Project Name: Fitzsimons Redevelopment Master Plan/Colorado Bioscience Park
Project Location: Aurora, Colorado
Purpose of the Project
The 1995 closure of the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center east of Denver resulted in a 578-acre campus to be shared by the University of Colorado (CU) and the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority (FRA). CU plans to relocate its Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) there, developing 10 million square feet for clinical, research and education uses, while the FRA plans to develop five million square feet for bioscience research facilities and associated uses. This master plan gives framework-level definition for the FRA’s development, in coordination with the university’s master plan.
The plan is intended to establish a strategic vision for the FRA and guide future planning and design decision-making. The document may be used by prospective development teams to evaluate the potential fit of their projects within the redevelopment requirements.
Plan recommendations emerged from street-based urban design principles, where buildings are positioned as part of an integrated public realm. Streets are well distributed and interconnected in order to manage traffic, establish development frontage and organize utilities. The street framework and associated parcels are organized to flexibly accommodate various bioscience enterprise sizes. Multi-tenant, single-tenant and multiple-building opportunities exist within the development framework. Blocks have been sized to accommodate parking with direct relationships to buildings that they serve.
A hierarchy of outdoor spaces links the regional park, central commons, corporate courtyards and plazas. These spaces are important meeting places for users of the Bioscience Park and Health Sciences Center.
The land-use plan is programmed for diversity, promoting residential, retail, recreational, hospitality and conference facilities to complement and serve education, office and laboratory uses. Two primary mixed-use centers are proposed for the site, both of which are organized around transit stations. Development densities in these areas must achieve thresholds necessary for effective use as transit villages. Structured parking is viewed as a key ingredient in this equation and selected historic buildings are integrated into these centers.
Architecture in the Bioscience Park is mandated as contemporary, with diverse themes, derived from the innovative missions of individual corporate tenants, with the guiding principle that non-traditional buildings will each contribute a unique identity to the park. These buildings will be unified in their attention to massing build-to lines and public space relationships.
Role of the Landscape Architects vs. Role of Other Participants
The landscape architect was responsible for leading the master-plan process, facilitating consensus building and establishing design guidelines for future development. A civil engineering firm was responsible for street and utility infrastructure.
The plan is the product of a nine-month-long series of presentations and work sessions, with input of university groups and Aurora City agencies, as well as three development teams, which participated in a several-stage interview process as candidates to develop the core mixed-use area known as Fitzsimons Commons. Hotel and office developer representatives were interviewed by the landscape architect to test organizational viability of the plan. Following work sessions with representatives from the Children’s Hospital, University Hospital and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; a parking consultant reviewed and confirmed the primary parking recommendations of the plan.
The redevelopment of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center represents an unparalleled opportunity to establish a bioscience research park affiliated with a major academic medical institution. The development will be distinguished from its competitors as a model a true “Life-sciences City.” Including the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the Colorado Bioscience Park Aurora and the Fitzsimons Commons, the development will function as a place to work, educate, discover, live, shop and recreate. The spirit of Colorado will be celebrated with an emphasis on an integrated and vital public realm that expresses the theme of health and wellness.
Factors that support this development include readily available land, a direct relationship to a premier medical teaching and research university, strong transportation access and close proximity to housing. Realistic development potential is further enhanced by favorable access to venture capital and an enthusiastic embrace by local political forces.
Direct highway and arterial access ring the site, and light-rail transit will improve its metro reach dramatically. A central metropolitan location allows a 20-minute drive to Denver International Airport, downtown Denver or the Denver Tech Center. A 30-minute drive reaches 50 percent of the metro area. Immediate proximity to a diverse collection of neighborhoods, including a redeveloping Stapleton Airport, establishes a broad demographic base of potential employees.
The Bioscience Park and Health Sciences Center is not designed as a closed enclave. The plan takes into account its location and use, which allow for it to take advantage of evolving market conditions and growth opportunities in its surroundings. The plan organizes the redevelopment to function as a catalyst, casting the perimeter of the campus as a strong interface along the Colfax Avenue commercial corridor and seeking to integrate the Fitzsimons project with redevelopment opportunities along its edges. This will allow the Fitzsimons plan, as it comes to fruition, to exert a catalyst influence on adjoining underdeveloped or re-developable properties – including the addition of housing and commercial areas to employment uses. Significant live-work opportunities will broaden the appeal for prospective corporate tenants. Improved housing options for educated professionals and students will become more important as the medical and bioscience uses mature. Ownership units will stabilize the area and establish a sense of community. Affordable housing will address a likely mixed demographic campus need.
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