Funding for education may be under the legislative scalpel these days, but you wouldn’t know it by the projects that are rising out of the ground on two of Colorado’s biggest campuses.
ULI members got the details about recent and current projects (many of them LEED-certified) in April’s Explorer Series event, through a briefing by a panel of high-ranking officials from Denver’s Auraria campus and a walking tour of projects on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.
Auraria comprises three institutions: Metropolitan State College, the University of Colorado Denver, and Community College of Denver. According to a 2009 study commissioned by Auraria, the 42,000-student campus has a $1 billion impact on the Colorado economy. Originally designed on the model of a suburban office park, the campus is in the process of densifying—going vertical to make the most efficient use of the land, according to Barbara Weiske, interim executive vice president for administration for the Auraria Higher Education Center.
Steve Jordan, Metropolitan State College’s president, shared some of Auraria’s most exciting developments, on both the real-world and visionary fronts. A hotel currently taking shape at the corner of Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard (flagged by Marriott as one of its Springhill Suites facilities) will serve as an innovative training ground for students interested in the hospitality industry. In addition, the college is putting together an entrepreneur program focused on franchises that will foster investment in individual students. But the outside-the-box project for Metro is a cutting-edge policy venue called The Center for Advanced Visualization and Experiential Analysis. Based on a similar facility at the Arizona State University, CAVEA is an “immersive theater environment,” says Jordan, which will allow public policy-makers to imagine future developments and make decisions based on consequences that can be scientifically predicted.
On the south side of the campus, Community College of Denver is in schematic drawings with OZ Architecture to create a building devoted to college prep, a major focus for CCD. Cliff Richardson, vice president for finance and administration, discussed how officials pushed the design to surround students with an inviting and professional environment. “When students first get the courage to walk on the campus,” Robertson says, “we have to make it a success.”
The main project up for CU-Denver, which divides itself between the Auraria campus and several nearby downtown buildings, is the business school, which is taking over 1475 Lawrence Street, according to Provost and Vice Chancellor Roderick Nairn. Officials have many other projects in the conceptual stage awaiting funding opportunities, Nairn added, including a gateway feature that would help identify CU’s portion of the campus.
Identity is a main theme these days, as Auraria’s master plan begins to shape individual neighborhoods for each of its three institutions, while “maintaining the efficiencies” of shared interior components, says Weiske. The other major issue for Auraria is classroom space. Currently, the campus uses 40-50 trailers to house overflow classes, and each of Auraria’s three institutions is looking to convert or recapture space as it can.
A couple of dozen ULI members made the trip to Boulder to explore that campus’ recent projects with CU Architect Thomas Goodhew. He was joined by Curtis Cox of Davis Partnership for a tour of the Center for Community (C4C), the new campus dining center. C4C encompasses the main kitchen, commissary and dining operations, which have evolved into something like a very upscale food court. Seven different restaurants, with cuisines that range from Persian to pizza, inhabit dining spaces in an array of décors and at scales that vary from open to intimate, all in an effort, says Cox, “to keep students coming back day after day, year after year.” But the real story behind the building, according to Cox, was the collaboration of three University departments (Parking, Student Services, and Housing and Dining Services), each of which brought its own funding, allowing the $84.4M project to be accomplished without student fees or tax money. Housing and Dining was able to create its funding stream by recapturing dorm rooms that had been converted decades ago to administrative office space.
A couple of dozen ULI members made the trip to Boulder to explore that campus’ recent projects with CU Architect Thomas Goodhew. He was joined by Curtis Cox of Davis Partnership for a tour of the Center for Community (C4C), the new student center. C4C encompasses the main dining operations, which have evolved into something like a very upscale food court. Seven different restaurants, with cuisines that range from Persian to pizza, inhabit dining spaces in an array of décors and at scales that vary from open to intimate. Cox said the real story behind the building was the collaboration of three agencies (Parking, Student Services, and Housing and Dining), each of which brought its own revenue stream, allowing the $84.4M project to be accomplished without student fees or tax money. Housing and Dining was able to create its funding stream by recapturing dorm rooms that had served as admin space for the three agencies.
Goodhew led members past the currently renovating Willard Hall and the JILA (Joint Institute Lab Astrophysics) addition, where a tower crane hovers high above a very small footprint. Rick Petersen, a principal with OZ Architecture of Denver, met the tour at the School of Art and the CU Art Museum, where members got a brief experience of the sleek, spare interior—an elegant context for the school’s impressive collection.
Petersen and Goodhew pointed out that projects now taking shape have been in the works a long time and don’t reflect the impact of the recession. The differences in how each institution funds its projects may also be instructive for those creating higher learning’s bricks and mortar. In keeping with its urban surroundings, Auraria relies on a broad funding portfolio that includes public-private partnerships. In Boulder, some projects depend on a combination of bonds, fund-raising, endowments, and even grant monies that are paid to rent space. But students also exercise a kind of grassroots leverage at CU. They can vote a project up or down based on whether they’re willing to fund it with their own fees, as they did recently in approving funding for a new CU rec center.