CU Denver wants to add dorms at Auraria, but needs a development partner to do it

University of Colorado Denver wants to provide dorms and dining on the Auraria campus for its first-year students, but needs a development partner for the project it says is required by an expected enrollment surge.

CU Denver has hired real estate advisory and management firm JLL to help find the partner, advise the school on how to leverage its existing real estate holdings and set priorities for its 10-year master plan.

Part of JLL’s job is to find a private firm to build something on a vacant 3-acre parcel next to the 700-bed Campus Village Apartments near East Colfax Avenue and Auraria Parkway, and to construct the dorm on the other side of campus, near Speer Boulevard.

School officials say the master plan also calls for a new engineering and physical science building for the campus.

“As Colorado’s only public, urban research university, CU Denver is committed to its home in the heart of this vibrant city,” CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell said. “We’ve hired JLL to help us determine how we can maximize our real estate assets to the benefit of our students now, while ensuring our land is preserved for the needs of our university in the future.”

The vacant lot is full of potential for the university, said Bob Hunt, managing director of JLL’s Higher Education Group. “The site offers an existing revenue stream from the in-demand Campus Village Apartments. It’s located next to the Auraria Campus with nearly 50,000 students, as well as two light rail stops — one of which provides direct access to Mile High Stadium.”

Zoning on the vacant lot allows for mixed-used buildings as tall as 16 stories.

“It’s an attractive development opportunity for a partner to activate under-utilized land with mixed-use development, enabling CU Denver to direct its focus and funding to its critical facility needs,” he said.

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The new dorm will bring first-year students into the heart of CU Denver’s campus neighborhood and strengthen the university’s connection to downtown Denver, CU Denver Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Raul Cardenas said.

“I look at this as gateway for our students, a way to show them what our campus is really about,” Cardenas said. “They will feel that energy from the get-go.”

Any deal with development partner for the site at Colfax and Auraria will be structured as a long-term land lease, with the university retaining ownership of the property, school officials said. The resulting revenue will be used to cover the dorm construction, and to fund ongoing operations and maintenance services.

A request-for-qualifications and request-for-proposal process will begin in August with the intent to select a development partner by March 2019, officials said. They could not estimate a price tag for the first stage of the development.

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