Client story

University of Colorado fuels equity, innovation and workplace goals

Partnership with JLL sets CU Denver on a path to realizing its commitment to making higher education accessible to all


 168,000 SF City Heights building


Denver, Colorado


Owner’s Representation, 
Development and Project Management,
Workplace Strategy

"This was a complex, ever-changing project even before the global pandemic impacted construction. We are so happy that we have brought in the JLL team for our new project."

Jennifer Sobanet, Executive Vice Chancellor, Administration and Strategy, CU Denver

For the past 50 years, the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) has earned a reputation for providing innovative research and accessible education, helping more than 100,000 graduates achieve their ambitions.

Located in the heart of downtown Denver, the campus needed to modernize and expand to better serve its growing student body, boost innovation and access, and create more equitable, inspiring spaces where faculty, staff and students alike can thrive.

To support these vital pillars of its master plan, CU Denver leaders turned to JLL for expert advisory on a state-of-the-art new residence hall—a relationship that then inspired other major collaborations, too.

Challenge #1: Deliver a sophisticated new residence hall—amid the pandemic

To support CU Denver’s goal of becoming the nation’s first equity-serving institution, university leaders needed to deliver more affordable living and learning opportunities on campus.

As a public institution, the university selected the State of Colorado’s proven partners at JLL to serve as its Owner’s Representative in developing a milestone new residence hall and learning center. City Heights would be the first on-campus housing facility and would be dedicated to first-year students only. The plan included 270 rooms, a best-in-class dining hall, and a three-story Learning Commons facility housing co-curricular academic and faculty development support programs.

Through the course of the project, the CU Denver team realized they would also benefit from JLL’s expertise to manage the developer. Working closely with JLL and build partners, CU Denver was able to successfully overcome the myriad challenges of developing real estate during the COVID-19 pandemic—including supply chain issues and financial impacts—on time and with excellence.

Three years after JLL came in, the new City Heights residence hall opened to much fanfare, with CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks commenting that it “has proven to be the transformative living, learning and working space we imagined it would be.”

Challenge #2: Develop a “cornerstone” new engineering building

Thanks to the trust JLL earned throughout the City Heights residence project, CU Denver engaged JLL yet again, this time to manage development of a dedicated building for the College of Engineering Design and Computing.

As part of its 2030 master plan, the university intends to serve as the anchor institution for an open innovation district in downtown Denver. The cornerstone of this bold vision: A cutting-edge engineering building to serve as the College’s hub location. JLL was engaged to actively managing all aspects of the development in close coordination with all university stakeholders, including programming, design, approvals, permitting and construction.  JLL developed guiding principles, expedited a complex programming process with multiple departmental stakeholders, planned for a phased bid and permit package and led the team to a schematic design that the University can use pending securing project financing to move forward with the next phase of design.

Challenge #3: Make CU Denver a “Best Place to Work”

One of the university’s top goals for 2030 is to be recognized as a people-centered best place to work, attracting prize talent with diverse backgrounds.

Understanding the invaluable role that workplace strategy can play, JLL workplace experts came in to shape human-friendly design plans for the new engineering building. The plans would need to support recruitment and retention, while also helping spark industry partnerships across the innovation district and campus community as a whole.

To realize this aspiration, project leaders from JLL conducted an in-depth, three-hour Workplace Visioning session with a team of university leaders and students to define the program and articulate the project’s guiding principles. Through the session, the group discussed the university’s current workplace environment, larger workplace trends, various types of spaces and how sustainability values could be incorporated into the new building. JLL’s workplace team helped CU Denver leaders take their already clearly defined 2030 goals, and brainstorm how each would translate specifically into the built environment.

After the interactive session, JLL aggregated data and input to create a visioning document that now informs every step of the planning process—from design rendering to ground-breaking to ribbon cutting. Every consultant on the project now has access to a deeply informed master document that defines CU Denver’s key values, and how each can and should be manifested throughout the design and construction process.

By emphasizing equity, accessibility, innovation, discovery, community and flexibility in all facets of the project’s development, the engineering building will play a prime role in supporting the university’s 2030 Strategic Goals.