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Building Boom Continues At University Of Colorado

Bradley Gordon
Creative Commons/Flickr

Construction cranes on campus have been a familiar sight for Colorado universities in recent years – and the trend is continuing, with a wave of new projects underway at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

With deep cuts in state funding, however, institutes have had to be ‘creative’ when it comes to funding construction projects.

“The funds are coming from a variety of sources,” says Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood. “That would include some state funding, [but also] student fees, grants and donations.”

CU currently has several major projects breaking ground in December, including a renovation of the recreation center that will include an outdoor pool in the shape of “Ralphie,” the school’s buffalo mascot. Wood says the cost of the current projects and renovations totals nearly $330 million.

Interview highlights…

What other types of projects are underway at CU Boulder?

“One that’s breaking ground this month is a renovation and expansion of the MacAllister building on the east campus. That facility originally was built at the US West Advanced Technologies Center. It’s undergoing a $100 million renovation and expansion into the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex.

Other projects include construction of a new, $91 million energy plant next to the Coors Event Center, an addition to a biotechnology building on the East Campus, and a new clinic for the University Hospital System.”

What’s the price tag for these projects, and how does it compare with previous years? 

“The cost of the current projects totals $229.7 million. And that doesn’t count the $100 million renovation of the MacAllister building that I mentioned, which is about to get under way.

Amazingly, Steve Thweatt, CU’s assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said that the current projects are pretty average, both in terms of the number of projects and the overall project costs. Universities, I guess, always have a lot of construction under way.”

What other projects might be on the drawing board?

“I think that university planners are always considering new projects. One that was announced in the last two weeks was a million-square-foot life-sciences center. That project alone could cost as much as $500 million and would consolidate several different life-sciences departments.

Another project soon to get under way is a renovation of the Glenn Miller ballroom in the University Memorial Center. And CU earlier this year announced a plan for $170 million in upgrades to Folsom Field, but no timetable for the project has been set.”

What about the impact on the local and regional economy?

“I guess I would fall back on an estimate of the economic impact of construction in terms of jobs created -- that direct jobs created would also generate another 2 to 2.5 jobs or so in the economy. So we are talking about a big impact.”

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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