The groundbreaking celebration will have to wait, but construction is starting on the first of three buildings that will make up Colorado State University’s complex at the National Western Center in Denver.
The groundbreaking ceremony scheduled April 30 for the animal and human health building was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, work on the 114,000-square-foot structure is underway and is expected to be finished in September.
The building, to be named Vida, Spanish for “life,” will be part of the CSU System’s complex, which will be branded Spur. The complex will be a key part of a more than $1 billion makeover and expansion of the National Western Stock Show site, which is designed to turn the area into a year-round destination and focus of education and community services as well as entertainment.
JE Dunn is the general contractor on the Vida building. Plans for the CSU complex in Denver have been in the works for several years, university officials said Monday.
“Six or seven years ago, we started with a series of brainstorming sessions on what would be a great way to highlight the things that CSU does,” said Mark Stetter, dean of the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Stetter said another goal was to feature the programs relevant to the school’s mission as a land-grant university. CSU officials settled on three areas: animal and human health, water, and food and agriculture.
“If COVID-19 has shown us anything, outside of the medical and disaster preparedness response world, it’s shown us how complex and interrelated our supply chains are. Look at grocery stores, food production, our restaurants,” said Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System. “We’ll get through this, and when we do, I think the complex interplay between food, water, the environment and health, all the things that will be worked on in these buildings, are going to be front and center stage.”
Construction of the other two buildings, to be named Hydro and Terra, is planned to start in October. Legislators approved $250 million in 2015 for the complex in Denver and associated facilities at the main campus in Fort Collins.
The redevelopment of the National Western site is expected to be completed in 2024, according to the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center.
Plans for programs at the Spur complex are already being made, including for the annual Water in the West Symposium, said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System.
The Vida building will showcase CSU’s veterinary program, considered among the best in the country. It will house an animal clinic run by the Denver Dumb Friends League and offering low-cost services and opportunities to CSU students for hands-on learning. Health services for horses, cattle and other animals will also be in the building.
The second location of the Temple Grandin Equine Center will be in the Vida building. The center, named after well-known CSU agriculture professor Temple Grandin, will provide horse-assisted activities and therapy.
The Temple Grandin Equine Center in Fort Collins will focus on research and education, said center director Adam Daurio. The one at the National Western Center will provide services, therapy and information for the research.
The university currently offers horse-assisted therapy in rented space at the National Western site.
“We’re only able to provide services to about 25 to 30 individuals per week. The new facility will have clinical space and exercise space. The arena and barn space will be expanded, which will help provide services to up to 300 clients a week,” Daurio said.
The intent is to provide treatment and services to individuals while also collecting data for research “on a scale that’s never really happened before,” he added. Eventually, the plan is to work with the Dumb Friends League on therapy involving dogs and cats.
Private veterinarians will have access to the facilities, especially during the National Western Stock Show. The building includes housing for CSU students.
All the buildings of the Spur complex will be designed to encourage public involvement, said Frank.
“There will be in all three of these facilities a sort of rotating set of interactive exhibits,” Frank said. “We hope to engage with K-12 students up and down the Front Range on a pretty wide scale so that as teachers are constructing their curriculum for the year, they have access to important connections in these facilities.”
The university will work with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on programs and exhibits.
Stetter said the Vida building will be equipped with up-to-date technology and glass walls so the public can watch the veterinarians at work and take virtual tours.
“We’re very much interested in using this as a way to get young kids, especially when we think about under-represented minorities, or maybe more rural kids, to be excited about going to college, to be excited about picking a career in health, whether in veterinary or human health,” Stetter said. “We certainly know that with the coronavirus that we need a huge number of people to go into public health in a variety of ways that can help in a crisis like this.”
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