The Mission of David J. Brown
“With David Brown coming in and buying up the Sears store and all of this river property . . . I’m glad to see some of the improvement,” Lee Riley of Jann C. Pitcher Real Estate said.
As I talked with local realtors Mark Espoy (Jim Smith Realty), Mike Heraty (The Source), Stephanie Hill (Jim Smith Realty), JoAnn Laird (Galles Properties), Susie Long (Galles Properties), Lee Riley (Jann C. Pitcher Real Estate), Todd Shelton (Century 21) and Jim Smith (Jim Smith Realty), several mentioned David J. Brown and his acquisition of twenty plus downtown lots as another key to the resurgence of the real estate market in Pagosa Springs. The realtors also mentioned the Conceptual Master Plan created and paid for by the Community Vision Council.
“Long-range I think the planning is a very good thing,” JoAnn Laird said.
“CVC is fabulous and greatly needed,” Stan Seligman told me. “They are trying to do a very good job. But an area of huge need for any of this to succeed is reasonably priced housing.”
“There isn’t a real comprehension of the need to address growth. Like it or not it’s banging on our door with a sledgehammer,” Mike Heraty said. “You look at the fact that the Hot Springs [resort] has changed hands—that there is additional land being assembled by other owners downstream from the hot springs—large tracts. You look at the Aspen Village development; you look at the investments by Stan Seligman; a fellow from St. Louis, Tom Smith, has purchased a 1,500 acre ranch and is working through a development plan; the Valley View ranch which is under contract with a preliminary proposal for a very large residential development with a golf course and equestrian facility. And if you didn’t look at anything other than those issues, right there, right now, all at once you would have to say that the world as we know it in Pagosa Springs is changing.”
It was this need to address growth, which prompted David J. Brown to approach Mayor Ross Aragon in February 2004 and ask him to participate in a meeting of community leaders, elected officials and citizens. This group became the Mayor’s Council for the Future of Pagosa Springs and eventually the Community Vision Council. Their mission: “Given the inevitability of increased growth to the area, the Community Vision Council recognizes the need to guide growth in a way that preserves the intrinsic qualities of Pagosa Springs. Through a combination of positioning and planning strategies, the CVC seeks to encourage a healthy economy while sustaining the unspoiled natural environment of the region and a vibrant and diverse community.”
Brown and other members of the CVC donated about $180,000 to pay for the development of a conceptual master plan, the salaries of CVC staff, as well as for marketing, traffic studies and other related consultants required to pull the plan together. The Town invested $20,000 in this process. The creation of a public and private partnership such as this one is common practice in communities around the country and has been very successful in Boulder, Crested Butte and Durango. Currently, the Conceptual Master Plan is now undergoing the public process that will shape it into a comprehensive plan of the people.
Much criticism has focused on Brown and his role as co-chair of the CVC and his purchasing of downtown properties, criticism that many believe is unfounded.
Who is David J. Brown?
Pagosa Street will be the initial focus for development by Koinonia, LLC which owns twelve unique properties on about twenty platted lots in three key areas of downtown. Brown’s mission is to create a “thriving, active and prosperous downtown for Pagosa Springs.”
David J. Brown is the owner of Bootjack Ranch, At Last Ranch and now Mill Creek Ranch. But what do we know about David J. Brown? Brown has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California and a Masters of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founding member of the Wharton Real Estate Center, now the Zell/Laurie Real Estate Center. In the past, Brown has held professional affiliations with the UC Berkeley Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, the Urban Land Institute, and the National Association of Industrial Office Parks (NAIOP). Brown served as Regional Vice President for Boise Cascade Building Company, and then developed commercial and industrial income properties for Holvick deRegt Koering, Newhall Land & Farming Company, and White Investment Company, before founding Orchard Properties in 1973. Over the years, Orchard, founded with minimal capital, emerged as one of the top three developers in Silicon Valley; was named four times as San Jose’s “Developer of the Year,” and received five awards from the City of San Jose for the “Most Outstanding Industrial Project of the Year.” Orchard was consistently one of the top three property management firms in Silicon Valley. Today, the Company continues to maintain its reputation for quality, impeccable honesty and integrity.
In 1995, Brown and Michael J. Biggar founded Orchard Investors, LLC to continue the development and investment activities of Orchard Properties.
Brown is married and he and his wife Carol have two young sons, one attending public school in Pagosa Springs, the other not yet school-aged. He has three grown daughters and nine grandchildren. One daughter and son-in-law with two of Brown’s grandchildren recently moved to Pagosa Springs. Brown and his wife are generous and active participants in this community. Carol Brown volunteers her time and serves on several school committees as well as the Community Vision Council. The Browns have donated generously to every major project, charity, and event in Pagosa Springs. According to Susan Lander, General Manager of Music in the Mountains, “Having concerts in Pagosa was the brainchild of David Brown, a patron from Pagosa, and our president, James Foster.”
