By Cliff Foster
You’ll soon notice the institutional banners around campus followed by sleek, vertical signs to guide traffic and pedestrians and distinguish the three Auraria schools.
Those markers are among the first visible expressions of the 2012 Auraria Master Plan update, a 20-year vision for a campus that originally planned for 13,000 full-time students but is expected to accommodate more than 50,000 by 2021.
The 2012 plan, approved by the Auraria Board of Directors in June, refines the 2007 version. The update improves traffic circulation, creates new outdoor spaces and further connects the campus with downtown. And, most important, it advances the single institution neighborhood concept that is already taking shape.
The campus core is focused on shared resources—the library, King Center, student union, etc.—and three additional buildings serving all schools are planned.
Each institutional neighborhood is anchored along a main street—MSU Denver on Auraria Parkway, the University of Colorado Denver on Speer Boulevard and the Community College of Denver on Colfax Avenue. This grouping provides each school a connection to the city and an opportunity to evolve a unique identity, says Barb Weiske, executive vice president for administration/CEO for the Auraria Higher Education Center. She briefed a group of MSU Denver staff members last week.
As President Stephen Jordan noted in his Sept. 6 Welcome Back speech, the plan allows MSU Denver to grow. It expands the campus to include all of the building sites along Auraria Parkway and then down Fifth Street to the new athletic fields just south of West Colfax Avenue, which are to open next year.
MSU Denver’s third major structure—what it will house has yet to be determined—is to be built within the next five years at Seventh Street and Auraria Parkway next to the Student Success Building. Like the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, the new building could be financed through a public-private partnership, a reflection of funding realities and in keeping with goals in the University’s 2012-17 strategic plan to define the image of the MSU Denver neighborhood as the entryway to the Auraria Campus and to create joint financial investments with the private sector.
The plan also calls for the Administration Building on the Auraria Campus to be largely under the MSU Denver umbrella, one result of the space swapping underway among the three institutions.
CU Denver will break ground on its first neighborhood building on the Redwood parking lot at Speer and Larimer Street early next year, and CCD’s new building at Seventh Street and West Colfax Avenue will be ready by next May, followed perhaps by a second community college building in the next five years and a dramatic glass addition to the Technology Building.
By next summer all but one of the modular classrooms in front of the Tivoli will be gone. Eventually, tiered patios will connect with the field east of the student union and will be used for recreational and special events. Pending approval by the AHEC board, construction will begin next spring on a parking structure, with lower-level office or retail space, at Walnut and Fifth Street and open in 2014.
In the six- to 10-year window, the edges of the campus will grow and the core will fill out. One future proposal calls for an expansion of the Entrepreneur Resource Center on Fifth Street.
As for traffic circulation, Larimer would reopen to local traffic only and Walnut would connect to Eleventh Street. The plan also calls for a network of bike lanes; the first one on Curtis Street opened Aug. 20.
“Everything for the plan is really coming into place,” Weiske says. “You don’t have to look at this master plan and say, ‘that’s 20 years from now; nothing will ever happen,’ because it’s happening right now. You see your buildings coming up and all of the neighborhoods beginning to jell and celebrate who the institutions are.”
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