New Phase for Kodak Campus in Windsor
Demolition began earlier this week on four buildings on the Kodak campus in Windsor. KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall about what’s behind the deconstruction.
O’Toole: Jeff, the Kodak Colorado Division has been a major employer in Northern Colorado since it built its campus east of Windsor in 1970, but now it’s reducing the footprint of that campus, is that right?
Nuttall: It is, and it’s an end of an era, of sorts. From its arrival in 1969, Kodak was known for its good-paying jobs and involvement in the community. In 1999, the Business Report called Kodak an indelible part of Northern Colorado, employing 1,800 people with an annual payroll of $80 million. The Windsor site was the primary manufacturing center for medical X-ray film, thermal media, motion-picture film and color paper, and was involved in some stages of manufacturing photographic films and cameras. Kodak Polychrome Graphics also manufactured printing plates there.
O’Toole: Those all sound like products that have been overtaken by the rise in digital imaging.
Nuttall: That’s exactly what happened, Erin. Kodak saw steady growth every year until 2005, and then a sharp decline began. Traditional photo film gave way to digital photography, and more and more consumers began keeping their photos on digital media, rather than printing them on paper. Eventually Kodak consolidated some of its Windsor divisions to plants in other states.
O’Toole: What’s happening on the Windsor campus now?
Nuttall: The local downsizing began in 2007, when Kodak sold its health imaging business to Carestream Health Inc. Then Kodak merged its entertainment imaging and lithoplate manufacturing divisions in 2009, and announced the layoffs of 300 people. Since 2010, the four buildings at the northernmost end of the 2,200-acre campus have been empty.
O’Toole: The demolition will be of just those four buildings then, not the whole campus?
Nuttall: That’s right. Carestream occupies three buildings elsewhere on campus, and Kodak is still in the business of making color paper and thermal media in two other buildings. Kodak employs about 200 people, while Carestream has about 450 employees still working on the Windsor site.
O’Toole: I’m curious why Kodak didn’t try to sell those four buildings instead of tearing them down…
Nuttall: The buildings, which encompass 1 million square feet total, were built specifically for Kodak processes, and would have been very difficult to repurpose, according to the company. Kodak also told us that it wanted to do what it believes is best for the community and the businesses that remain at the site. Deconstruction was the best option to relieve the company of their overhead costs and minimize adverse environmental effects.
O’Toole: You said “deconstruction.” Is that different from demolition?
Nuttall: It is, Erin. The first two phases — asbestos abatement and material salvage — have already been completed. Phase three, which started yesterday, involves recycling as much as 90 percent of the building materials. The company doing the work, Alpine Demolition of Arvada, estimates that it will remove over 100,000 tons of reusable concrete, in addition to electrical and mechanical components, wood, steel and copper, from the four buildings.
O’Toole: What happens then?
Nuttall: When deconstruction is complete, in the fourth phase, Alpine will reseed the area with native grasses, leaving it ready for new developers to purchase. The 320-acre industrial parcel is being marketed through CB Richard Ellis in Denver for an undisclosed price.
O’Toole: When does Kodak expect the site to be cleared?
Nuttall: Deconstruction of the buildings should be completed in August, and reseeding will take place in September. But when the buildings are gone, they won’t be forgotten. A model of the original Kodak plant, as well as other historical items, will be kept at the Windsor Art and Heritage Center at 115 Fifth St.
Jeff Nuttall is publisher of the Northern Colorado Business Report.