Jesse Day + continuing a Boulder legacy

On building a co-working community and more in Boulder

By Paul Hagey Jul 27 2017

On another overcast mid-summer day in Boulder this year, Jesse Day, 40, sits at a table in a building near Pearl Street’s West End that his grandparents purchased in the 1970s. His two young daughters sit nearby, absorbed with devices.

Day’s the scion of local, family-run PMD Realty, a property investment and management firm that had its start when his grandmother and grandfather began buying up property in downtown Boulder nearly 50 years ago. The firm owns a dozen properties, all but two in Boulder, with the Pearl Street Mall building that until this January housed Old Chicago Restaurant the most iconic and controversial (more on that below).

Day, whose grandfather is noted area restaurateur Frank Day, was born in Fort Collins, but grew up in Boulder, where he attended Douglass Elementary and Platt Middle School, before attending high school in Denver.

His parents and grandparents still live here and he maintained a steady connection to the city into his 20s, returning for most summers between age 15 and 24 to scrape bubble gum off sidewalks, repair drywall and “rake rocks” for PMD Realty’s properties.

Outside of his family ties, Day’s personal and professional life drifted from Boulder up until last year.

In March 2016, the opportunity to help run PMD Realty pulled him back to Boulder’s heart from a career in e-commerce and digital media sales. The ability to participate in his family’s legacy and to steward it on to the next generation was the magnet that drew him in.

“Stuff like this, money can’t buy,” Day says.

Boulder character + development

Day and PMD Realty are currently in the entitlement process to renovate the 7,282-square-foot, single-story building that housed Old Chicago, 1102 Pearl Street.

The firm proposes to tear town and replace the building with a three-story, 15,380-square-foot building with retail on the ground floor, offices on the second floor and residential rental units on the third floor.

PMD Realty kicked off the entitlement process in July 2016 and doesn’t expect to break ground for another year as it moves through the city of Boulder’s development review process.

Mock-up of PMD Realty’s proposed development at 1102 Pearl Street (mock-up by Bray Architecture Inc.)

Any development is controversial in Boulder, but it’s especially so on the bricks on Pearl Street, Boulder’s most public face. This one is no different.

The proposed redevelopment epitomizes the challenge Boulder faces as demand, rising residential and commercial property prices and rents and an increasing number of high-paying jobs push Boulder to ever more exclusive heights.

It’s a snapshot in a larger question Boulder must answer: What’s the right balance between supporting citizens’ control in shaping the city’s character and costly development that pushes prices up all the way around? (There’s no easy answer; we’ll explore this in a future feature).

Boulder’s high demand and time-intensive, costly development oversight “have the potential to really damage the culture and character of Boulder if we’re not careful,” Day says.

The proposed plan now sits with the Boulder Landmarks Board. Once passed it then proceeds to the next step along the local development track and permitting.

Finding a Niche

While he and other PMD Realty principals await 1102 Pearl Street’s fate, Day can be found most days just a few blocks away at Niche Workspaces, a new Boulder co-working space from PMD Realty that he’s spearheading in the west end Pearl Street building the firm owns.

Shot of Niche Workspaces’ interior featuring the space’s exposed brick, polished cement floors and abundant natural light.

The upstart, five-month-old space has two small-firm tenants and a membership of approximately a dozen entrepreneurs, developers and creatives. It bills itself as a member-driven, creative community of entrepreneurs and professionals.

Jumping into the crowded Boulder co-working market has not been easy. Galvanize, a tech-focused giant is steps away in a sleek three-story building with a private roof-top restaurant, a keg tapped daily at 4 p.m. and an in-house cafe, as is social-entrepreneur-focused space Impact Hub — both have national brands. TEEM, another homegrown co-working space nearby, serves as both a workspace for freelancers and an agency that feeds them work.

Day’s learning on the fly, realizing that unlike with the previous tenants of the space, you can’t just flip the lights on, spin the WiFi up and collect a monthly check. It takes creating community and an identity, which is not something that emerges without a lot of work and careful attention.

“Finances got me into (co-working) — what gets me excited about it now is the people,” Day says. “I didn’t anticipate that.”

After getting this location successful, Day envisions expanding Niche to other Boulder-area locations.

Disclosure: BLDRfly’s headquarters are at Niche Workspaces.

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Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.