Fitzsimons Innovation Community Master Plan: Holistic. People-Focused. Community-Forward.

A conversation with Community partner and Master Plan creator, Tryba Architects.

 By: Fitzsimons Innovation Community

In creating the plan for a 184-acre innovation campus, Fitzsimons Innovation Community leadership always knew there would be room for change and adaptability down the road. Over a 20-year period, technology and policies change, new information comes to light, and we gain a better understanding of what our Community members need to succeed. Focused on the ‘whole person,’ the update of our Master Plan seeks to build out the Community core in a way that supports research, learning, and living. Today, we have facilities, infrastructure, and wrap-around services for 25,000 researchers, faculty, and staff, along with 4,500 future health professionals. As the campus continues to grow, we will also evolve  into a fully integrated, live-work-play-learn environment emphasizing personal health and wellbeing for every individual on campus, with access to the resources needed for groundbreaking life sciences research and transformative healthcare.

With these goals in mind, we knew that one of our valued partners would be up to the task of expanding and updating our Master Plan. Tryba Architects has been working on the Fitzsimons Innovation Community campus for more than seven years, and we talked to their Principal and Director of Urban Design, Kathleen Fogler, about progress on the new and improved Master Plan. We’re excited to share the interview with you below. Fitzsimons Innovation Community Master Plan: Holistic. People-Focused. Community-Forward.

Fitzsimons Innovation Community: Hi, Kathleen! First and foremost today, we want to talk about the Tryba Architects history of working with Fitzsimons Innovation Community and what that journey has entailed.

Kathleen Fogler: Absolutely. Tryba has been working across the campus development for almost eight years. Large communities like this are obviously huge projects that take time to come together, and it’s so exciting when they do. One of the things we love about working with Fitzsimons is that this project represents the full spectrum of what we do. We started off working on a retail fit-out, and then moved on to the redesign of Central Green, adding the stage and open space areas. We’ve also now designed a ground-up hotel (The Benson Hotel & Faculty Club), and a ground-up, 250-unit residential building (The Fremont Residences). We worked on the visioning and design for Bioscience 4 as well as the next stage of residential, and now we’re excited to expand and improve the Master Plan.

Tryba Architects takes a cohesive approach to everything from the initial urban design—understanding how the vision translates and what the development strategy looks like—all the way down to the final details and finishes, like lighting and fixtures. Here at Fitzsimons, it has been a study in how to curate a sense of community and make mixed-use space feel like a close-knit neighborhood with communal places for gathering, recreation, and retail, in addition to the foundational working spaces.

FIC: How has your collaboration with Fitzsimons Innovation Community influenced your architectural approach, especially in designing a life-work-play-learn environment?

KF: We like to start each project with the context and the location. We look first at what resources are available and how we can put in a framework to connect everything that’s already there. We have to think holistically so that the framework will be enduring, especially in the face of change. We want to make sure that every decision we make will be additive to the community. The biggest contribution we’ve made this time around is in developing the open space network and connecting regional assets, views, trails, regional greenways, and roadways. We are intent on creating a place that’s sustaining, complete, and all about wellness. This campus obviously has incredible tech and research elements in place for peak performance ideals. We build on that foundation and look to create a landscape that sustains and supports that performance. We create spaces that help innovators grow and collaborate in an environment that is custom built to support them.

FIC: What are some of the key elements in the updated Master Plan, and how do you believe these elements will enhance the Community’s focus on personal health and wellbeing?

One of the other big things we’ve added into this plan is recognizing that the need for diversity and mixed-use space is more than just getting commercial life sciences companies to move here. To complete the system, you need so many supporting amenities. The university is key, but you also need the elements that make it home, like modern residential space, coffee shops, and retail—elements that help people live instead of just work. One of the shifts is to make more room for supporting amenities because we’ve learned these are the things that attract world-class businesses and innovators. These organizations want communities that provide everything their people need because they know that equates to retention and employee morale. We’re creating a plan with all those things in mind.

FIC: What role does sustainability play in the updated Master Plan, and how are you ensuring the development is environmentally friendly?

KF: Sustainability is always at the core of any of our projects, and we consider the environmental implications in every element of the master plan. Here at Fitzsimons, there is a requirement for each site to provide its own water quality system, which could work a lot of different ways. We tried to create consolidated open spaces that are primarily for recreation but have the added bonus of streamlining water quality functionality for all the sites. We’re able to use the open space areas, like the bikeways and walkways, for the intended purposes, but also to simplify our approach to managing water. Since the start, we’ve been working closely with the City of Aurora on how we manage water, and our approach has proven to be effective and environmentally friendly.

FIC: In what ways do you envision the updated Master Plan will transform the daily lives of individuals on the Fitzsimons Innovation Community campus?

When we started this project, Steve [VanNurden, Fitzsimons Innovation Community CEO] took us on this amazing tour. It was the first time we got to visit many of these groups, and what struck me is how there is so much happening on this campus that reflects a commitment to saving lives. The Community members here are doing things a new way, questioning the old paradigms of healthcare, and making a notable difference. They look at questions like: do we really need a huge hospital, or are there new ways of getting medical treatment that are friendlier to patients? Imagine going in for cancer treatment but instead of a sterile hospital, you arrive and walk through a garden with a view of the mountains before receiving care in a comforting environment. It’s the idea that healthcare can take place in a more inspirational setting, and that’s the type of forward thinking we engage when we reexamine this Master Plan. We want to create an inspiring, whole, and holistic environment where people build on the best new ideas in patient care. This is what us inspires us. This campus has a chance to be the leader in what the new footprint of healthcare looks like, and it’s a remarkable opportunity.

FIC: Looking ahead, what future developments or projects are you excited about that will continue to shape Fitzsimons Innovation Community?

In the nearest term, I’m really excited about the development of the Scranton Street boundary of the campus. This development will make the transit stops on campus more accessible, which will be completely transformational. It will also allow people to engage more with Sand Creek and the associated trail network, thereby connecting our campus to the larger Denver area by bike. This part of the plan will mark a transition for the campus and anchor new development.

Long term, again, I come back to the opportunity to shift the way we think about health and patient care. The humanistic focus of this campus is what’s most exciting to me and I’m eager to watch how it spreads across the Community, into Aurora and Denver, and beyond.

A Foundation for the Future

Fitzsimons Innovation Community was built with the expectation that things would change and we would always need to be agile enough to adapt to new requirements, developments in technology, policy updates, environmental changes, and the evolution of the health innovation landscape. Our partnership with Tryba Architects ensures that our Master Plan is in the hands of a team who puts patient care, work-life balance, and environmental stewardship at the forefront of all they do. This holistic, people-focused approach sets the foundation for decades of new development and the ability to stay on the cutting edge of health innovation, and we’re proud to work with partners whose values align with the mission of our Community.