Boulder has officially broken ground on new Flatirons Habitat for Humanity homes in the Ponderosa manufactured home community.

The ceremony this week marks the next step in the multi-year project that will bring up to 73 fixed-foundation homes to the neighborhood. Current Ponderosa residents can stay where they are but are offered first dibs on a Habitat home if they’re interested.

Boulder Housing and Human Services Director Kurt Firnhaber speaks during a ground breaking ceremony for the Flatirons Habitat for Humanity project on Thursday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Until the city annexed the property in October 2019, Ponderosa, at 4475 Broadway in north Boulder, was a county enclave surrounded by the city and located adjacent to West Fourmile Canyon Creek.

Boulder purchased the property about two years before annexing it, outlining a plan to minimize displacement, preserve long-term affordability, replace outdated infrastructure, reduce flood risk and introduce new energy-efficient affordable housing options.

The place where people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony would one day be a triplex, Housing and Human Services Director Kurt Firnhaber noted.

“The group that I want to highlight the most today are really the people who live here at Ponderosa … this is their community,” Firnhaber said Thursday.

Residents have expressed mixed feelings about the development throughout the process, at least in part because of the disruption that occurred in the neighborhood when the infrastructure was replaced.

Among other things, Boulder paved the community roads, replaced the sewer and water and worked with Xcel Energy to replace the gas lines.

“They’ve been somewhat disrupted by not just this project, but the whole city around them,” Firnhaber said. “When you look at this community many years ago, they were out in the country. The city wasn’t next to them. It wasn’t around them.

“There’s been a lot of change in this whole area, and now there’s been a lot of change in their actual community.”

Longtime Ponderosa resident Carlos Valdez expressed similar sentiments when he spoke at the ceremony.

“It was really hard to have access to our homes while they were changing the pipes and to have water during those times,” Valdez said. “But we have kept moving forward, and it has been a great benefit to everyone living at Ponderosa.”

Some residents had to move since the city built detention ponds to help with flood mitigation. Others lived without decks or fences or with partially built sidewalks or inconsistent parking while the work was going.

According to a city news release, the first new homes will be constructed on site over time. Construction will transition to a modular warehouse to shorten build times and reduce on-site construction burdens for residents, the release states.

Earlier Camera reporting notes that the city funded the redevelopment project in a variety of ways, including with $75,625 in Colorado Department of Local Affairs resilience planning grant funding, $3.6 million in federal community block grant funding for infrastructure replacement and $600,000 from Boulder’s affordable housing fund for property purchase. It received in-kind support from Rebuild by Design for a three-day design workshop.

As the construction project moves into its second phase, Valdez said he hoped the community would remain unified.

“There’s going to be a lot more challenges ahead, but we know this is for the benefit of our community,” he said. “The past stays in the past and we want to work together to build a better future.”

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Deborah Swearingen
2022-05-14 01:56:26
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