Extension offices throughout Colorado are housed in a variety of settings. Some are tucked into the courthouse complex, some are situated on the fairgrounds, some among larger county departments.
Recently, Extension in Arapahoe County made the move from an old building in the heart of Littleton that had served Extension clientele for over 40 years, to a modern complex in Centennial. The new office is part of Lima Plaza, where offices such as Arapahoe County Public Works, Open Spaces, Motor Vehicle and AD Works! workforce development offices are located.
The move did not take place without some careful consideration about the needs of current and potential clientele. “We’ve offered to continue to occupy a small footprint over at the Arapahoe Plaza office in Littleton,” says county director Tim Aston. “However our master gardener volunteers have easily transitioned to this new place, they like their new space, and the clients are also coming along for the ride, so we’ll most likely not use the Littleton space after all.”
It was low safety and energy rankings for the former county building, due to leakage from snow and rain, which ultimately led to the move. Front Range regional director JoAnn Powell notes that the move also has created opportunities to reach new clientele. “With expanding after school programming, we’re able to reaching into urban and suburban audiences,” says Powell. “Being in Centennial is helpful, because Centennial and Aurora are pretty close and there is a big current and potential client base in Aurora.”
The county manager’s office has been pondering alternate locations for Extension for a few years, including the fairgrounds in Aurora. But it was their attention to the needs of Extension clientele and employees that helped county officials reach the decision to finish out the vacant space at Lima Plaza
The connections with and proximity to Open Spaces is an added bonus. The offices share a common entry which helps communication and enhances their many collaborative projects. Building community happens in many ways, and the new office is allowing Arapahoe County Extension to engage a wider community. “We had the employees of Open Spaces over for a chili cook-off contest last fall, which helped us to forge new relationships with them,” says Aston. “Especially as we get closer to fair, having those relationships and ease of access to the management team over there is huge.”
In addition to upgraded office space, there is a full demonstration kitchen for nutrition classes, food preservation and canning workshops, and cottage food certification. “4-H dog clubs and some small animal clubs find this space to be easier to access, and it’s also just a nicer facility to hold meetings.”
“We still think that Extension is an unknown to a lot of people in the county,” says Aston. “Our office is launching a ‘Lunch and Learn’ series, where every month we’re going to host other county employees in our multi-purpose space, to learn about what Extension does and also benefit from some of our expertise.” They’ll provide gardening, lawn, tree and shrub care, cooking and nutrition classes, and develop some 4-H programming to expose parents and people working at Lima Plaza to the educational opportunities available through Extension.
And then the ripple starts, as those employees help spread the word about Extension to their clientele, families and neighbors.