CSU swaps land with city

Oct 232007
Authors: Erik Myers

With its start-up companies seeking residence around the country to begin commercial distribution, CSU has negotiated a land swap with the city of Fort Collins, hoping to keep them within the city.

Under the deal, CSU will receive 143 acres of public territory at Prospect Road and I-25, with plans to construct a “research park” where start-up research companies will be invited to construct production and research facilities.

In exchange, Fort Collins will gain 267 acres of the Foothills Campus, all of which was originally designated as agricultural science territory, used primarily for cattle grazing. City officials say they plan to use the land to expand its Natural Areas program.

The university has rushed to close its deal, hoping to close before the end of November.

Companies that have blossomed out the university’s massive research foundation often seek commercial territory outside of Fort Collins and Colorado, said CSU’s director of real estate, Victor Holtorf.

“We see it as prime space for lots of different companies,” Holtorf said. “It’s really a tremendous opportunity for CSU to create a gateway, to keep technology in the commercial market here in Fort Collins instead of say, California.”

Holtoff added that by keeping CSU’s start-up companies within city limits, Fort Collins’ economy could see a massive boom within several years.

As of now, Holtoff says, only one of the university’s research start-ups has signed on to development: AVA Solar.

The company seeks to design and produce large-scale solar panel technology developed from the research of CSU professors and students. The company was seeking land to develop its production facilities and had been considering other cities prior to the university’s negotiations.

“We’re attempting to get into production by 2009, and if you’re building a building, that whole process takes about a year,” said Russ Kangorski, director of strategic planning at AVA Solar. “We needed to get some clarity, or we’d be going elsewhere.”

If AVA Solar follows through with its intentions, ground breaking for its facilities on the newly acquired land will likely take place in early 2008.

There has been some concern that the city might have been planning to develop real estate on its newly acquired territory. When President Larry Penley spoke with members of the Associated Students of Colorado State University last week, one senator expressed her concerns about the city’s plans.

Penley said that the land would remain a natural area under the city’s watch, as conditioned in negotiations with the city.

Holtorf said both entities had been eying the other’s territory for nearly ten months before negations were finalized. Holtorf says there was nothing for the university to lose in the trade.

“It was very under-utilized,” Holtorf said. “We’ve got plenty of land for agricultural research and needed some room for research facilities.”

Senior Reporter Erik Myers can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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