In a spirited ceremony that cast an eye back on history, but mostly looked forward to how the University of Colorado Denver and its signature new “cornerstone” will further enhance the city and region, the new academic building started to become a reality this morning.

More than 150 university and city leaders gathered at the corner of Larimer Street and Speer Boulevard (former Lot R) for the groundbreaking of CU Denver’s first building on the Auraria Campus owned and operated by the university.
The 146,000-square-foot, $60.5 million structure will be completed by August 2014. It will include space for student affairs, financial services, admission, registrar, classrooms and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Speakers included University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, Board of Regents Chairman Michael Carrigan, Student Government Association Vice President Natalia Gayou and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

Gayou welcomed the dignitaries and expressed her excitement about the academic building’s “one-stop-shop” services for students. “No more running all around campus to get registered for classes,” she said. “We’ll be able to get the help we need all in one place — finally. And this is something especially important to me in my student government role: The building will help build CU Denver pride.”

Elliman acknowledged that the building will make a statement, but mainly it is needed to accommodate a thriving university. “We have almost 15,000 students at the University of Colorado Denver today. The undergraduate population has grown by about 50 percent in the last decade to almost 10,000 students.” He noted the building will feature much-needed state-of-the-art large classrooms.

It’s fitting, the chancellor said, that ground is broken on the academic building during CU Denver’s 40th anniversary year. “Most importantly, we believe it allows us to enhance the opportunity for student success, which, after all, is the primary mission of the University of Colorado Denver.”

Benson, who has a long history in working with Auraria, said classroom space is at a premium on the campus. “As CU Denver approaches its 40th anniversary, I’m proud of the significant progress we’ve made and the key role we play as a premier urban university in Denver,” he said. “We’ve come a long way since the days of the Tramway Building across Speer, which was known as UCLA — the University of Colorado between Lawrence and Arapahoe.”

Carrigan noted that this morning’s groundbreaking took place near the spot on which Denver was founded more than 150 years ago. The state’s constitution called for the formation of a University of Colorado, and CU Denver has evolved into a “shining gem” within the CU System, said Carrigan, a CU alumnus.

Carrigan has served on the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) Board of Directors, where he observed how the three Auraria institutions — CU Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Community College of Denver — have been rivals but also partners. “Ultimately, that competition made all the institutions better. Of course, I know which one I think is best,” he said. “We really have become the cornerstone of Denver’s economy and today we put another important brick on top of that cornerstone.”

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