Construction Gets Underway on Natural Resources Research Center’s First Building in Fort Collins

Construction crews began work Nov. 9 on the Natural Resources Research Center, a federal project near Colorado State University that is expected to save taxpayers more than $100 million.

In the works for a decade, the NRRC will bring together agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior in a campus setting at Colorado State’s Centre for Advanced Technology. The agencies now are scattered across the Fort Collins area in leased facilities.

"As these buildings come on line, we expect to see synergy among the scientists and administrators working hard to preserve, protect and enhance natural resources, and between them and Colorado State researchers," said Wilbert Boyd, project manager. "It’s a win-win situation that saves the taxpayer money."

Boyd envisions overall savings reaching $115 million during the next 30 years.

The project’s emphasis on improving customer service, optimizing partnerships both within and without federal agencies and saving resources earned it the designation "national reinvention laboratory" from Vice President Al Gore and leaders in the agriculture and interior departments.

Leased from Colorado State, the 30-acre campus will eventually feature five structures dedicated to administrative, laboratory, research and storage functions for the federal agencies involved, all dedicated to research on natural resources.

Total cost of the first building and land acquisition will be $16 million.

"Breaking ground for the Natural Resources Research Center represents a significant step in enhancing research, improving customer service, saving money and reinventing government," Boyd said. "The many people – federal employees, Colorado State officials and representatives of Fort Collins – who have worked on this can be proud that we’ve started on new and better ways to serve this country and preserve its natural benefits."

Judson Harper, Colorado State vice president for research and information technology, said federal workers will have access to the university’s Morgan Library, computing facilities and laboratories and noted that proximity will improve opportunities for collaboration between agency occupants and researchers and Colorado State faculty and students.

"The NRRC and university educational and research programs constitute a world-class capability directed toward managing our natural resources for the benefit of all," Harper said.

Work started with grading the area, located west of College Avenue and south of Prospect Road near Spring Creek in Fort Collins. The project is being developed by Everitt/Keenan Associates II of Fort Collins, Colo.; the architect is Michael Barber Architecture in Denver; and the general contractor is Gerald H. Phipps Inc. of Denver.

When landscaping is completed, construction will get underway on a three-story, red-brick structure with two wings to be built on a buff-concrete base. Scheduled for completion in November 1999, the 120,000 square-foot office building will house the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forest Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Office of Chief Information Officer, Office of the Inspector General and Farm Services Agency. The NRRC will consolidate more than 350 federal scientists and professionals currently working in rented facilities.

On behalf of the agencies involved (the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, other units of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service and the Biological Resource Service of the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey will occupy later buildings), the General Services Administration selected the site, leased it from the university and may renew the lease for five-year periods. Rents will remain stable, increasing only to offset inflationary changes, during the initial lease.

Everitt/Keenan Associates II was awarded the $16 million project after an 18-month competitive bid process. Everitt Commercial Partners, represented by Tom Livingston, will oversee project design, municipal approval and construction on behalf of the developer.

Agencies leasing the structure will then pay back the developer through rent with monies previously used to lease scattered facilities.

Estimates call for the last building to be completed in 2004. When finished, the campus will be a workplace for about 1,300 federal employees.