The University of Denver already has $143 million worth of projects in the pipeline, plans for York Street improvements and an administrative building underway, but the school still has more in store for south Denver.
DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp wants the university to pull together developers and community leaders to make the area surrounding the campus more live-work friendly. Now might be the time to do it — DU is working on a new master plan for the campus.
The school started collecting data, conducting interviews and gathering information in April. It’s planning to continue its research until early 2018 when recommendations are due to its Board of Trustees for review and approval.
“The campus master plan is really about two things,” Chopp said. “It is about making our campus more vibrant and looking out 10-20 years and saying what would we need. … Secondly, and in some ways most important, is to open our campus to the community.”
Chopp and others want to make DU a destination in the southern part of the city on par with Union Station in downtown Denver. Some of the ideas being floated are new restaurants and a hotel that could be at least partly owned by the school. If successful, DU’s redevelopment could make the surrounding University and University Park neighborhoods more appealing for residents.
“I want the University of Denver to be everyone’s university and for people to see this as a fun place to go, to have dinner at the Community Commons, to hear a concert on the Campus Green, to have some space to do their cultural events etc.,” Chopp said. “We want to make this a place, and our neighbors want us to make this a place, where a lot of people have deep loyalties to this area and are committed here and not just sleeping here.”
The president of the neighborhood group University Park Community Council, Debbie Harrington, said she and others in the area are “cautiously optimistic” of DU’s effort.
“We’ve been following it, and urging our constituency to provide input,” Harrington said. “Honestly, a lot of us live here because we like some of the cultural amenities that are offered by being next to a university.”
Those amenities, she said, include shows at The Newman Center, concerts from the Lamont School of Music, various sporting events at the Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness as well as the use of other facilities on campus.
It remains to be seen how DU will expand its offerings for residents and whether it can successfully court and coordinate development on and around the campus.
At least three projects are already planned and approved through what the school is calling the Denver Advantage: up to $15 million could be spent on a new Career Achievement and Global Alumni Center, $55.5 million could be spent on a residence hall for first-year students and $72.5 million could be spent on a Community Commons center aimed at replacing the 111,643-square-foot Driscoll Student Center.
Those projects are being designed now, according to DU. The school is also currently working with the city to make traffic on York Street flow one way and improve safety in the area. Plus, construction started this spring on a $14 million administrative building at 2601 E. Colorado Ave.
“As far as growth is concerned, we do not plan to increase our enrollment — the Denver Advantage is more about creating spaces and opportunities for students from all backgrounds and continuing to attract world-class faculty,” said Theresa Ahrens, DU spokeswoman. “The Campus Master Plan is about connecting with our community.”
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