The sight of the University of Colorado's former medical-school campus and hospital at East Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard grows more stale every day, as the buildings continue to sit vacant more than five years after the school moved its operations to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. One developer after another has brought big plans to the table — only to fail and move on, leaving the school and the City of Denver looking uncomfortable.
First Walmart dropped out, then King Soopers. And last week the Houston-based Lionstone Group paid $9.2 million for 6.75 acres at the southeast corner of the 29.5-acre property. That means that the site will not be developed as a whole, but piecemeal, depending on who buys the rest.
Just because nothing is moving on the outside, though, doesn't mean there isn't activity on the inside of the former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center or the hospital. Between June 17 and June 22, someone using the moniker Sissyfuss posted dozens and dozens of photos allegedly taken in the abandoned complex on uer.ca, a website for urban explorers — the brave/foolish souls who illegally sneak into empty buildings or structures, many of them dangerous, for thrills and sometimes chills. Chills is what you'll get viewing some of the photos of the abandoned morgue, not to mention the hospital emergency room, the cafeteria, the power plant, the psychiatric ward, a conference room and numerous labs and offices.
Whether the photos are really of the inside of the CU buildings — and whether they were taken by a real urban explorer — is a matter of debate. A former morgue worker who also happens to be an urban explorer believes they are authentic — but even he is a little suspicious of Sissyfuss. "Denver explorers know who these people are, and it's very weird and odd that they immediately joined the site...posted tons of photos, and won't really say anything," writes our source. "It also violates the site's rules by naming the place and by making the thread public.... Denver explorers who go back to before the guy died at GATES find this very suspicious and suspect it may be posted by a security guard or someone with legal access."
The guy who "died at GATES" refers to 23-year-old urban explorer Johnny Polzin, who died after falling into an elevator shaft inside the massive, abandoned Gates Rubber plant on South Broadway in 2007; although the plant closed two decades ago, it has yet to be demolished or redeveloped and had become a magnet for urban explorers ("Gone," December 20, 2007). And while security has been stepped up in recent years, trespassers continue to occasionally find their way inside.
Security isn't as tight at the old CU complex. Although the school has put up fences and patrols the area on a regular basis, the property has no full-time security. In fact, CU spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery says the police discovered two broken windows and a broken door there on Monday. She points out that there's no way to know whether that damage was caused by the person who posted the pictures online, nor can she say whether those photos are recent or a few years old. "We really can't comment one way or the other," she says.
The police didn't find any evidence, beyond the broken windows and door, of any action at the CU site lately.
But then, neighbors haven't found much evidence that the property will actually be developed, either.