, including a charging station for electric cars; on-site renewable energy with solar panels on the roof; natural daylighting; and the use of recycled building materials. 

sign in a garden

PearlWest’s construction fence features images of natural elements surrounding Boulder as well as ads for local businesses, making it clear that those stores and restaurants are open and accessible.

Tenants that already have signed leases include Eureka! burger bar and restaurant, which will occupy a first-floor plaza restaurant space, and Crestone Capital Advisors LLC, a specialized wealth management firm offering services to high net worth clients, which will anchor the top floor. They were recently joined by Galvanize, a high-tech business incubator for digital startups. With a 27,000-square-foot lease in place, Galvanize is building a learning center and its “gSchool” community of innovators, students and investors. 

According to Lynda Gibbons, president of Gibbons White, “With the high-speed connectivity fiber service and wide, open floor plates featuring access to the spectacular rooftop deck with a view of the Flatirons, it’s the perfect fit for a community of high-tech leaders and digital entrepreneurs.”  

Mirroring the Community

Every detail of the project was meticulously designed to mirror the needs of the Boulder community, including large open floor plans desired by many progressive companies and “urban mountain” finishes, including natural materials such as reclaimed wood flooring and paneling and planters filled with lush vegetation.   

“Businesses mixing and mingling, people sharing ideas in the hallways — that sense of collaboration is what makes Boulder’s business scene unique. Offering employees a state-of-the-art workspace that encourages innovation and creativity is the essence of PearlWest,” stated Gibbons. 

table with a list of items

The same care that went into the interior design of the commercial space is also apparent during the project’s construction phase, which is expected to be completed in early 2016. When JE Dunn Construction started demolition, it erected a unique construction fence designed to promote local businesses during demolition and construction. 

“Typically, construction projects can cause a lot of confusion and decreased traffic for neighboring businesses,” said Dan Schuetz, project manager at The Nichols Partnership for PearlWest. “We wanted to make the fence a design element that reflects the neighborhood and the beauty of Boulder, while also supporting the local businesses around us.” 

The PearlWest construction fence, which was designed by Denver-based Studio Lemonade, is decorated with vinyl panels that include images of natural elements surrounding Boulder. Schuetz also worked with neighboring businesses to make the fence an advertisement for them, with quotes and information about their stores and restaurants. 

“We want to make sure people know all the stores and restaurants are open and accessible,” said Sean Maher, executive director of Downtown Boulder Inc. “The graphics on the fence at PearlWest are a big part of getting that message out, and we appreciate the investment to promote those businesses.”  

When PearlWest is completed in early 2016, it will mark the end of a long journey to turn a surface parking lot and functionally obsolete building into a vibrant, mixed-use community resource and workplace for nearly 600 employees.