By Jessica Centers

McWHINNEY and Internet service provider FRII have partnered to create Northern Colorado’s first commercial development with built-in, high-speed fiber optic access at Centerra.

“We expect this will be the model for commercial developers in the future,” said Jay Hardy, McWHINNEY vice president and general manager of the 3,000-acre master-planned community in east Loveland. “Telecommunication services are rarely ready for tenants when they move into a new building.”

The project was completed in late 2009 for 13 existing office buildings and installed underground in preparation for future buildings, at a cost to McWHINNEY of about $500,000. FRII will be the operator of the network that tenants can choose to use or not. For many, it will be a redundant, secondary network in addition to their main Internet source, designed to ensure data safety and boost productivity.

“The biggest thing that’s unique about what we’ve done is to try to create one more redundant utility for office clients,” Hardy explained.

Like municipalities or hospital campuses commonly have backup power and water, this project creates an Internet backup for office buildings. For heavy data users, redundant fiber is a necessity.

“As much as all of us rely on technology, it’s critically important,” Hardy said.

That’s something McWHINNEY learned from potential clients. Businesses that did anything in the high-tech realm would not even consider locating at Centerra without secondary fiber or some kind of redundant technology.

“We didn’t know that,” Hardy said. “We had a handful of clients educate us on its importance.”

For one of those clients, the technology was a requirement to stay and expand at Centerra. For at least two other clients, according to Hardy, it was the reason they even considered the location.

“Already, it’s been a separating factor,” he said.

First partnership of its kind

Bill Ward, CEO of FRII, said this project is one of the first in Northern Colorado where a technology company has partnered with a developer.

“It’s certainly unique in that the developer has taken the step to put in the infrastructure to serve their customers in a better form than each customer having to deal with it on their own,” he said. “For the tenants, it offers a much more cost-effective Internet bandwidth connectivity. The cost of infrastructure is being borne by the McWHINNEY folks, so when we go in to sell Internet bandwidth, we’ll be able to pass on a much larger cost savings. It offers choice on having multiple different connections, one through fiber service.”

Ward says developers often ignore these types of services until after construction is nearly complete, and by that time it’s more costly to install the infrastructure.

“It’s best to install prior, when the ground’s dug up for utilities anyway,” he said. “We still had to dig again. It cost them more to do this than had they done it during the development process. As they begin new developments, they will now go ahead and install ahead of time, which will save them a lot of money. They’re looking at that as an investment for the long run. It’s a big savings for the client. Obviously, McWHINNEY is getting the benefit of being able to lease more space and keep their space occupied.”

Centerra’s office tenants will have immediate Internet access up to gigabit speeds, off-site disaster recovery and inter-office connectivity. A gigabit is approximately 1 billion bits of information transferred each second. All Centerra buildings will also use the fiber network for remote and automated HVAC control and tamper-proof building security.

“McWHINNEY’s choice to install fiber service throughout Centerra is a mutually beneficial and progressive move,” Ward said. “They are allowing current and future tenants to have immediate access to high-speed broadband services, as well as all the benefits of being on FRII’s network. Centerra businesses can easily take advantage of the fiber capabilities without experiencing the high capital costs of installing dedicated infrastructure.”