College purchases land for body farm

Mesa State College has completed its purchase of the land where it intends to study the decomposition of human bodies, but corpses won’t show up at the site anytime soon.

The college’s Real Estate Foundation closed on its purchase of a 35-acre tract near the Mesa County Landfill on Aug. 25, paying Whitewater LLC $280,000 for the land, according to college spokeswoman Dana Nunn.

The next step for the college is to hire a forensic anthropologist to direct the college’s Forensic Anthropology Research Center, commonly referred to as a body farm.

Nunn said the college soon will complete a job description for the post and advertise it. Once the director is hired, the college will begin working on a site plan for the forensic anthropology center and start construction.

Mesa State President Tim Foster has said he hopes to have the center up and running this fall, but Nunn said there is no timetable for opening the facility.

“We’re really trying to do it in a thoughtful, deliberate manner,” she said.

The 35-acre site also will host the Western Colorado Community College electric line worker’s program. Nunn said it likely will be a year or two before the program is relocated there.

Mesa State originally planned to temporarily operate the body farm on the Real Estate Foundation’s 154-acre property at 29 Road and Riverside Parkway. But it abandoned that site, which was just a few hundred feet from homes, after residents objected over concerns about odor, pests and property value.

The property near the landfill is a barren stretch of industrial-zoned land between Coffman Road and U.S. Highway 50, about halfway between the Mesa County Animal Services building and a Colorado Department of Transportation Maintenance shop. The nearest subdivision is about a mile away.

Dale Beede, a commercial real-estate broker with Coldwell Banker who sold the parcel to the Real Estate Foundation, said the previous owners lowered their price by about $70,000 to facilitate the sale.

“This is the cheapest land in the valley,” Beede said, adding he believes the college got “quite a good deal” for a purchase that was calculated to be $8,000 an acre.

Beede said a similarly sized piece of vacant industrial land near Interstate 70 off 21 1/2 or 22 Road would probably sell for $86,000 an acre.

An Internet search of available vacant industrial property in the Grand Valley appears to support Beede’s claim. A total of 143 acres on Coffman Road, near the body farm, is priced at $9,600 an acre. A 13.93-acre parcel near 23 Road and U.S. Highway 6&50 is available for just under $69,000 an acre. A total of 43.66 acres near 22 and H roads is priced at more than $130,000 an acre.


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