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Boulder and Flatirons Habitat for Humanity inaugurate next phase of Ponderosa redevelopment

Boulder officially opened the new Flatirons Habitat for Humanity homes in the manufactured home community of Ponderosa.

This week’s ceremony 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 at a groundbreaking 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 next to West Fourmile Canyon Creek.

Boulder bought the property about two years before annexing it, outlining a plan to minimize travel, preserve long-term affordability, replace outdated infrastructure, reduce flood risk and introduce new energy-efficient affordable housing options.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, noted Housing and Human Services Director Kurt Firnhaber.

“The group I want to highlight the most today is really the people who live here in Ponderosa…it’s their community,” Firnhaber said Thursday.

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

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

“They were somewhat disturbed not only by this project, but by the whole city around them,” Firnhaber said. “When you look at this community many years ago they were in the countryside. The city was not 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 current community.”

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

“It was really difficult to get access to our homes while they were changing the pipes and to get water during those times,” Valdez said. “But we kept moving forward, and that’s been a big plus for everyone who lives in Ponderosa.”

Some residents have had to relocate since the city built retention ponds to help alleviate flooding. Others lived without decks or fences or with partially constructed sidewalks or inconsistent parking lots during the work.

According to a city press release, the first new homes will be built on site over time. Construction will transition to a modular warehouse to shorten construction times and reduce on-site construction burdens for residents, the statement said.

Previous Camera reports note that the city funded the redevelopment project in a variety of ways, including $75,625 in Resilience Planning Grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, $3.6 million in Block Grants from the federal community for infrastructure replacement and $600,000 from the Boulder Affordable Housing Fund for real estate purchase. He received in-kind support from Rebuild by Design for a three-day design workshop.

As the construction project enters its second phase, Valdez said he hopes the community will stick together.

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