Between Interstate 70 reconstruction and a proposed transformation of the National Western Center, community leaders in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea say they are tired of projects that don’t take the neighborhoods or its residents into consideration.
But leaders like Armando Payan, a realtor and longtime GES resident, are hopeful that a new project at National Western will be a “good neighbor.”
Colorado State University recently opened its new satellite campus, CSU Spur, at the National Western Center. The campus will host three facilities that each focus on different themes. Vida, which is open now, focuses on animal and human health.
The facility houses an equine sports medicine and rehabilitation clinic and the second Temple Grandin Equine Center, which offers therapy services for both horses and humans. The facility also has an animal hospital operated by the Dumb Friends League, where visitors can watch veterinarians perform exams and surgeries through glass panels. The hospital is accepting pets whose owners are experiencing financial difficulties and can’t afford a vet bill.
The other facilities, Terra and Hydro, will focus on food and water, respectively. Terra will have a rooftop garden, a commissary kitchen, and a food lab, while Hydro will house Denver Water’s water quality laboratory, a farm-to-table café and artist studios.
Cultivating a relationship with GES residents was one of CSU’s goals for Spur, said Jocelyn Hittle, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor. Hittle said Spur will utilize an “anchor institution” model for the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. Anchors, such as universities and hospitals, look to solidify a presence and a connection in a neighborhood through community wealth building.
Basically CSU wants to be a “good neighbor” through economic development and provide area students with job-development opportunities.
“We [residents] can cultivate that relationship [with CSU] into some academic promise for local students, so they further establish their academic foundation,” Payan said. “We can have strong goals and goals that lend themselves to STEM courses. They can set themselves up for the real academic challenges as they pursue secondary education, if they decide to go down that route. And if they don’t, at least they got exposed to the agricultural and livestock world that we live in.”
Hittle said CSU’s partnership with GES residents began about eight years ago. CSU has worked with the Focus Point Family Resource Center and the Dumb Friends League to host veterinary clinics for GES residents, offering free wellness exams, vaccines and neutering.
“We’re going to be here for the long run, so we need to understand how our presence can be something that is beneficial across a lot of different metrics,” Hittle said. “Whether it’s the programs that we’re offering or the way that we are procuring things. Even something as simple as making sure we’re hiring our local caterers to come in and offer food at our community sneak peek. Those things are really important to us. Not only because the food is spectacular, but also we want to support our local economy.”
The idea for the educational campus came in 2008 when the Western Stock Show Association started reimagining how the National Western Center grounds could be used as a year-round destination. That’s when the association reached out to CSU. The two have been partners since the first stock show in 1906, according to Hittle.
“This project allows us to build on that partnership and it allows us to have this outreach presence that’s really focused on kids and families in the Denver metro area,” Hittle said. “We can reach the urban population easily to talk about these big themes of food, water and health that are kind of a backbone of our programming at Spur.”
Issues related to food, water and health are especially poignant in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods, which are some of the most polluted in the country.
CSU has also worked on community projects in GES, including home repair with the help of Extreme Community Makeover and Construction Management students at CSU Fort Collins.
Hittle said CSU has strived to listen to residents’ needs and concerns. One request was scholarship opportunities. So CSU is offering students in the 80216 area code scholarships of up to $10,000 if they attend any CSU school.
Payan said the school has shown its dedication to the area in smaller ways, too.
“They chose a local band for their grand opening,” he said. “They didn’t have to do that, but that’s a good example of reaching out to make us feel like part of the campus environment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
The National Western Center has been a site of contention for Globeville and Elyria-Swansea residents.
In November, nearly 58% of Denver voters rejected Referred Question 2E, which would have allowed the city to borrow $190 million in municipal bonds to build a new arena on Center grounds. GES resident’s strongly opposed the bond measure.
“I think there were mixed feelings since the onset,” Payan said. “It was more of an arena to bring outside tourism from an agriculture and livestock standpoint to the city of Denver. It was an event for them, not really for the residents, especially not the neighborhood.”
But Payan said he has high hopes for Spur.
“I think this is a game-changer for the neighborhood,” Payan said. “You see a lot of these academic institutions throughout the world. Sure, they have nice campuses in the city, but they never really integrate into the neighborhood. I’d like to see that develop here. If they really want to have a meaningful impact, they’ll integrate this whole neighborhood and it’ll be a win for all to see.”