Topping out marks milestone for new research institute

A steel beam, painted white and covered in autographs, was placed atop the framework of the C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute Nov. 10. As part of the topping out ceremony, a tradition in the construction industry, the JE Dunn Construction team hung three flags representing the United States, Colorado and Colorado State University on the beam, then hoisted it while spectators applauded.

Andrew Gilstrap, JE Dunn senior project manager, said the topping out marked a significant achievement for the project, which will be complete in late fall 2018.

“Often times, once you get to this point, things in the field start to become more real for people,” he said. “You can visualize the building, see the scale of it, and see the size of it. It’s a good jumping-off point to then finish the exterior and interior of the building, and see the project become more of a reality.”

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, the building’s namesake, said the topping out was an exciting milestone.

“We now have an appreciation of the large size of this building,” he said. “I never quite appreciated it when just talking square footage — it is very impressive.”

The research institute construction project marks the first time Gilstrap has worked at CSU since graduating with a Construction Management degree in 2008. He joins his college roommate, Tetrad’s senior project manager Larz Lock, and five other CSU Construction Management alumni on the site: Ryan Seaton, Taylor Lindsley, Sarah Tough, Keaton Turner and Justin Geis.

“It’s been a really great experience,” Gilstrap said, with a nod to his interactions with CSU Facilities Management, Tetrad Property Group and advisers from the research institute.

“We wouldn’t be to the point where we’re at now without the engagement of the ‘user group,’” as the team is called. “They help guide all the decisions around the interior layout of the building, programming, exterior elements, and what the building looks like at the end of the day,” Gilstrap said. “We’re moving fast, and they’ve kept pace and have given us all the answers that we need when we need them. It’s been awesome.”

Dr. David Twedt, a CSU professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and an internal medicine veterinarian at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, said the topping out was “pretty cool” to see. Twedt will oversee continuing education and training at the Translational Medicine Institute.

“We will be working on a lot of courses, veterinary as well as human medicine,” Twedt explained, adding that other existing veterinary facilities will not even begin to compare to what will soon exist at CSU.  

He is already in discussions about continuing education opportunities with several national organizations dedicated to veterinary surgery, internal medicine and equine health.

“They’re looking for places to have courses in labs as well,” Twedt said. “There’s a lot of potential. There’s no other place in the world that will have a veterinary-only training center like this. And then there’s also the research. We’re very fortunate.”