Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) recently announced the launch of a $3.2 million sustainable energy capital improvement project at our Oxford Vista property in Southeast Aurora. Previously home to the Excelsior Youth Center, Oxford Vista is a 31-acre campus serving as the AmeriCorps NCCC Southwest regional headquarters. ULC is partnering with Energy Link to engineer and manage the project, utilizing the latest technologies to create a sustainable campus, with thirteen of the seventeen buildings expected to operate at net zero in the first year.

“ULC places significant focus on working to get to net zero on our community real estate, and are very excited to kick off our largest sustainable energy improvement project to date,” said Aaron Miripol, ULC President & CEO. “This work not only benefits the hundreds of AmeriCorps members and staff on the campus, but will also lessen the burden on the electrical grid and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are honored that Excelsior Youth Center saw us as the needed long-term steward of their campus and this is our first step to ensure the property remains a permanent community asset.”

An aerial view of ULC's Oxford Vista campus in Southeast Aurora.
An aerial view of ULC's Oxford Vista campus in Southeast Aurora.

Excelsior Youth Center donated the campus to ULC in May of 2018, as their program prepared to cease operations. In an effort to ensure the property remained under the ownership of a mission minded organization who would preserve the campus for educational and community use, ULC was chosen due to the organization’s history of land stewardship for positive community impact. Family Tree, a nonprofit human services agency providing services to end child abuse, homelessness and domestic violence, made the introduction to ULC for Excelsior, ultimately resulting in an ideal partnership for the property donation.

“Having served on the Board of Excelsior Youth Center for many years, it was a difficult decision to close our doors,” said John Farnam, former Board President of Excelsior Youth Center. “But following our first meeting with Urban Land Conservancy, we quickly realized the mission minded goals of this campus would live on in perpetuity and the entire Board felt confident in their ability to steward the property.”

“Having worked with Urban Land Conservancy in the past, it was clear their organization was the obvious fit to carry on the mission and legacy of Excelsior,” said Scott Shields, Family’s Tree’s CEO. “We are excited to see the campus continue to expand in ways that enhance the benefit for our community.”

Earlier this month, Energy Link commenced the $3+ million project which is expected to span over the next four to six months. Improvements include the complete redesign of the building’s mechanical systems, a lighting retrofit to upgrade the campus to LED technology, replacement of the entire HVAC and boiler systems, the installation of a digital automation system and full roof and window replacement. The campus will also incorporate a geothermal system and 440kW solar array.

“The environmental impact of the improvements, upgrades and installations made will bring this 1960’s outdated and inefficient property to the highest of energy standards, even compared to new construction,” said Chris Ihler, CEO and Co-Founder of Energy Link. The project anticipates that the upgrades will reduce the campus’ electric consumption by 1.28 million kWh annually, once the facility is fully occupied. That is equivalent to over one million pounds of burned coal per year. The solar grid alone is estimated to produce a 106% positive offset at the campus’ current electric use. “To say this will be a positive impact is an understatement, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

The project is financed through Northern Trust, a longstanding partner of ULC. Together, the two have worked on multiple fronts to both finance real estate through the Metro Denver Impact Facility (MDIF) and supporting the launch Elevation Community Land Trust. This low-interest project loan demonstrates their further commitment to support communities through beneficial real estate.

“When Northern Trust learned of the mechanical upgrades needed at Oxford Vista coupled with ULC’s desire to make the improvements in an environmentally sustainable way, we felt it was important to support the project,” said John Couzens, President of Northern Trust’s Rocky Mountain Region. “We recognize the immediate savings from an operational perspective as well as the vast environmental impact that the greater community will achieve. We are proud to be part of this impressive effort.”

During a recent community meeting, ULC announced the future project to the surrounding neighborhoods, primarily composed of single family residences. Once the property donation was complete, ULC immediately began working with their new neighbors to share intentions of preserving the campus for permanent community benefit. This meeting was the next step in demonstrating that commitment.

“The Oxford Vista Campus is currently home to the headquarters of AmeriCorps NCCC Southwest Region, an organization that has proved to be a great addition to our community,” said Councilman Bob Roth, Aurora City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem. “In just one year, they completed over 300,000 hours of community service throughout the southwest United States. The City of Aurora is thankful to have ULC stewarding the land at Oxford Vista and ensuring tenants like AmeriCorps have an affordable space for their program operations.”

AmeriCorps NCCC has been a tenant at the Oxford Vista campus since 2016. In an effort to strengthen local communities and develop leaders through community service, the Southwest Region completed 107 projects in 2018. Their assignments varied, but included tax preparation, veteran assistance, K-12 tutoring, affordable home construction and food distribution. Team members currently provide services to nine states, and have the highest graduation rate of all NCCC regions.

Energy Link commenced the energy efficiency capital improvements in April 2019 and is expected to complete the work in fall 2019.