For developers and owners, among the myriad of decisions to be made during the course of a project is whether or not the design team needs to be local to the project site. And just like many other choices, this one is not always clear cut. There are several considerations which may impact this decision – from the availability of local expertise to the context of the local political environment.
From RVi’s perspective, whether we’re local or not, every new project is an opportunity to dig into the history and of the land, the physical and environmental constraints, and the characteristics of the surrounding community. When we have the opportunity to study, plan, and design a site that is completely unfamiliar to us, we bring a fresh perspective to the project and we get to flex our creative muscles in new and different ways.
Our River Run Ranch project is a great example of all the challenges and rewards that come along with working on a long distance project. River Run Ranch is being developed by Sun Communities as a new, 367-acre destination RV resort in Granby, Colorado. It is an extreme example of a long distance team, with the project site located about 100 miles from Denver, the client (Sun Communities) and program manager (Atwell) located in Southfield, Michigan, RVi planning services provided out of Austin, Texas, and RVi landscape architecture services provided out of Tempe, Arizona. Civil and environmental services are also being provided by Atwell out of their Lakewood, Colorado office. The only local consultant on the team is the architect (Munn Architecture).
After a year-long design and entitlement effort, the Final Development Plan for River Run Ranch won unanimous approval from the Granby Board of Trustees this month. As our team celebrated this milestone, we decided to reflect on the process and what made it so successful. We believe the following three ingredients are key for any long-distance project:
Go Beyond the Site
In order for any project to be successful, it needs to be contextually appropriate and responsive to community and environmental concerns. For River Run Ranch, we spent time learning not just about the site itself, but also about important offsite influences. The site is located just three miles from the headwaters of the Colorado River, near the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the proximity to these natural amenities come with important environmental responsibilities. We also heard the voices of the local community, who were generally very supportive of the project but also concerned about preserving the natural wildlife corridors that traverse the site. Understanding these and other contextual details – and responding in a thoughtful manner – was key to winning support and approval for the project. These details will also help ensure the long-term success of River Run Ranch.
Communicate Frequently and be Flexible
When a project team is spread out across three different time zones, coordination can be a challenge. The antidote to this challenge is frequent and flexible communication…and a good attitude. Serving as the client’s program manager, Atwell works to ensure that all team members are focused and working toward a common goal, and that the client feels completely informed of the team’s progress toward project goals. River Run Ranch team members were flexible enough to work outside of normal business hours when necessary, and developed mutual trust in the team’s commitment to meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations.
Have a Common Leadership Thread
The River Run Ranch project required a delicate balance between planning and landscape architecture – two services being provided out of separate RVi offices in Texas and Arizona. Because these disciplines are well integrated at RVi, the two services blend harmoniously and team members draw upon one another’s expertise to improve the overall planning and landscape architecture effort. This delicate balance requires strong leadership, which our team achieved through a single Principal-in-Charge for both services. Doug Craig, Vice President in RVi’s Tempe office led the RVi team’s overall efforts, which involved making sure we had constant communication between our offices, keeping the team focused on the overall project vision, and ensuring that staffing and scheduling were ramped up at the right times throughout the project. The planning effort was led by Dennis Tonsor, Director of Planning in Austin. Landscape architecture was led by Brittany Geist, Project Manager in Tempe.
Ultimately, RVi’s planning and landscape architecture teams have designed a destination resort community that is not only environmentally sensitive and contextually appropriate, it is poised to become one of the premier developments of its kind in the country. Stay tuned over the next few months, as we will explore the details of the planning and design for River Run Ranch.