Master Plan envisions big projects, including residence hall

Funding for many projects remains contingent on state approval

April 25, 2018

The University of Colorado Denver’s 10-year Facilities Master Plan is filled with exciting and needed projects, all adding to the scholarly and student-focused muscle that’s central to our goal of becoming an undisputed top asset in the city of Denver.

‘The residence facility has the chance to change the campus in a pretty significant way.’

–  Cary Weatherford

Especially exciting on this roadmap, which was the main topic of Tuesday’s Campus Conversation in the Terrace Room, is a planned 400- to 500-bed residence and dining facility for first-year students. Were funding to be secured to build the facility, it would be situated between North Classroom and the Student Commons Building, bringing first-year students into the heart of CU Denver’s Speer Boulevard neighborhood and strengthening the university’s connection to downtown Denver.

There are several transformative projects included in the plan, said Cary Weatherford, associate director for the Office of Institutional Planning, “but I’m especially excited about this one. The residence facility has the chance to change the campus in a pretty significant way.”

Weatherford noted that most of the planned projects are contingent on receiving some state funding, far from a given in today’s state budget climate.

‘Gateway for our students’

CU Denver Master Plan street view
This image shows phase-one projects (first five years) – new facilities in red – of the 10-year Facilities Master Plan.

Raul Cardenas, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, added that the new residence facility would help build community, acclimate students to campus and further connect them to CU Denver’s vibrant downtown setting. “I look at this as a gateway for our students, a way to show them what our campus is really about. They’re going to be feeling that energy from the get-go.” He emphasized that “we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the housing is affordable.”

The Facilities Master Plan, approved by the Board of Regents in November, maps out a vision for the campus over a decade, broken into two five-year phases. If this vision comes to fruition, the CU Denver campus will look and feel much different in a decade or two.

Driven by existing needs and targets for enrollment and research growth and increasing space needs, the nearly $850 million plan includes eight new facilities and six renovations of existing spaces. It calls for leveraging the university’s urban location and responding to students’ desire for more living and learning opportunities on campus.

First-phase projects (years 1-5) include:

CU Denver Master Plan bird's eye view
This image shows where phase-one and phase-two projects of the 10-year Facilities Master Plan would be located in the CU Denver neighborhood.
  • A residence and dining hall next to North Classroom
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences building, phase one (south of the Science building); North Classroom Engineering backfill
  • Business School, phase two (events center, entrepreneurial innovation lab, 125-seat auditorium)
  • Instructional lab wing (addition to the west side of the Science Building)
  • A mixed-use “Nexus” residential building between the north and south lanes of Speer Boulevard on Larimer Street (currently a city-owned parking lot)
  • Renovations to the CU Denver Building

Second-phase projects (years 6-10) include:

  • A Science Building addition
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences building, phase two
  • A CU Denver Building annex tower at the corner of 14th and Larimer streets
  • Renovations to Lawrence Street Center

Weatherford said the Nexus building and the CU Denver Building annex tower signal a developing theme of CU Denver’s neighborhood. “What you’re beginning to see here is a desire to create a feeling on Larimer Street that is active and really brings in a lot of the character of downtown,” he said.

The three prioritized capital projects in the first phase – Engineering building (targeted for completion in ’19-’20), Instructional lab (’20-’21) and the CU Denver Building renovation (’21-’22) – are dependent on receiving state funding, which will be made as a three-year package request this year.

Engineering, Business projects

Martin Dunn, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and Rohan Christie-David, dean of the Business School, spoke about the planned projects in their respective areas.

Noting that the new engineering facilities will promote interdisciplinary learning and human-centered designs, Dunn said, “We’re focused on creating an environment that supports development of the engineer of the future.”

‘What you’re beginning to see here is a desire to create a feeling on Larimer Street that is active and really brings in a lot of the character of downtown.’


Christie-David said the Business School’s physical additions “are not just for the Business School – they’re for the university. They will also help promote even closer ties with our industry partners.”

View a slideshow with maps and details of the Master Plan.

Improving crosswalks at Speer and Larimer

Weatherford said Senior Institutional Planner Erik Balsley and Chief Planning Officer Michael Del Giudice played key roles in developing the Master Plan, which includes considerations on:

  • “Active-office” guidelines, similar to those being used at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
  • Continued involvement with the city-led effort to improve safety of the Larimer Street crossing at Speer Boulevard.
  • Developing campus sustainability strategies.
  • Better aligning course enrollments to classroom sizes to improve occupancy.
  • Implementing recently purchased computer-aided facility management software (CAFM).

Jennifer Sobanet, CU Denver chief financial officer and vice chancellor of Administration and Finance, responded to a question submitted about how CU Denver is honoring legacy populations that lived on the Auraria Campus site:

  • The 9th Street Historical Park features a plaque dedicated to the Aurarians who were displaced when the campus was developed.
  • The Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage, a tri-institutional group, was created to promote the early Auraria settlement and indigenous populations residing there.

Sobanet reported that CU Denver received Regent approval for a budget re-write for this fiscal year. She noted that a lower-than-expected decline in international enrollment helped CU Denver to exceed revenue projections for the current fiscal year. Additionally, Sobanet anticipates that in the June Board of Regents meeting, the FY18-19 budget will be approved. This includes a 3 percent compensation pool for employees; more details are available in this CU Connections report.

LYNX UP, Wagner, Wellness Center

In other remarks at the last Campus Conversation of the academic year:

  • Chancellor Dorothy Horrell encouraged the campus community to continue its already strong participation in the LYNX UP Challenge, which ends May 1. She said the LYNX UP scholarship campaign is essential to easing students’ financial barriers to higher education.
  • Horrell acknowledged the exceptional leadership provided by Vice Chancellor of Advancement Andrea Wagner, who will step down on May 18. A retirement reception for Wagner is set for 3-5 p.m. Thursday, May 17, in the 12th-floor Advancement suite of Lawrence Street Center.
  • Amber Long, director of the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, announced a May 9 open house for the Student Wellness Center. The center will officially open in June.