As an economic force, the University of Colorado system injects more than $4 billion into the state economy each year. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs accounts for about $203 million of that amount, and out-of-state campus visitors make up $20 million, according to 2004 statistics provided by the CU Foundation.
UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak predicts that figure could more than double during the next seven years, based on the university’s increased capacity.
“Our campus currently employs 1,600 people, with a total estimated employment impact including additional jobs created for goods and services generated by the campus and its work force of over 3,100 workers,” she said.
Based on plans for its 521 acres of centrally-located land, university officials hint that the future might hold even greater economic promise as the disciplines of business, engineering, applied science, nursing, information technology and biotechnology join forces to build a community-wide center for innovation.
“We have a very special relationship with our community. One of our core goals is to make Colorado Springs a better community,” said Brian Burnett, vice chancellor of administration and finance.
Right place, right time
The UCCS campus is adjacent to the city’s north gateway on Austin Bluffs Boulevard, between North Nevada Avenue and Union Boulevard.
While the University Village mixed use, and urban renewal revitalization project have attracted tens of millions of dollars of private investment and federal tax incremental credits, the City of Colorado Springs also has budgeted $40 million for improvements to the intersection of Austin Bluffs and Union.
“The timing on all these related improvements couldn’t be better,” Burnett said. “As a commuter school, it will improve traffic around the school and make this area less congested as we grow.”
By fall 2008, Burnett said $71 million of projects will be completed campuswide, and the stage will be set for the university’s next frontier as a center for science, technology and health care innovation.
Economic Development Corp. CEO Mike Kazmierski sees improvements to the campus and Austin Bluffs corridor as a key to the city’s future.
“The North Nevada Innovation Zone alone accounts for 1.1 million square feet of new commercial space plus 3,000 student housing units, a retail center anchored by Costco and Lowe’s, a university research park, a sports complex and more,” he said. “Based on these factors, we estimate 5,148 jobs will be created with an estimated annual income of $321 million. That more than fills the need for 3,500 new jobs required to sustain our community and provide jobs for our kids.”
Steve Bach, a commercial broker and principal at Bach Real Estate Partners Inc., is a member of the UCCS Real Estate committee and has previously served on the Chancellor’s Roundtable and on the CU Foundation Board. He is a 1968 graduate of UCCS.
He echoes Kazmierski’s view.
“On one side city residents will have a Costco-and-Lowe’s-anchored corridor and on the other, the University’s Research Park. Both projects will be a tremendous boon to our economy,” Bach said.
A bricks and mortar overview
Following last fall’s the passage of the Referendum C ballot issue, University of Colorado officials unveiled plans for long-awaited capital improvement projects on each of the school’s four major campuses.
As the CU system’s fastest growing campus, with an enrollment of close to 8,000 students, the UCCS was ready with its wish list.
One of the projects that was held up in 2002 when the Colorado legislature “de-apportioned” funding was a $43 million 143,000-square-foot science and engineering hall, which will double laboratory and classroom capacity. It also represents the largest construction project in the campus’ history and will be the campus’ first leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) certified building.
Slated for a fall 2008 opening, the facility will not only incorporate teaching and research space with classrooms, laboratories, offices and support areas, but also will serve as a hub for biology, physics, mechanical and aerospace engineering, the Institute for Science and Space Studies, and the CU Institute of Bioenergetics.
The project is one of five scheduled for construction between 2006 and 2011,
Schnabel said, and was included in an official five-year strategic plan by CU’s Board of Review and by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
Other construction projects scheduled during the next five years include:
- The $10 million remodel of Dwire Hall is in process and should be finished by fall 2007. Root Rosenman Architects of Denver is the project architect and Nunn Construction is the general contractor.
- A new $12 million Student Recreation Center will be financed using bonds and repaid through student and user fees. Completion is scheduled by August 2007. Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects and Adolfson and Peterson Construction of Aurora were selected as project architect and the general contractor. The 54,000-square-foot facility will include a gymnasium, indoor running track and lap pool, as well as a leisure pool, cardio room, strength training area and climbing wall.
- $11 million is earmarked for 150 new dormitories and $1.3 million is allocated for an energy performance contract, which will be repaid through energy conservation and equipment upgrades.
- The 3,200-square-foot UCCS Heller Center for the Arts and Humanities, an “art ranch” for visiting artists-in-residence is scheduled to be completed by fall 2007. The Colorado Architectural Partnership will be the architect. No general contractor has been selected.
These expansion plans are based on need, said Shockley, who estimates student enrollment will continue to grow at between 2 percent and 4 percent annually through 2012 — reaching 9,200 by 2012.
But that’s just the beginning. Shockley and Schnabel also pointed to a series of additional development plans likely to cement the school’s reputation as the fastest growing campus in the CU system.
The list of proposed construction includes:
- A $750,000 Mountain Lion Stadium with seating for up to 1,200.
- A Division II-scale arena and sports park designed to support not only university athletics but a possible partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee National Governing Boards of sport.
- A University Research Park, dubbed the “North Nevada Innovation Zone” by area economic developers and educators, designed with facilities for private/public research and development as well as for technology transfer and business skill-building between academic and industry teams.
- A $16 million renovation of the existing 70,000-square-foot science building.
- Additional projects with ties to campus academic and cultural programs.
Paying for progress
State budget approval alone will not fund all construction at UCCS.
“They provide the necessary spending authority, but the actual money for capital improvements must still be raised or bonded,” Shockley said.
Some projects like the Heller Center are based strictly on private gifts. The 34-acre Heller homestead was donated to the university in 1999, but the money to improve it came as a gift from the Elizabeth “Betty” Taylor estate in 2005
For new buildings or an athletic stadium, for example, naming rights can run into millions of dollars. Companies or individuals are being invited to “create a permanent legacy” donating capital gifts ranging from $50,000 to $1 million, or more.
“We are currently in discussions with more than one company that is considering such a gift,” Shockley said.
Forging future partnerships
With 520 undergraduates and 225 graduate students enrolled in the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied sciences, Dean Jeremy Haefner believes his program helps attract and retain new business by offering today’s best educational resources.
The new Science and Engineering Hall, he said, will convene the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“With 140,000 square feet in the new building, we’ll be able to move mechanical and aerospace engineering up here from University Hall. We’ll also get better labs and research space,” he said, noting that math, biology and physics classes will be offered in the hall as well.
The facility will accommodate the National Institute for Science Space Security Center, which is focused on pulling together the university’s key assets to address homeland security, space education, STEM education and trauma response, with a K-12 educational outreach program to foster greater appreciation for math and science among the teachers, students and opinion leaders.
Support from private sector companies like Intel, Agilent, Hewlett Packard and several defense-related firms for university-business partnerships has been enthusiastic Haefner said, noting that the university’s Homeland Defense curriculum is used to train members of government contract teams.
Perhaps most exciting, he pointed out, is that the University’s College of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science are beginning to talk about joining forces on an “innovation” program that would marry the know-how of both disciplines.
“In the university world, it’s very cutting edge to have multiple disciplines collaborate like that,” Burnett said.
On the subject of the university supporting the creation and retention of business, he points to research-based start-ups like Securics, a medical laser device company headed by Dr. Terry Boult, or Deflexion, founded by Dr. Michael Larson, both of whom were named El Pomar Chairs in their fields.
“Another great example is Dr. Carlos Araujo, the founder of Ramtron and Symetrix, both headquartered in Colorado Springs,” he said. “He not only started a multi-million dollar business that spun off of university research, but over the years has hired many UCCS graduates and engineers. His companies are leaders in the ferro-electronics industry,” Haefner said.
“We really see ourselves as a catalyst and resource to the business community.”