Bioscience progress slices historic Fitz links



AURORA | The thwack of golf balls and the low hum of golf carts are all quiet at the old Fitzsimons Golf Course these days.

After close to 100 years, the north Aurora course that played host to a U.S. President and thousands of everyday golfers closed for good last weekend.

But that swath of land east of Peoria Street between Fitzsimons Parkway and East Montview Boulevard didn’t stay quiet for long.

By Tuesday morning, crews were on the old course making sure they know where old sprinkler lines are, said Steve Van Nurden, executive director of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority.

And the construction noise is expected to only get louder into 2018 as crews break ground on a new Bioscience 3 building, 240 apartments and potentially a new hotel, Van Nurden said.

“The north half of this campus is going to come alive,” he said.

With the booming Anschutz Medical Campus to the south, the FRA has long planned to shutter the course and redevelop the land that once was home to the golf course.

Along the way, the agency tasked with turning the old army campus into a thriving hub of new bioscience companies has tweaked their plans some. The updated plans presented to the city of Aurora included more housing — as much as 2,400 residential units by 2024 — across the 184 acres.

Still, Van Nurden said, the main focus is finding space for those bioscience companies that already call the FRA’s headquarters home.

That building is full, Van Nurden said, and Bioscience 3 will offer larger spaces for the existing companies to move into.

The idea, he said, is for those more-established companies already in the headquarters to move across the street to Bioscience 3 when it opens in 2019, freeing up space for new start-ups in the spots they leave behind.

The FRA’s newest building, Bioscience 2, is already thriving with a mix of private companies and researchers from the nearby University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Bioscience 3 received administrative approval from the city of Aurora’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week, said city spokeswoman Julie Patterson. The project still has some technical issues that the board has to sign off on, she said.

Van Nurden said that as crews start the initial work on Bioscience 3, the FRA is already starting work on Bioscience 4. That project is in the drawing phase now, he said, because officials didn’t want to wait.

“We wanted to try and stay ahead of the game and look at growing and expanding with these companies,” he said.

While local leaders have always planned for the redevelopment of the old Fitzsimons Army Medical Center to include a sprawling bioscience community on the north side of the campus it hasn’t always moved quickly.

The economic downturn in 2008 slowed things down some, but Van Nurden said the future is particularly bright now.

With a strong economy, a light rail stop up and running to the north and the Veterans Affairs Hospital set to open to the south, he said the time is right for the long-expected building boom at Fitzsimons.