Telluride Science Research Center Reveals Plans for Facility
by Samantha Wright
May 20, 2013 | 1256 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – Plans to build a new permanent home for the Telluride Science Research Center took a huge leap forward earlier this week.

In a work session on Tuesday morning, May 14, the Telluride Town Council gave its general thumbs-up for TSRC to enter into a public/private partnership the Town of Telluride to secure land for the construction of a world-class science center in the heart of town.

TSRC's vision is for a 30,000-35,000 square-foot science facility to be constructed on town-owned land consisting of the Youth Link lot plus that portion of the existing Marshal's Office building now known as the "community room," that would attract leading scientists from across the globe to convene and collaborate in Telluride.

TSRC, founded in 1984, is already a thriving organization that is largely fulfilling this mission. Currently, however, scientists convene and collaborate over the summer months at the Telluride Middle/High School, often smooshed into cramped, uncomfortable quarters as they conduct cutting edge research and discussion in molecular science, solar fuels science, and a host of other fascinating fields.

“A year-round building designed to meet the needs of scientists will enable TSRC to reach it's full potential,” TSRC Executive Director Nana Naisbitt told council. “In turn, TSRC can provide the maximum level of benefits to the town. It is a classic win-win."

In recent months, officials from Vail, Durango and Mountain Village have all approached TSRC, offering incentives for the science center to relocate to their communities. Naisbitt stressed that TSRC’s preference is to stay in Telluride, however, as long as plans for the construction of a permanent home for the organization continue to move forward.

Council passed a resolution in 2011 supporting TSRC’s vision for a permanent facility, and identified the advancement of the project among its primary goals and objectives for 2013, as a means of cultivating economic development, diversity and sustainability and promoting the intellectual industry and educational institutions within the town.

The project proposal has been in final stages of development for months now, with many behind-the-scenes meetings between the Town and TSRC, but Tuesday was the first time that Naisbitt presented the project’s full scope to council in a public session, describing an energy-responsible, “net-zero” building with classrooms, an auditorium, living quarters, a cafeteria, wide hallways and open space, built in a campus-like atmosphere “for the creative interaction of some of the world’s best molecular scientists.”

Naisbitt stressed the many benefits that TSRC already brings to the community, ranging from economic (TSRC currently brings approximately 1,200 scientists and $4.5 million to Telluride, and that number is projected to significantly grow if a new permanent facility is built); to cultural (TSRC scientists represent 80 different countries by birth and comprise 40 percent of attendees); to educational (scientists volunteer their time to the Town Talk science lecture series, the Pinhead Punk Science program, Pinhead’s Scholars in the Schools program, and by mentoring local interns in Telluride and throughout the world).

The construction of the new science center would only serve to augment these existing benefits, Naisbitt said. In addition, the center would include an auditorium and community room which could provide space for other community functions when science sessions are not taking place.

Naisbitt asked for multiple of concessions from the town, including waivers of a number of application and permit fees.

“It’s a small investment up front for a truly huge return year after year,” she stressed.

TSRC has engaged the services of a capital campaign strategist to raise funds for the multi-million dollar project. Meanwhile, after the successful outcome of Tuesday’s work session, attorneys representing the Town and TSRC will work together to negotiate a long-term lease of the town-owned land (at a rate of $1 per year), with a target date of Aug. 31 for official council approval.

The project proposal calls for the Town and TSRC to enter into a two-tiered lease approach. As outlined by Town Manager Greg Clifton, the first tier or phase would be formulation of an Agreement to Lease (“ATL”) wherein the Town would agree to lease the property to TSRC for the Science Center pending satisfaction of numerous specific performance standards. Provided those conditions have been met, the second phase would commence, wherein a long-term property lease would become effective and construction would be implemented

Once the lease is signed, TSRC will begin in raising seed money for the building design and approval, with a capital campaign beginning in earnest next fall. Throughout the process, TSRC will continue to meet with the Town regularly to report on benchmarks and milestone accomplishments, with the goal of breaking ground in 2017 for a 2018 opening.

Supportive locals packed into the meeting room on Tuesday to hear what Naisbitt had to say, and afterwards many of them got up to speak in favor of the project. Council, too, had mostly positive comments on the proposal, which for now will move full steam ahead.

“We cannot be a successful community unless we have economic diversification,” Councilor Thom Carnevale said. “This is a very positive step for the community. It may need a little fine tuning, but I am very supportive. (The proposed project) will enhance our town’s economic diversity and stability; it is a very positive thing for community.” 

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