Ministry and Bootjack Ranch
The Browns are active in their church and involved with Ministry and Community Outreach. The Browns host retreats with the DePree Leadership Center, an affiliate of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and Brown has endowed a chair in Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, an international graduate school of Christian studies. Brown served on the Board of the DePree Leadership Center, taking a leave of absence in 2001 when he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.
Bootjack Ranch is not only the place the Brown family calls home, it is also a retreat center that the Browns share with business leaders and their families. They come to Pagosa Springs to experience what Brown calls “the wonderful gift of our Creator.” On average, 100 visitors are in residence throughout the year and Brown believes his ministry is to share the gifts of silence, peace, solitude and living in community.
“Carol and I feel God has given us the gift of hospitality and relationship building,” Brown said. “I really enjoy the role of mentoring and sharing my life’s experiences—especially with men. I have been through a lot and want to pass on what I have and am learning.”
It was a dream that Brown developed more than 25 years ago with his friend and pastor, Dr. Stanley M. Johnson. The idea was to provide strength for the journey. “. . . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” reads Isaiah 40:31.
“Coming from a very busy, stressful environment . . . living that lifestyle for many years . . . we wanted a place for couples and businesspeople, pastors and lay persons, to be able to come and experience the peace and slower pace of Bootjack Ranch. Stan provided couples with
professional counseling,” Brown explained.
Bootjack Ranch can accommodate 30 guests at any one time, by invitation only. The Lodge is a place for shared meals, worship, prayer and just hanging out. “It’s a place were we can ‘be’ rather than ‘do’,” Brown said. There is no cost for visitors who range from marketplace leaders to missionaries, pastors to family and friends, because the Browns believe in sharing their blessings. In addition, Bootjack hosts two or three structured retreats each year with a focus on building Christ-centered relationship.
“We believe that we have been entrusted with many blessings financially and otherwise,” Brown said. “And from that comes our strong desire to share and give back.”
Not an “Outsider”
Contrary to what you might have heard, Brown is not an “outsider.” His great grandfather, Harry Jackson settled in Arboles around 1892, then later moved to Durango and established the Jackson Hardware Company. Harry Jackson was also involved in real estate and served as Mayor of Durango. Brown’s grandmother was born in Durango in the late 1890s. His entire family was active in the hardware business until the early 1970s. Brown’s mother was born and raised in Durango; Brown visited the family cabin at Electra Lake every summer until his mother passed away in 1993. For two years, the Browns had a family condominium at Tamarron resort until they purchased the Bootjack Ranch and moved to Pagosa Springs in 1995.
Brown is a very private man. However, he is happy to answer difficult questions and discuss issues, rather than have the rumor mill spreading untruths about him. He’s approachable. He’s kind. He’s generous.
“I’ve never seen anyone step up to the plate at any reasonable level as this family has,” Mike Heraty said. “How many people of substance will want to come forward and be personally attacked unfairly and unjustly as they have?”
Yet Brown is more apt to “turn the other cheek” than to stand up and defend himself, refusing to comment on the lease dispute with David Joy and the original deal he made with Lou Poma to purchase downtown property near the Courthouse that includes the Chevron station, Hot Stuff Pizza and Joy Automotive. On March 18, Brown did confirm via email during his family vacation that his company did acquire the Poma property. “Other than removing the underground fuel tanks, we have no immediate plans for development,” he wrote. “We will be working with the existing tenants.”
Yet Brown was clear about his decision to step down from his position as co-chair of the Community Vision Council.
Brown Steps Down from the CVC
“I moved over to allow expanded leadership. Our original objective of initiating the CVC was to bring vision and focus on how to guide and manage our inevitable growth. Phase I of this objective has been achieved. I believe my gifts are visionary and creative—not administrative,” Brown said. “With the CVC’s gift and transfer of the Conceptual Master Plan to the Town and County, it is time for the CVC to broaden Community Involvement in other areas. This requires new leadership and focus. The CVC Chairmanship requires a very large time commitment and I have a lot of other interests in my life that I want to focus on also. My wife and family, our investments and developments, my business in California, and other local, regional and national philanthropic interests, other outside Boards of Directors, and my interest in continuing the Ministries of Bootjack Ranch and our local Church involvement.” Brown will continue to serve on the CVC steering committee and is especially interested in education, preservation and the expansion of parks, trails and the river corridor. He is actively involved in serving on the Advisory Board to the Mayo Clinic Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, a place he has spent far too much time over the past three years.
A local rumor suggested that Brown’s health was a factor in his decision to step down. Not true according to Brown. “Other than a recent bout with flu and sinus infections I am in excellent health,” he said.
