Conservancy HQ to bear Efroymson name-WEB ONLY

The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana chapter is set to break ground on its new, $4.4 million headquarters, even though a large amount of the money still needs to be raised from donors.

A “significant” contribution from the Efroymson Family Fund is enough to begin construction of the building, which will be called the Efroymson Conservation Center, chapter Executive Director Mary McConnell said. She will make the announcement at a 2 p.m. groundbreaking today.

McConnell declined to divulge the amount of the Efroymson contribution but admitted the chapter still needs to raise a “large sum.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said. “I’m excited and terrified at the same time.”

The Conservancy launched a capital campaign about 8 months ago that so far has raised $10.5 million, with a goal of reaching at least $25 million within three years. The funds will support conservation programs and remaining costs of the building project, McConnell said.

Still, proceeding with construction without the majority of funds in hand can be risky, said Mike Laudick, principal at Indianapolis fund-raising consultant Laudick Brown & Associates. But, in this instance, it’s probably reasonable, he said, given the likelihood that the Conservancy has a strong donor base.

“It depends on the risk-tolerance of a board,” he said. “[It] may be trying to build some momentum behind the project.”

The Indianapolis Children’s Museum has policies in place that prevent it from building before it has cash in hand, museum Director Jeff Patchen said.

Construction on the $25 million Dinosphere exhibit that opened in June 2004, for example, didn’t begin until the funds were raised.

The policies “ensure the long-term sustainability of the museum, including the large capital projects and investments,” Patchen said.

Groundbreaking for the Conservancy’s headquarters coincides with the city’s “Green Week” that runs through tomorrow and promotes environmentally friendly initiatives. The organization is planning to pursue LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Construction on the 20,000-square-foot building at 620 E. Ohio St. should begin within the next few weeks. Besides construction costs, the price tag includes $1.3 million for the purchase of the land and other “soft” expenses related to fund raising and financing.

The building will take up about half a block between Easley Winery and the new six-story Maxwell condo and retail project, and should be finished early next year, McConnell said.

It will be built on property the Conservancy purchased from Nemec Heating & Supply Co., which occupied a building the organization has torn down.

Bricks from the warehouse have been recycled and will be used in the new construction. Wood will be taken from forests within the state grown for sustainable harvesting.

Indianapolis-based Axis Architecture Interiors LLC designed the energy-efficient headquarters, which will feature a “green” roof and a pervious parking lot to prevent storm-water runoff. Rainwater will be captured by a cistern.

The Conservancy is aiming for the highest level of LEED certification. Only two buildings in the state have achieved “platinum” status.

The group has 30 employees and rents 8,000 square feet in the Harrison Center for the Arts at 1505 N. Delaware St.

The Efroymson family’s roots with the conservancy run deep. The late Dan Efroymson served as chairman of the Arlington, Va.-based conservation group, and his widow, Lori Efroymson-Aguilera, is a board member of the local chapter.

Lori Efroymson-Aguilera declined to divulge the amount the family fund contributed but said it did so to help the Conservancy build a permanent home.

The headquarters should provide a boost to an area that is luring development, and is expected to attract more once the Interstate 65/I-70 ramp on East Market Street is torn down. The ramp is viewed by east-side neighborhood organizations as a barrier between the area and downtown.

“We’re excited to be a part of that,” McConnell said.

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