Partnership yields dinosaur treasures at Wind Crest

After being called to the site by Brinkmann Constructors with the permission of Wind Crest, Denver Museum of Nature & Science staff and volunteers completed a two-month excavation of a Triceratops fossil dating back more than 66 million years at the 84-acre development.

Dave Rahm
Project director, Brinkmann Constructors

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When we started building the 84-acre Wind Crest retirement community in Highlands Ranch in 2012, there were no hints of the grand treasure that would be found underground – seven years after the ambitious project’s start.

By this summer, we had completed construction of a 127,000-square foot continuing care center, five independent living buildings with apartments and one community building with abundant amenities. We are on track to build three additional independent living buildings and one new community building. Upon its 2021 completion, the $262 million Erickson Living development will span 1.5 million sf and claim a unique position in the Denver region as the largest continuing care or life plan community.

In May, as we began excavating the foundations for the next community building, an observant member of our team noticed that some of the dirt appeared different from prior excavations. Members of the construction team consulted with project leaders about the unusual soils and a call was placed to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Skilled paleontologists arrived the next day and confirmed our suspicions. Our excavation had unearthed the fossils of a dinosaur.

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Quickly learning of the fossils’ value, we installed fencing around the fossil excavation zone to ensure safety for the team and the fossils, then assisted as needed with further excavating. As the fossil dig progressed, the museum team regularly shared progress with the public through the news media, reaching more than 130 million people within a week of discovery and nearly 375 million over the course of excavation.

“We are so grateful to Erickson Living, Wind Crest and Brinkmann Constructors for allowing us to evaluate this potentially important scientific find,” said Museum President and CEO George Sparks. “Wind Crest and Erickson Living welcomed the opportunity to play a part in this significant scientific discovery. They immediately engaged residents in the joys of discovery as the experts went to work. A two-month excavation ensued, during which a determination was made: A triceratops fossil from more than 66 million years ago had been discovered.”

“The discovery and excavation of the triceratops fossil on our campus has been a thrilling experience for our residents and staff,” said Wind Crest Executive Director Craig Erickson. “We feel honored to donate these incredible artifacts to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for further study. We are grateful to the museum’s expert staff and the team at Brinkmann Constructors for their partnership in preserving this important part of Colorado history and sharing it with the greater community.”

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As the excavation proceeded, our team continued to optimize site development and construction of Erickson Living’s continuing care senior living community that will become home to more than 2,000 residents. Over the span of what will be a 10-year project, the full owner-design-construction team has worked in harmony to develop and implement the best ideas to create a lasting community.

Designed by Lantz-Boggio Architecture and JHP Architecture, we then applied our creativity and local construction expertise to adapt the construction process for Erickson Living’s hybrid structural framing system to local conditions and to enhance speed and cost-effectiveness by employing multiple construction trades in the construction.

“Clearly, the best value Brinkmann has added to the project is intelligence and the thorough nature of the project team,” noted David Berrien, senior director of development for Erickson Living.

Featured in the October issue of Health Care Properties Quarterly

Jennifer Hayes has been an editor with the CREJ since 2000. Jennifer covers multifamily and retail news in the Denver metro area plus all property types in Colorado Springs and Southern Colorado. She also covers the finance market as well as solicits bylines articles and is editor of the Health Care Properties Quarterly. Before joining…