The idea is the latest and, possibly, most unexpected twist from land developer Tom Chapman, whose Canyon Partners, L.P. owns the recently constructed, 4,754-square-foot Casa Barranca luxury home in the Black Canyon National Park.
(Chapman also has interests in property near Telluride in Bear Creek, which like the Black Canyon property is an “inholding” surrounded by public lands, and has been similarly controversial.)
On Tuesday, Chapman said Canyon Partners, L.P is seeking a benefactor to purchase Casa Barranca to donate it to the U.S. National Park Service. If the right benefactor is found, Chapman said he will lower the home’s price, make all the necessary modifications to convert the home into a multiple function conference and music center, and even provide a new Steinway concert grand piano for an a newly-created artist-in-residence program.
Chapman’s envisioned Black Canyon Legacy Center could be used to host institutes, symposiums, conferences, and gatherings within the inspirational setting of the Black Canyon National Park, Chapman suggested in an interview this week. Furthermore, Chapman suggested, the Legacy Center could be used for meetings of interest to many who have long criticized his development activity, namely “science, research, environmental law, responsible energy development, environmental education, and water issues in the West.”
“In my opinion, this would be an absolutely fantastic asset for the park to have,” Chapman said. “I have a high, high regard for that national park.”
Under Chapman’s plan the potential benefactor would endow the perpetual management and operation of the conference center through a foundation, working within a public-private partnership. The endowment would fund the operation of the facility as well as an executive director to book events and manage the facility and a small housekeeping/cooking staff when conferences are in session. In between gatherings, Chapman proposes that the facility be used for an artist-in-residence program, hosting musicians, writers, artists, and photographers who could use the park’s setting for inspiration.
Chapman said the public benefits of the facility would be protection of the land and viewshed within the park as well as avoidance of possible future adverse usage of the home while it would also bring economic benefits to the local Montrose economy. In short, he said the idea is a win for the public, a win for the National Park Service, and, if he is able to garner “a small profit” on its sale, a win for the developer as well.
“I am always looking at solutions that have a win-win-win,” he said.
So what’s the price? Chapman said appraising the property isn’t that easy.
Casa Barranca, which has 6,669 total square feet when you combine the home and the five-bay garage, is the only luxury home inside the boundaries of a national park. Chapman said there are no sales of other comparable homes and that even high-level appraisers would have a problem appraising this property.
“My feeling is that a home of this exceptional quality, with state of the art construction, premium amenities throughout, exquisitely furnished, on national park caliber lands, should at a minimum be comparable to an equivalent home in Aspen or Vail on 34 acres,” Chapman said. “The key words in that last sentence are the ‘national park caliber lands.’ Those aren’t available in Aspen or Vail.
“Given the current down real estate markets statewide, I would estimate the value to be in the vicinity of $7.5 million,” he said.
In any case, Chapman went on to say, the Legacy Center idea doesn’t involve appraisals by the federal government and that if the idea is to go forward, it simply requires a private agreement on the price between Chapman and a potential benefactor.
“I don’t think anybody, if they are being honest, would know what this is worth,” Chapman said. “For those who know the quality of this thing and where its at, my gut feeling says $7.5 million is the reality…and the reality of it all is it’s still only worth what a buyer and seller believe it to be worth.”
When asked if his change in direction with Casa Barranca is in any way aimed at improving his public image, particularly in Telluride where his interests in Bear Creek have provoked consternation, Chapman responded that he believes in the project and that positive solutions can be found.
“I don’t care what people think of me in Telluride. I do care about this idea. It is a wonderful idea,” he said. “The canyon thing, it’s just the right thing to do. There is no reason why there can’t be positive solutions in Bear Creek either.”
For photos and a video tour of Casa Barranca, visit blackcanyoncasa.com