Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Students win hospital redevelopment plan contest

University of Denver students capped off months of work with their second straight Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge victory on April 26. They impressed a panel of judges with an all-encompassing plan for redeveloping the former Denver home of University Hospital.

The facility, formally known as the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, is moving to a roomier location, leaving behind a maze of office space, research facilities, housing and parking garages. Many in the neighborhood have long complained that the campus is imposing and unwelcoming, traits students had to overcome as they designed a plan for the future that would redevelop the busy corner of Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.

Students from the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) at the Daniels College of Business worked with professionals from the industry to craft a plan that incorporated residential towers and townhomes, apartments, small and large retail space, office space and open space. 

In a day of head-to-head competition with a University of Colorado team, the DU students presented their “City Bridge” design. The effort incorporated computer graphics to project a vision that included more than 1,200 housing units, 4,100 parking places, a retirement community, a boutique hotel and enough office and retail space to accommodate more than 1,600 jobs. 

It was the second year in a row that DU students’ work beat out a University of Colorado (CU) student proposal in the annual challenge. DU and CU were the only competitors in this year’s contest.

The Colorado branch of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties hosted the gala event, held at the downtown Hyatt hotel. More than 600 of the region’s top developers attended, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper made a surprise appearance.

Hickenlooper, who spent 20 years as a businessman and developer renovating properties in Denver’s LoDo district, credited the students and the professionals who guided them through the project.

“When I was a student, we didn’t get to work on things like this that were real and exciting,” he said.

Steve Mulhern, vice president of Shea Properties, which is in charge of the redevelopment and has its own plan, said the students’ extensive work would give them a leg up as they enter the business world.

“It’s given them a true flavor of all the dynamics that go into a project like this,” he said.

Celebrating the win, graduate RECM student Jeffrey Corn credited DU professors and the professionals in private business who had devoted themselves to the project.

“This has been the most incredible experience and incredible opportunity,” he said.

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