In November 2008, one of the most iconic businesses in the Brooks Landing area opened for business — the Boulder Coffee Co. One month later, the business was sold to Elijah Wilton, who made one of the most substantial donations to the project of renovating the building for the coffee shop.
Now, nearly two years later, Wilton is trying to sell the building, which would become the new home for the Jewish organization UR Chabad.
According to Rabbi Asher Yaras, the UR Chabad has experienced tremendous growth over the past seven years — and with around 250 members this year, they decided that the time has come to move into a new house. There were seven potential buildings that UR Chabad could move into, but all except the Boulder Coffee Co. building were ruled out because they were too far from campus.
“We have the challenge of having a University that’s surrounded by a river on one side, as well as a cemetery and the hospital,” Yaras said. “It’s hard to get a location off campus that’s convenient for students to come [to].”
Wilton would also benefit from the sale, as Boulder does not bring in enough business to sufficiently support a structure of that size. Additionally, the community would not lose Boulder Coffee — it would simply move across the street, where newly renovated storefronts remain unoccupied. Wilton believes this will help further stimulate business in the Brooks Landing area.
Several community members, however, are expressing concern about this important business moving out of its well-known home. In fact, several 19th Ward residents sent around an e-mail petition, insisting that the Sector Four Community Development Corporation (CDC) veto the sale of the shop.
A meeting was held on Monday, Oct. 11, to inform the community of the project’s details and provide a forum for discussion.
One of the greatest fears among Boulder patrons at the meeting is that the facility will go from a coffee shop, which is open to the entire community, to a Jewish facility that will only serve a specific demographic of the community.
“My goal upon attending the meeting tonight is to listen with the understanding and belief that what our community needs and wants … is a coffee shop which serves not only as a place to purchase a cup of java but also as a gathering spot and meeting space for individuals and organizations alike,” President of the 19th Ward Community Association Afoh-Manin said in a letter to the CDC.
Rabbi Yaras contests, however, that the Chabad house would greatly help the community.
“I think this will be a tremendous benefit to the community,” he said. “We’re encouraging more people to cross the bridge to come to the Chabad house… Once they cross they bridge, they’ll be able to sponsor the local businesses.”
Yaras also stressed that members of the Chabad house would look to do community service in the 19th Ward area if they move in.
Still, students would be living in the building, so it’s availability to the community would doubtlessly be less than that of Boulder, which often serves as a community meeting place.
Another concern is that, during the original renovation of the building, the 19th Ward community did much of the fundraising, with the intent of the structure being made into a coffee shop.
Since all this money was spent during the renovation, it is unlikely that any of the community’s donations would be refunded. Furthermore, the building’s deed, signed in December 2008, states that that the structure must “continue to regularly operate the premises as a coffee shop.”
Proponents of the deal point out, however, that this clause in the deed is not intended to prohibit a change of use, but rather to make sure that the CDC and community members review any changes before they occur. They argue that the meeting on Monday constitutes such a meeting.
Many community members mentioned at the meeting that they are attached not only to Boulder Coffee, but also to the building itself. Wilton, however, maintained that a building of that size is simply not efficient for business.
Perhaps the most frequently mentioned concern was that the community didn’t want the building to eventually become empty after Boulder Coffee leaves. According to Yaras, however, members of the Chabad house plan to move in as soon as the CVC approves the change of use of the building.
Additionally, UR Chabad has been around for 31 years and it would be tax-exempt if it moves off-campus, making it unlikely that the members would be forced to move out of the building anytime in the foreseeable future.
While many of the sentiments in the 19th Ward are against the move, UR students seemed, in general, to be fine with it, including freshman Camila Fernandes.
“I like the location of Boulder, because if you just cross the river it’s right there,” she said. “As long as it’s not going far, then it’s fine with me.”

The Boulder Coffee facility, which will probably soon be owned by UR Chabad

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