Interview with Geoff Baukol, co-founder of Brue Baukol

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, BizWest staffer Lucas High interviews Geoff Baukol, co-founder of Brue Baukol.

Denver-based Brue Baukol Capital Partners is trying to pull off a feat no developer has achieved in more than a decade: redevelop the former StorageTek headquarters site in Louisville.

The firm has proposed Redtail Ridge, a concept that includes up to 5,886,000 gross square feet of building area and 2,236 multi-family residential units on the nearly 400-acre site. The anchor tenant would be medical-device maker Medtronic Inc., which is planning a $133 million, 500,000-square-foot corporate campus at Redtail Ridge.

The project recently hit a snag as Louisville’s Planning Commission declined to recommend approval of a land-use amendment necessary to move forward with development. The board said the project was simply too big.

BizWest: Redtail Ridge has quite a lengthy history. How long has the property been on Brue Baukol’s radar, and why do you think you’re the firm that can succeed in revitalizing the site when others have recently failed?

Baukol: StorageTek tried and was unable to rezone to mixed-use in 2003 and ConocoPhillips achieved a successful upzoning in 2010.  Since then, there has not been a formal application proposed to the city — until ours.

Brue Baukol is the first developer to bring anchor tenants in tow. Redtail Ridge is a real, attainable development plan. The anchors, Medtronic and Erickson Living, are established, successful businesses in Colorado.

Brue Baukol has been working on this project for more than 18 months to ensure the proposal aligns with community values and needs.

BizWest: The project recently hit a speed bump in Louisville’s Planning Commission. Board members mostly agreed that the density and sheer scope of the plans were major concerns. How do you respond to the critique? Is a scaled-back version of Redtail Ridge feasible? If not, why?

Baukol: I wouldn’t call it a speed bump — it felt more like a crash dummy test.  The Redtail Ridge master plan is just that — a comprehensive and cohesive land plan harmonizing uses, improvements and benefits to the citizens of Louisville.

There seems to be an impression that Brue Baukol can go back to the drawing board and start over.

We must recognize that this property has laid idle for nearly two decades. That means no infrastructure of any kind has been done. Any developer will be burdened with the responsibility of making these necessary improvements. 

You cannot just drop in a corporate campus without addressing these major infrastructure improvements first. Reducing density from the current plan eliminates the project’s ability to pay for and build this infrastructure.

The infrastructure needs are substantial whether there is only a Medtronic campus or the Redtail Ridge development. Decreasing density would mean elimination of many of the development-funded public benefits such as trails and parks, on-site roadways, plaza, fire station, and wastewater treatment plant expansion. It would also require the city to contribute to off-site improvements that are not in their plans such as widening 96th Street, adding turn lanes at Dillon Road and 96th Street, 88th Street turn lanes or lane widening, pedestrian underpass for Dillon Road and a downtown trail collector. These are all things that have been major sticking points with city staff throughout our application process, and all things that Redtail Ridge has agreed to wholly pay for in the existing plan.

Assuming we can resolve the major infrastructure challenges mentioned, redoing the plan and submittal process will take a significant amount of time. Time that Medtronic will not accept.

BizWest: Is there any particular aspect of the Redtail Ridge proposal you wish the planning commission would have taken more time to study and consider before issuing its decision not to recommend that the Louisville City Council approve your plans? How can you persuade city leaders and residents that the potential benefits of Redtail Ridge outweigh the aspects of the project that they’re concerned about?

Baukol: After six and a half hours of presentation and hearing, we certainly expected more in-depth questions and had our entire consulting team on standby to dig in. Brue Baukol led an unprecedented amount of community outreach — 40 in-person meetings and 11 virtual meetings — and it was disappointing to learn that it was not considered sufficient as it was not funded or provided by the city.

Our plan is a culmination of what we heard in the community and how it aligns with core values of the city. We have made countless changes to the plan, including five formal submittals, all based on city and community feedback, and we stand by our plan as one the overall community is in favor of.

BizWest: What does Brue Baukol plan to do with its current plan given the planning commission’s decision? Will you roll the dice and bring the existing proposal before the city council?

Baukol: We look forward to hearing from the city council at our public hearing on Aug. 4.  Given this is a quasi-judicial matter, we have been legally prohibited from having communication with the city council, which has not allowed us to receive feedback from the council directly during the past 18 months that we have been working on this.

BizWest: What is the status of Medtronic? Does it remain committed to building the corporate campus at Redtail Ridge despite the current uncertainty surrounding the city’s regulatory process?

Baukol: Medtronic is ready to present to the planning commission and the city council its specific development plans, but unfortunately must wait until Redtail Ridge is approved.  The delays and uncertainty over the Redtail Ridge approval are jeopardizing its ability to build in the city and it may look elsewhere to build its campus. To be clear, if Redtail Ridge isn’t approved, Medtronic will be unable to build there and will need to identify a new location to build its campus. If an alternative site is somewhere other than Louisville, then the Medtronic jobs in the city will also move.

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, BizWest staffer Lucas High interviews Geoff Baukol, co-founder of Brue Baukol.

Denver-based Brue Baukol Capital Partners is trying to pull off a feat no developer has achieved in more than a decade: redevelop the former StorageTek headquarters site in Louisville.

The firm has proposed Redtail Ridge, a concept that includes up to 5,886,000 gross square feet of building area and 2,236 multi-family residential units on the nearly 400-acre site. The anchor tenant would be medical-device maker Medtronic Inc., which is planning a $133 million, 500,000-square-foot corporate campus at Redtail Ridge.

The project recently hit a snag as Louisville’s Planning Commission declined to recommend approval of a land-use amendment necessary to move forward with development. The board said the project was simply too big.

BizWest: Redtail Ridge has quite a lengthy history. How long has the property been on Brue Baukol’s radar, and why do you think you’re the firm that can succeed in revitalizing the site when others have recently failed?

Baukol: StorageTek tried and was unable to rezone to mixed-use in 2003 and ConocoPhillips achieved a successful upzoning in 2010.  Since then, there has not been a formal application proposed to the city — until ours.

Brue Baukol is the first…