Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report
Fundraising efforts for the EPIcenter, the future energy innovation, education, and community center on the Mission Reach, received a boost Monday when CPS Energy announced that it may move its own innovation teams into a building adjacent to the proposed energy hub.
“How does that help our fundraising? Very much so,” Kimberly Britton, CEO of the nonprofit EPIcenter, told the Rivard Report after the CPS Energy board meeting. “We’re showing concrete examples of what it is we were created to do.”
The one-story, 6,8000-sq. ft. building will be dedicated to the “innovation mission” of CPS Energy as part of its own facility master plan, said CPS Energy Vice President of Real Estate & Master Planning John Benedict. Originally, the vacant, non-historic 1940s building was slated for demolition.
“We have a number of innovation teams that are working in different parts of the city and here’s a building that’s closely tied to the EPIcenter,” Benedict said. “It allows us to put everybody in one location so that they can share information.”
The more than 100-year-old property off of Mission Road was once a CPS Energy power plant, where employees were trained on how to safely work with gas. The estimated $74.5 million EPIcenter will occupy the main plant and have a direct path to collaborate with CPS Energy’s innovation teams just yards away.
These teams test new technologies and see how they interact with existing infrastructure – the same type of work that will be being going on at EPIcenter, but more advanced, Benedict said.
Work at the EPIcenter will focus on early-stage, “pre-incubation” ideas. “When anyone has a new idea: Is it a science project? Is it a product that could be absorbed into another entity? Or is it enough for a [standalone] business?” Britton elaborated.
CPS Energy is also in the middle of renovating two mid-rise buildings downtown, slated to become the public utility’s main headquarters. The $100 million project to transform the two office towers into a LEED Gold certified facility is expected to be completed by 2019.
The new innovation building near the EPIcenter will be completed next year, Benedict said. As the plan is still in its early stages, CPS Energy officials are not sure how many employees will occupy the new space.
Since January 2017, the nonprofit EPIcenter has not received any major gifts. Britton and her team have raised a total of $21.2 million so far: $10 million in cash and $11.2 million in property or other in-kind contributions, which includes $6.2 million worth of property conveyed to the nonprofit by CPS Energy. The fundraising goal, $74.5 million, may change as engineers and architects “re-price” the project based on new schematics developed this year, Britton said.
The EPIcenter will likely have to be completed in phases over the next three years, she added, so project managers can move forward on some pieces of the project while they plan and fund others.
Britton is still waiting to hear about the updated price tag on the project and will know more before the second part of her presentation to the board on Sept. 25 that will provide updates on the project’s fundraising.
CPS Energy’s Board is expected to vote officially on transferring the property to the EPIcenter by the end of this calendar year, utility officials said. The EPIcenter’s board “will then have full responsibility for the project. Including overseeing and approving the budget and plans to actually develop the excess property.”
EPIcenter launched in May 2015 under the leadership of former CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby, and the team had about eight weeks to plan its capital campaign. “Most campaigns are planned in a year,” Britton said. “We’re now in the cultivation [phase] of the capital campaign.”
Britton and other CPS Energy leaders praised current CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams for continuing the project that’s “putting San Antonio on the map,” COO Cris Eugster said.
Earlier this year, EPIcenter launched its Power Network, which invites individuals and businesses to join for $25 to $10,000 or more per year by offering lectures, mixers, and other special events. Membership in the EPIcenter Neighbor program will be free for all students and teachers as well as residents living directly adjacent to the facility.