My Green Building Journey with The Alliance Center
Written by Melissa Baldridge, member of The Alliance Center Board of Directors
I recently joined The Alliance Center’s Board of Directors, and I’m excited to lend my expertise as a green building expert. This isn’t the first time I’ve been involved with The Alliance Center, though. And in fact, The Alliance Center is the reason I even got into green building in the first place.
In the early 2000s, I was a freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and art, and while I collected some nice bylines, I was bored senseless writing about bathroom re-dos in Mapleton and 12,000-square-foot baronial ski castles in Beaver Creek. I was pretty clear that few people bothered to read my carefully crafted articles beyond skimming the pretty pics, and my stories certainly weren’t making a difference.
In late 2004, Historic Denver, asked me to write an article about a renovation near the mostly boarded-up Union Station. The project? The Otero Building formerly owned by Tattered Cover founder and Denver legend, Joyce Meskis. The building was called The Alliance Center, and Historic Denver would be one of the first 20 tenants there.
There were a number of news hooks for the project, and I interviewed John Powers, Janna Six and Dennis Fleming, the project manager. A board member for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Powers had spent time in the Tattered Cover next door to the Otero building, seeing all these well-meaning but impecunious nonprofit groups scattered throughout the building, competing for the same donors and clueless about how to pool effort and resources.
In early January 2004, Powers started looking for permanent digs to bring all these groups under one roof. Meskis would sell the building to the newly formed Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (now The Alliance Center) for $4.625 million, with Powers putting down $250,000 and collateralizing his home for the construction loan. Powers and Six also bought the lot next door with the intention to raise another tower with rentable space.
The kicker for me was that the building was pursuing LEED certification, a relatively new green building certification starting to be used with new construction. But the Otero Building was older, built in 1908 with renovations in 1951. So, the LEED Existing Building Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) certification was a big deal, with only a handful of other projects in the country housing nonprofits and retrofitting to the LEED, above-code standard.
The article itself was a deep dive into the world of high-performance building – bricks and mortar that rode easier on the planet – and I burned through a couple of pages trying to (1) help my readers get their heads around green build, and (2) getting my own head around it. Beyond pretty pics and wind turbines in the sky, green building was cool, I was hooked, and I decided wanting to be a LEED professional someday.
Fast forward to 2008, and my partner was in an MBA program at Drexel University. She was also heading sustainability (aka “resource management”) on the supply chain for a food manufacturer. We knew we wanted to work with bricks and sticks. We both knew that sustainability was the bomb, our raison d’être, and yet we also saw how those good sustainability folks got patted on the head and sidelined in grownup real estate conversations.
So, we created a hybrid company we called GreenSpot Global, with both deep in-house sustainability expertise and real estate transactional capability. I got my first of about a dozen certifications – my LEED AP EBOM.
Since our official organization in January 2010, GreenSpot has been responsible for deal and project sourcing, sales, sustainability and financial analysis on property worth over $340 million. I’ve modeled, certified and audited over one million square feet of property. The National Green Building Standard named me a “Partner in Excellence” for innovation and excellence in green build, and the U.S. Green Building Council, Colorado named GreenSpot a “Top Green Dealmaker.”
Perhaps most importantly, we recrafted our mission four years ago to create and renovate regenerative property, spinning energy, carbon, water and waste meters backwards. From the hybrid nature of our business, I identified the “Four Steps to Higher Value for Green Build,” bridging both the wonky world of sustainability and the high-stakes game of real estate deal making.
And it all started because of one little assignment on The Alliance Center, which Janna Six says was one of the first write-ups the Alliance got.
Would I have found my way into my career-as-calling without The Alliance Center? Probably, but the Alliance was like a compass needle for me, fixing on my true north.
So, it’s fitting for me to be back here 15 years later, bringing what I’ve learned and will continue to learn as a board member, all because the center was a polestar for me when I was ready for more.
Click here to read the story that started it all!