Trustee's Report: December 2014

I’ve just returned from the Board of Trustees meeting in Denver, which was held for 1-1/2 days right before the conference. The most exciting news from the Trustees is that we voted to proceed with funding renovation work on our headquarters building in Washington D.C. The building was purchased back in 1997 for $2.3 million. At the time, it was a new 12,000 square foot spec building.  The building was recently appraised at $6.9 million – an increase of 189% in value since the purchase! That part of Chinatown has seen an incredible amount of investment in new development in the past few years, which is not surprising considering its close proximity to the Capitol Building and the White House.

Why renovate the headquarters? The Trustees considered a number of options including selling the building and buying a new one (not really feasible) or delaying the renovation. We all agree that the building in its present condition is substandard, inefficient and in need of renovation eventually. The Trustees believe that construction costs will increase so renovating sooner rather than later is the best approach. While the building is structurally sound, it is in pretty shabby condition after 17 years of occupancy without renovation.  Meanwhile, our membership has grown by 50 percent and staff has expanded to meet the membership needs. 

The design goal is to create a national CENTER FOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE that reflects our organization’s philosophy and serves as an example of great design. We want to be able to attract and retain top-level staff at ASLA and have a space that showcases the work we do. The part I’m most excited about is the combining of a new welcoming façade and flexible first floor event space with the proposed Chinatown Green Street improvements leading up to the building.  Gensler Architects is preparing the master plan for the building and has prepared an initial construction cost estimate for planning purposes. Gensler will consult with Oehme, van Sweden, so our point of view will be well represented.  OVS is also working with Design Workshop on the ASLA Green Street project.

The construction cost estimate, including temporarily relocating the staff, is four million dollars.  ASLA paid off the original mortgage last summer, so the Society is in an excellent financial position.  ASLA will take out a $3 million mortgage and raise the balance through fundraising and product donations.  Our goal is to raise $1 million in cash donations. In-kind product donations for significant items, such as lighting, furniture, green walls, kitchen appliances, surfacing, and other items will also be requested. A number of businesses and several ASLA chapters have already pledged to help with the renovation – over $200,000 in verbal pledges so far. The Washington Chapter has an opportunity to have the “wellness room” named after the chapter for a pledge of $15,000 toward the renovation. The pledge amount would be paid over a three-year period. Our current chapter president and immediate past president and I have asked ASLA to reserve that naming right for our chapter. Our chapter Executive Committee will be considering approval of the pledge at our regular meeting on Thursday December 11th. ASLA will be publishing design concepts for the building master plan as that work progresses.

 -Curtis LaPierre

Back to December Newsletter