The Denver Federal Center located in Lakewood, Colorado is a branch of the General Services Administration. The GSA (and the center) provides government offices with products and communication tools. The GSA also provides federal employees with transportation and office space as well as providing federal management policies such as cost-reduction initiatives.
Jobs and Agencies Housed by the Center
The Denver Federal Center contains 26 federal agencies, which makes it the most densely packed federal area outside of Washington D.C. The total amount of federal employees is about 6,200. The agencies that employ the most federal workers in the center are the U.S. Department of the Interior, the General Services Administration, and the United States Geological Survey.
The center is also home to a special agency called the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL). The NICL is a branch of the US Geo Survey and also receives funding from the National Science Foundation. The NICL houses over 17,000 meters of ice cores from places like Antarctica and Greenland. The NICL is also one of the premier organizations for the handling of the West Antarctic sheet ice core. The NICL is also the largest below zero research sample preparation locations in the world. Due to the fact that facility houses ice cores, it is kept at a steady temperature of about -35 Celsius. The NICL also gives around 100 tours to the public each year.
Geography of the Center
The Denver Federal Center is bordered by U.S. Route 6 in the north, Kipling Street in the East, Alameda Avenue in the south, and Union Boulevard in the West. The center is comprised of 90 buildings that serve as offices, warehouses, laboratories, and “special” spaces. Some notable buildings are 810, where the U.S. Geological Survey houses all of its topographic maps as well as all of its ice core samples drilled from around the globe.
Another notable building is 710, which is an underground bunker that is equipped to withstand a nuclear explosion. This building was built in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bunker was originally intended to serve as a federal home base in the event of a nuclear attack. It is able to house about 300 people for one month. This structure was added to the National Register of Historic places, and is often visited by historians for its connection to the cold war era and its architecture. Building 710 currently contains the Region 8 office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency which coordinates disaster responses.
The Denver Federal Center has a history of toxic waste contamination. After the end of WWII and the closure of the Ordnance plant, government agencies dumped chemicals, demolition waste, contaminated substances, and other miscellaneous items into several sites around the center. Due to this, the EPA and CDPHE have stated that the area is contaminated with a large amount of toxic waste. The soil, groundwater, and surface water of the northwest and southwest landfills contain huge levels of chemicals and asbestos.
In the 1980s, there was also a chemical leak near building 52. A chlorinated chemical solvent caused the contamination of local groundwater and wells. Luckily, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers collaborated on the construction of barriers to neutralize the toxins.
There was another leak in 2006 where a water storage tank containing radioactive water owned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission leaked into the nearby ground. While the USGS was unable to find evidence of contamination through testing, the area is still closely monitored.
Recent Changes and Community Outreach
The Denver Federal Center is always being updated and renewed. In 2007, The U.S. General Services Administration contracted SunEdison to construct a solar park on Federal Center grounds due to the fact that the area gets about 300 sunny days each year. The total taxpayer investment into the park is about 40 million dollars. Initially, the park generated slightly less than ten percent of the center’s peak electricity needs. However, expansion of the park has raised the total amount to 15 percent and experts say the park should pay for itself in slightly less than 50 years.
The Center offers tours and other programs freely to the general public. There are self-guided tours of the solar park with on-site interpretive signs. The GSA also launched a campus bike share program called the DFC B-cycle. The program offers 50 bicycles at six bicycle stations that serve the campus and its 6,000 tenants.
The Denver Federal Center also has an on-site daycare called the “DFC Child Care Center”. Originally built in 1973, the Child Care Center is currently operated by Clever Kids Learning Center. The center boasts three separate age appropriate playgrounds, two laundry facilities, and eight classrooms. The center is open to the public, though employees of federal agencies receive discounted tuition rates.
Denver Federal Center grounds are home to interactive art. In 2014, the GSA placed a sculpture by the artist Andrea Zittel on the Center’s grounds. The sculpture is comprised of eight identical platforms that are 12 by 16 feet. Each pavilion has several vertical and horizontal panels, giving the impression of an open room. These abstract sculptures have been used to host gatherings and meeting events. The GSA’s art in Architecture program is used to find artists like Andrea, and it will probably be used again to find talent for future projects like these.
The center even hosts a farmer’s market called the “DFC Farmer’s Market” which is hosted by the GSA. Local vendors of fresh produce, jams, and food sell their products on DFC grounds. The fair is open to the public upon the presentation of a valid license.
The Denver Federal Center is home to plentiful government activity, a rich history, and gorgeous open space and art. But don’t plan on buying or using any Denver marijuana, the DFC is federal property and pot is strictly illegal. Tours of the center are completely free, so everyone in the DFC area should visit and take part in its community.