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The team that steered Merrill Lynch & Co. to the Meridian office park for its new Denver expansion wants to make something clear once and for all.
No antelope roam over the swales and hillocks of the rolling Meridian International Business Center landscape. The expansion's code name, Project Antelope, got coined by the Southeast/Douglas County Economic Development Foundation's staff for its own use; Merrill Lynch insiders never used it.
And while a company executive touring area sites delighted in sighting two antelope, the snow-capped Rockies and golden late-afternoon sun behind them, the firm's decision to build what could be a 1 million-square-foot campus at Meridian didn't hinge on the four-legged speedsters.
The financial services giant finds Denver's natural attributes appealing, but they play only a small part in its growth here.
"Merrill Lynch has a model corporate real estate department," explained John Greuling, executive director of the Southeast Denver/Douglas County Economic Development Council and a key player in attracting the financial firm to Meridian. "Their due diligence involves a great depth of process. They're super-thorough."
Merrill Lynch zeroed in on Denver, and Meridian specifically, after almost three years of precise, painstaking analysis. That analysis ranged from discussions with outside consultants to running as many variables as possible, from average area SAT scores to percentage of high school students who go to college, through a computer.
"We had a computer model with 60 …