Director’s Blog 9/18/20

Director’s Blog September 18, 2020
Written by Ian Billick, PhD

This is an update on RMBL’s plans to expand in Mt. CB (North Village) as well as a call for feedback.  With the recent conservation easement dedicating Gothic to research and education in perpetuity and the conservation of the surrounding ranchlands, as well as legislation being introduced by Senator Michael Bennet designating the valley for research, we have a rare opportunity to do something truly amazing.  But we have to get the management piece worked out.  North Village is a critical piece!

RMBL is negotiating a pre-development agreement with Yvonne and Claudio Alvarez, with the Board meeting to review terms on Tuesday.  RMBL would get approximately 10 developable acres with infrastructure in Mt. CB for $2 million, payable no sooner than Nov. 1, 2021.  The property is meant to accommodate RMBL’s long-term needs, as well as what would be built in the next 3-5 years (Phase 1).  There are many reasons for why the project might go slower, but an aggressive, and reasonable, timeframe has approvals from Mt. CB by the summer of 2021, infrastructure going in 2022, and buildings opening the fall of 2023.  To keep the project moving in the next 12 months we will be working on a master plan for the North Village campus as well as doing at least architectural work on the phase 1 buildings.

A design team including six scientists (Rosemary Carroll, Andy Gloss, Kailen Mooney, Kristina Stinson, Brad Taylor, and Ken Williams) conducted a survey of the RMBL science community in 2019 and provided considerable feedback that has informed our thinking.

We established the following priorities for the campus, in order:  Housing, lab space, reduce public pressures on the Gothic Corridor, and improve Gothic bandwidth.

We established the following objectives for research space, in order: accommodate increased summer research demand, telecommunications, winter/year-round science, high-end equipment, and encouraging collaboration.

We established the following design guidelines, in order: Minimize the carbon footprint, flexibility, promote collaboration, dark skies, family and pet friendly, natural light, outdoor space, noise, power (220 V circuits, surge protection, back-up power).

What do you think?  Did we get it right?  Have things changed with covid?  How might the North Village change how we think about the Gothic Campus? Should we put more of an emphasis on housing scientists engaged in the summer community? Move outreach/education programs that don’t take advantage of Gothic to North Village and move retail and as much of the general public intercept to North Village?

Your thoughts on the details of space would also be appreciated.  We would like to design space for specific needs so the more we know about who will use the space and how, the better.  If you might want either office, lab, or meeting space in the new facility, we would like to know.  Knowing a bit more about demand will help us think about how much space is needed.  We don’t want to overbuild, but we also have one research group that has indicated they are fairly certain they want a large lab on a year-round basis.  Also, if anybody is interested in a first-use housing arrangement, let us know.  That would definitely influence how much housing we build.

In addition to contacting me if you have feedback on our priorities or specific spaces (and I have kept, and been reviewing, feedback people have sent previously), or would like to express interest in either research space or housing, let me know if you would like to be more involved in general planning.  It would be great to have some scientists beyond the board involved in planning.  I’ve cc’d RMBL President and scientist, Dr. Dan Blumstein to make it easy to include him in your response.  Also feel free to reach out to him or other board members, especially the RMBL scientists—Dr. Jill Anderson, Dr. Diane Campbell, Dr. Aimee Classen, Dr. Amy Iler, Dr. Kailen Mooney, and Dr. Ken Williams.  As a courtesy, we aren’t putting the emails of board members on the website, but they are always available from me or our front-office person, Katie Harper (also cc’d).

Here is a bit more information about the project.

  1. Claudio and Yvonne, who own the property, are very committed to RMBL and our goals.  They have identified the RMBL campus as one of their primary objectives, and have expressed a strong desire to help RMBL figure out how to reduce public impacts on the Gothic corridor. They need to make the project work financially, and there will probably be other partners in the project, but we are very fortunate to have them as partners.
  2. The master plan for the long-term is anticipated to accommodate 25,000 square feet of research/admin space, 12,500 square feet of seasonal housing, and 15,000 square feet of long-term housing.
  3. Phase 1, which will continue to change as we get your feedback and as we see how fundraising goes, currently anticipates 2800 sqft of research space, 2200 sqft of office space, 2700 sqft of meeting/visitor’s center space, 3400 sqft of long-term housing, and 4500 sqft of seasonal housing.
  4. Valuing mixed commercial/residential real estate in Mt. Crested Butte is hard, particularly for a 10 acre property.  In CB, a single residential lot (no building) sold for $2+ million and commercial lots of 0.07 acres are going for around $200,000.  There are 1 acre commercial lots south of CB that are going for $600,000 to $1 million.
  5. Claudio and Yvonne are still defining what they will do with the rest of the property.  However, 100-200 community housing units are being considered, as well as some high end homes and commercial real estate (e.g., hotel).  A substantial portion of the property is likely to be put in a conservation easement and the ultimate density will likely be much, much less than the 1800 units that had been planned.
  6. We are still thinking about how to do the Visitor’s Center.  It is likely that Claudio and Yvonne will build the Visitor’s Center, and then lease/sell space within it to RMBL.  It is still imagined that the Visitor’s Center will accommodate mass transit.
  7. We will be developing the site plan for the entire property in November and December.  We anticipate starting a master plan for the RMBL property in March.
  8. We need to raise all of the money for the purchase of the land and the construction and design of the buildings.  How quickly we can raise the money for land acquisition and initial planning expenses (approximately $2.5 million) will likely determine how quickly we move to construction.  We will need to raise approximately $4 million (including the $2.5 million) to cost effectively get building pads.  Depending upon how much we build, we’ll then need to raise another $4-6 million (not including endowment) to have buildings.  We will save a lot of money if we are able to install the infrastructure on our property (e.g., create building pads) at the same time that roads and basic utilities go in.  In similar fashion, we will save a lot of money if we build at the same time as other partners.
  9. Building RMBL’s endowment beyond the current size of approximately $2 million will be critical to RMBL’s sustainability.  If you would like to help with this, either in the short term or through long-term estate planning, feel free to reach out to Kelly Sudderth.  Demonstrating that RMBL has both a committed group of supporters and a long-term sustainability plan will help with fundraising for North Village.

As always, feel free to reach out directly to me, either about North Village or anything else that is on your mind.