KUSA - When Kala Baca has to get something done on campus, she knows she better put on her walking shoes. She is a student at the University of Colorado Denver which shares space with two other schools on the Auraria Campus.
"Right now, you know, you kinda have to go all over the place," said Baca, a sophomore at CU Denver. "You need to go to the Bursar's office. You have to go to administration. You have to go all over."
But, Chancellor Don Elliman wants to change all that by building a new stand-alone home for CU Denver on the Auraria Campus where it shares facilities with the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver.
"Identity matters and this building will be the best opportunity to present our identity," Elliman said.
Thursday morning, Elliman held a traditional ground breaking ceremony with school and community leaders to celebrate the plans for a $60 million Academic Building. It will consolidate school services into one place while providing a home for CU Denver students at Auraria.
"I think it's important to have our own place on campus," Baca said. "Right now, we're so spread out and nobody knows that we're really here."
Last year, Metro State opened its own stand-along building. The entire campus has changed so each school now has an "institutional" neighborhood on campus. Elliman says the Auraria Campus is undergoing an evolution which will be beneficial to the entire downtown district.
"I think having an urban campus for a research university is going to be a huge advantage," Elliman said.
Tami Door is with the Downtown Denver Partnership and Chair of the Auraria Higher Education Center. Door says a strong Auraria campus will mean an economic boost for all of Denver.
"Having a strong Higher Ed institution in the heart of your city builds a strong economy for your city and it really sends a strong message that we have a highly educated work force," Door said.
Mayor Michael Hancock, who is an alumnus of CU Denver, says the city needs to harness the potential of the Auraria Campus.
"The energy and the intellectual capital off of this campus to integrate itself into the city," Hancock said. "That becomes the greatest economic opportunity we have."
CU Denver will spend another $5 million to renovate other buildings on campus. All of the projects will be paid for by cash reserves, budget savings, and donations. School officials say no tuition dollars will be used for the construction costs.
"It's a good campus and I think it's nice to be in the middle of Denver," Baca said.
CU Denver breaks ground on $60 million building