In the hulking Commons Building on Camino del Rio, the Durango Adult Education Center and Conservation Legacy have created a hive of nonprofit activity, and while that vision remains, the building is going to see some change in the coming years.
The building’s largest tenant, Pueblo Community College, is planning to leave in 2018, and the building needs major upgrades.
“It’s going to be a huge change for the building, not necessarily a bad one,” Building Manager Damian Johns said of PCC’s departure.
Ten years ago, the Adult Education Center and Conservation Legacy, formerly Southwest Conservation Corps, both wanted a permanent building. The Adult Education Center needed stability and a quality space. Conservation Legacy was growing and wanted to increase its visibility and remodel a space for its specific needs.
So they formed another nonprofit, the Southwest Institute for Education and Conservation, to buy the 42,593-square-foot federal building on Camino del Rio for $4.875 million and renamed it The Commons.
One of the founding ideas was to create a space for nonprofits to collaborate, and the purchase allowed nonprofits with the same clients to serve them in the same place, said Teresa Malone, chairwoman of the SIEC board and executive director of the education center.
“There have been numerous occasions where a student at DEC or PCC has subsequently been a part of a Conservation Legacy program and vice versa,” said Amy Sovocool, co-CEO of Conservation Legacy, in an email. Conservation Legacy operates conservation corps across the country, including Southwest Conservation Corps, which does work in the Durango area.
The only business in the building is Rivendell Early Education Center, which gives first priority for child care to people in the building, Malone said. A space for child care was built when SIEC bought the building. It’s an important tenant that helps serve the adult students in the building, she said.
SIEC also has offered nonprofits below-market rate rents, Malone said.
“It’s been attractive and supportive of nonprofits,” she said.
PCC was a key tenant when SIEC bought the building because the college agreed to pay a higher rent, which allowed SIEC to offer lower rates to others, Johns said.
“PCC was in this building long before we were going to buy it, and they were very supportive of the purchase and the direction it was going,” Malone said.
PCC plans to move its general education college courses, the Gateway to College program and office space to a wing of Durango High School.
“By moving to a dedicated wing at Durango High School, PCC will save a significant amount on rent and utility costs. That will allow us to invest in the technology necessary to create a state-of-the-art distance learning site for the Four Corners region,” Jon Brude, chief business officer for PCC, said in a statement.
At DHS, the college will have five rooms where classes for the general public and dual enrollment courses for high school students will be offered.
All of PCC’s health programs will be based at the Mancos campus, along with student and administration services.
PCC will vacate 14,000 square feet on the second floor of The Commons building and SIEC is interested in organizations that are aligned with the community service theme of the building to fill those spaces, Johns said.
It would be ideal if the new tenants wanted to be part of the building’s community, but they don’t need to be nonprofits. SIEC is open to renting to governmental organizations and businesses.
In addition to replacing the largest tenant, SIEC also plans to do major upgrades over the next 10 years to The Commons, such as regrading and repaving the parking lot to fix drainage problems and upgrading the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, Johns said.
SIEC is planning to slowly increase rent to help pay for the upgrades, but they expect to keep costs under market rate, Malone said.