Brown, who has battled Multiple Myeloma (a cancer of the blood in the bone marrow) for three years, is 21 months post stem cell transplant and his cancer is in remission, all cell ranges are normal. “I feel better than I have in years. I am very grateful for my many blessings and want to give back and help in areas where our gifts can best be used.”
I asked Brown about another local rumor involving the properties he owns along Pagosa Street, including the building that currently houses Artemesia Botanicals Company, the vacant lots across the street, the little white house that was briefly a shoe store, the old Granny Moose location, the Funeral Parlor. Is it true that he plans to tear down those buildings?
“We are in the long-term investment and development business,” Brown said. “We have acquired properties in what we feel are long-term strategic locations. We are committed to the development of well-done, environmentally sensitive and hopefully profitable developments. We have three project locations—the east town, mid town, and west town projects. Our initial focus will be on the east corridor of Town on the Pagosa Street properties. We are currently in the planning and study phases. There are no definite plans yet. We are studying the Artemisia Building, but we have not made a decision one way or another. When we have, we will make our plans public and will involve the neighborhood in the process.”
And what about his recent purchase of the Mill Creek Ranch? “It’s a long-term investment. We have no development plans. We want to preserve the environment,” Brown said.
So why is there such a negative reaction to Brown? Many of the properties he now owns (like the Sears store) had been on the market for years. If they weren’t on the market, the owner was interested in selling the property and Brown just happened to be interested in buying. Why are a few downtown properties the focus of so much of the community attention? Brown is not the only speculator buying up property for long-term investment purposes.
“We all have the opportunity to buy property, relative to risk and financial ability,” Mike Heraty said. “Why are we penalizing someone who has more money than most of us? Why are the achievers somehow bad?”
In the past, according to the realtors I spoke with, eight to eleven percent of properties in the MLS changed hands every year. Sellers list property for sale and buyers purchase property. “A lot of people have gobbled up a lot more in value and area than he (Brown) has,” Heraty added.
Stanley Levine owns more than 300 acres in downtown Pagosa Springs. Bill Dawson and Matt Mees have 30 critical acres along the river with water rights to the great Pagosah hot springs. Stan Seligman owns over 100 acres west of downtown. The Valley View Ranch is 1,100 acres. The development slated for the intersection of Highways 84 and 160 is over 100 acres. Beyond the one-square mile of downtown focus, Stan Seligman owns three times as many properties as Jeffrey Frieden and Robert Friedman from National Recreational Properties, Inc. The Harman Park and Aspen Village developments will forever change the Pagosa Lakes region.
In fact, Brown only owns 12 unique properties on about twenty platted lots in downtown Pagosa Springs. No more than five acres. The properties are owned by a Brown family ownership entity known as Koinonia, LLC—a name that was originally chosen as the ownership entity for Bootjack Ranch. The word Koinonia has several meanings in Greek, but its primary meaning is association or partnership. Other meanings include participating in fellowship, sharing a common experience, participating with others, generosity.
“It seemed appropriate to use the name downtown,” Brown said.
Brown’s decision to hold the downtown properties in a business entity whose name means fellowship is testament to Brown’s vision for Pagosa Springs. “A vibrant downtown community is critical to a healthy, balanced community,” Brown said.
Just as vibrant, healthy blood cells are critical to the bone marrow.
Brown continued: “In order to create this, enough critical properties have to be assembled. We are nearing the end of this acquisition stage. The next stage will be planning and designing the three key projects.”
Three unique projects, that’s all. Projects that must be approved by Town Planners and the Town Council, a process that welcomes public input and comment. Many people agree with Mayor Ross Aragon and are anxious to see what a David J. Brown development will look like.
“David is going to build something we will want to show off to people. It will be done right. It will be done classy. That’s what we need,” Aragon said to me in a previous interview.
“There have never been a lot properties for sale downtown,” Lee Riley said. “Only one percent of the market has been downtown.”
In other words, no one has ever focused on downtown Pagosa Springs.
“To benefit our community we must have a thriving, active, and prosperous downtown. If not we will become strip development just like ‘Anywhere USA’,” Brown said. “We have a God-given blessing here and we as a community must be pro-active to protect and guide it. If we do not our long-term economy will not be grounded and the long-term resources will be threatened.”
Seeing the return of tourists during Spring Break should reinforce this idea with the community. There are people in town, people downtown, people walking around, visiting stores, restaurants, the hot springs. Like it or not, tourism is what feeds the economy of Pagosa Springs.
“We should do everything we can to help our Ma and Pa stores thrive,” Jim Smith said. This is exactly what Brown hopes to accomplish.
“Pagosa is one of a kind. We love it here and we are committed to a long term legacy of a quality and economic stability,” Brown said. “We owe it to the next generation. Things are changing very rapidly. We are involved because we care.”