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Fitzsimons' Closure Attracts Investment, High-Tech Jobs

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2005 – The former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center located just outside Denver in Aurora, Colo., was once a military medicine showplace where then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower recovered from his heart attack in 1955.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
From the left: Commercial medical industry buildings share space on the 578-acre campus with the old Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. The Army base, where then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed for seven weeks after his heart attack in 1955, was closed in 1999 under the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure action. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

And Fitzsimons was Aurora's biggest employer with 4,000 jobs, said Jill Sikora Farnham, acting executive director of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority.

So when the medical center was shuttered in 1999 as part of 1995 Base Realignment and Closure actions, it "could have been devastating, economically" to Aurora, Farnham acknowledged.

Yet, she pointed out, today there are "about 5,300 people working" on the grounds of the former military facility.

"We've more than replaced the military employment and that's just going to continue to increase," Farnham said, noting future employment at the former Army installation is projected to reach 30,000 jobs by 2020.

And "by 2008, we anticipate 13,000 jobs" at the former Fitzsimons site, Farnham said.

Fitzsimon's closure proved to be "a grand opportunity" that transformed the 578-acre Army installation into a modern commercial medical center with "a huge economic growth opportunity" for biotechnology research.

Biotech "is the industry of the future," Farnham asserted.

Key partners responsible for Fitzsimons' jobs boom include the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the University of Colorado Hospital, The Children's Hospital, the city of Aurora and the redevelopment authority, Farnham said.

The Army Medical Center building has been converted into an administrative building for the University of Colorado, Farnham noted, and it still maintains Eisenhower's hospital room on the eighth floor.

The former Fitzsimons site has proven "fundamental to Aurora's economic growth, to develop an employment center of this size," Farnham noted.

And commercial medical activities enticed by the redevelopment authority to move onto the former Army base are considered "the lynchpin of growing the bioscience industry in Colorado," she asserted.

An Army Reserve facility remains on the old Fitzsimons campus, Farnham noted. Negotiations are ongoing, she said, to relocate the Veterans Affairs hospital now in Denver to somewhere on the old Fitzsimons' property.

Aurora city officials at first fought Fitzsimons' BRAC closure "tooth and nail," Farnham noted. After accepting defeat, she said, the officials then made the agreement to move University of Colorado medicine assets onto the former military base.

Fitzsimons' closure has "probably been the best thing that's ever happened to the city of Aurora," Farnham maintained, noting the BRAC action brought "more jobs (and) higher-paying jobs" to that municipality.

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