Fitzsimons’ future bright, neighborhood revitalization still uncertain

Aurora officials celebrated the Sept. 3 groundbreaking of the Colorado Science and Technology Park on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Hospital, another crucial step in revitalizing the north area of the city, which has developed a reputation for rundown motels and a high crime rate in recent years.

Commercial development seems to have a bright future, but the area’s neighbors will have to wait and see if revitalization spreads into the adjacent areas.

As The Aurora Sentinel reports:

The 184-acre business park will house research companies and clinical scientists that officials say will tie in with the existing medical facilities on the campus. The park is being built by Forest City Enterprises, who estimate the hotel and initial research building to be complete by fall 2010 and the remainder of the project by 2013.

“With this build-out of this campus, we will be able to turn these discoveries and be able to turn them into the drugs and cures on the marketplace in a much faster time frame,” said University of Colorado Denver Chancellor M. Roy Wilson. “And that, in turn, will improve the quality of life of our citizens here in Colorado and beyond.”

The campus is also home to the University of Colorado at Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus and the future site of the new Veterans Administration hospital, once federal funds are secured.

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer also told the Sentinel that the economic impact of the area could total $4.5 billion annually by 2013.

Developers have purchased almost all of the land on the campus’ perimeter in hopes of building storefronts to cater to the researchers, medical staff and patients who spend time on the campus. But the housing market in north Aurora, which has been hit heavily by foreclosures, may take a while to turn around, even with this economic powerhouse next door.

Within blocks of the campus, it’s possible to buy a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house for less than $100,000, according to Metro Brokers, an online realty tracking company. That’s less than half the median cost of a single-family home in the Denver metro area, according to The Rocky Mountain News.

Officials say the nightmare scenario for Aurora would be if the workers and patients simply treat the campus as an island, commuting to and from their homes in other cities, rather than taking up residence nearby.

With pressures from the housing crisis and slow economy, current city dwellers and officials may have to wait well past 2013 to see their residential neighborhoods reap the benefits of the campus, which has been described as Aurora’s “crown jewel.” The jewel seems to be in place, but turning the east Colfax Avenue into a crown is less certain.

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J.C. O'Connell

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