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Building boom continues at CU

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By Joshua Lindenstein December 6, 2013
Last Updated: 11:19 December 6, 2013

BOULDER – New buildings seem to be sprouting on Boulder's University of Colorado campuses like wildflowers lately – and the list of dated buildings getting makeovers keeps growing.

Still, Steve Thweatt, CU's assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said recently that the amount of construction activity is really no anomaly in terms of the number of facilities or the overall project costs.

"Amazingly, it's probably average," Thweatt said. "Even through the recession, the campus has been as busy as it's ever been in the past, which is really amazing. … Alternative sources of funding have really come through. It's been a terrific boost for the campus."

It's been a boost for the local economy as well.

The seven CU-Boulder construction projects under way combine for $229.7 million in costs, including soft costs such as architectural plans and permitting fees.

That's not to mention the $100 million renovation and expansion of the MacAllister building on East Campus. The Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex, as that project is called, is set to break ground this month, upgrading the 289,000-square-foot MacAllister building and adding an adjacent 120,000-square-foot wet laboratory building.

The two largest projects under way account for more than $150 million.

The recreation center, built in 1973 and added on to in 1990, is undergoing a renovation of its existing 235,242-square-foot space while also gaining a 69,199-square-foot addition that will double weight training space and add a multi-activity gym with indoor turf. There's also a Ralphie-shaped outdoor pool in homage to the school's buffalo mascot.

That project is funded by a student fee increase that students voted in themselves.

Thweatt said the rec center hosts many more activities now than when it was originally designed.

"It's really bringing it to the expectations that students have today," Thweatt said.

The other big project under way is the improvements being done to the campus utility system, including the construction of a new energy plant on the east side of the main campus, next to Coors Events Center. The total project cost is $91.1 million.

The university's current power plant at 18th Street and Colorado Avenue doesn't have room to expand. The old and new plants will provide the chilled water and steam for the main campus as well as enough electricity to power all of CU-Boulder if needed, although Xcel Energy Inc. is the primary power supplier to campus.

"In projecting the growth of the campus over time, the current energy plant is not large enough to handle the capacity … of all the facilities we expect to be built in the campus master plan," Thweatt said.

One area in particular that's booming is CU's East Campus, where the $160 million Jennie Smoley Caruthers Biotechnology Building opened last year. A $32 million addition to that building is slated for completion by August 2016. In the meantime, the SEEC renovation and expansion will come online along with the Pod J building at the southwest corner of Foothills Parkway and Colorado Avenue, a medical clinic to support the University Hospital System that could break ground in spring, according to Thweatt.

Originally a research park, Thweatt said East Campus has the capacity for about 4 million square feet of building space but has less than 2 million now.

"It has migrated over the years to a true campus," Thweatt said.

Under construction at CU

Construction projects under way at various University of Colorado sites in Boulder. Information courtesy of Steven Thweatt, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management.

Recreation center upgrade

What: Renovation of existing 235,242-square-foot facility includes replacement of 40-year-old building systems, a rebuilt ice rink, renovated aquatics area, multipurpose group fitness, plus wellness and athletic training areas. A 69,199-square-foot addition doubles weight training space and adds a multi-activity gym with indoor turf in addition to a Ralphie-shaped outdoor pool.

Cost: $63.5 million.

Funding: Student fee increase voted on by students.

Expected completion: Spring 2014.

Campus utility system

What: Improvements include construction of an East District Energy Plant next to Coors Events Center, rebuilding existing heating and cooling plant at 18th Street and Colorado Avenue, upgrading piping infrastructure and connecting new energy plant with current system. Project gives campus ability to produce its own power when needed through natural gas-fired turbines.

Cost: $91.1 million.

Funding: Bonded and paid for through the auxiliary utility cost structure by which campus users pay for services.

Expected completion: Spring 2015.

Ekeley Sciences Middle Wing

What: Renovation of 21,660 square feet to modernize undergraduate teaching labs for chemistry.

Cost: $15.6 million.

Funding: University cash reserves.

Expected completion: Ready for fall 2014.

Baker Hall

What: Renovation of 114,534-square-foot residence hall built in 1937.

Cost: $41.3 million.

Funding: Auxiliary funding from housing and dining services.

Expected completion: Ready for fall 2014.

Glenn Miller Ballroom

What: Renovation of $13,304-square-foot space in the University Memorial Center, including ballroom upgrades, pre-function improvements, kitchen renovations and the addition of a gender-neutral restroom.

Cost: $3.8 million.

Funding: UMC auxiliary funding and university cash reserves.

Expected completion: Spring 2015.

Campus data center

What: An ongoing renovation of the Space Sciences Center building that will centralize servers for campus so that CU constituents can pay a fee to the data center rather than maintaining their own individual servers.

Cost: $11.8 million.

Funding: University cash reserves.

Expected completion: First $3 million phase to be completed by summer 2014.

Cristol Chemistry

What: An 8,400-square-foot backfill renovation to place an atmospheric chemistry testing chamber in space vacated by researchers who moved to the new Caruthers Biochemistry building on East Campus.

Cost: $2.6 million.

Funding: University cash reserves.

Expected completion: 2014.

Source: Steven Thweatt, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management

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