By Eric Heinz
The last of the three major buildings at the Colorado State University’s Spur Campus at the National Western Center has opened, completing a nearly two-year construction project on science and learning facilities.
Hydro opened Jan. 6 and has already begun to accept children for classes and instruction. The 125,000-square-foot building will host testing labs as well as various classrooms, studios, and research labs, as well as various free educational programs.
“With all three buildings complete, we’re really excited about what it is that Spur can do,” said Jocelyn Hittle, the associate vice chancellor for the Spur campus. “We have novel research spaces here where we will have researchers and students who are here generating new knowledge in food, water, and health.”
Hittle said CSU is particularly excited about the opportunities the building provides for students to view real-time research and work water scientists conduct at the facility. Additionally, Hydro offers a combination of science and arts, with a 230-person theater and rehearsal rooms.
“You can be an artist or you can be a scientist or you could be a writer; there are ways to contribute to food, water, and health challenges,” Hittle said. “The idea is that if you have artists and scientists together and mingling and having conversations with one another and understanding each other’s field of work better … there are some interesting collaborations that come out of that.”
Connected to Hydro is the “shop” building, which provides work spaces for various endeavors including artist studios. The building was constructed in 1930 and refurbished by CSU, and it retains some of its original features, such as a retractable roof slit.
Hydro will be home to Denver Water’s new Water Quality Laboratory, which will include a tap lab and space for water testing. Some of the testing will include rainwater that drops off Hydro and in nearby areas.
“Our researchers will be working on doing some treatment options before things go to a larger scale testing, and it’s kind of like an opportunity to try things out,” CSU spokesperson Tiana Kennedy said.
Given the space Denver Water currently occupies, researchers are eager to get into the new facility.
“Denver Water actually tests about 200,000 water quality samples every year, and the place we’re coming from is a fraction of the size, so now we have an opportunity to expand on our testing capabilities,” said Alfonso Gonzales, Denver Water’s water quality manager.
Denver Water’s quality team includes about 50 people.
“There’s more technology coming out, and we learn about other water sources in a safe space as our lab has to be,” said Travis Thompson, Denver Water’s communications manager. “We’re very excited about having the opportunity to have exposure working with the researchers in the sciences and here for innovative water sources for the future.”
The building will give people a glimpse into the extensive water testing and treatment of Colorado water and house nonprofit organizations focused on water and water education about the Western water story through educational exhibits and rotating programming, according to CSU.
Just outside the building will be a retention pond, where students will be able to take water samples, bring them back to the lab, and look at them under a microscope.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do (is) not only expose people to these career opportunities, but also offer these opportunities to students to mimic and to try it out themselves,” Kennedy said. “We have master’s classes, PhD classes, certificate classes, things like that will also be offered and are already offered at our space, but we’ll continue to expand on that.”
The sole commercial tenant of Hydro will be Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, which opened Jan. 6 along with the rest of the building.
“We are focused on transparency in both sourcing ingredients and in our recipes, reflecting the transparency that the CSU Spur campus is heralding in with its programming,” said Kate Kavanaugh, founder of Western Daughters.
According to CSU, Western Daughters will show visitors “what it means to bring food from regenerative farms to table with an emphasis on looking at water inputs, sustainability, raising practices, impacts on health, and beyond.”
The CSU Spur campus is funded by $200 million in state legislature funding from 2015.