Graduate Housing Expansion: Growing into the Future

In 2017 we began a $580,000 capital project to increase resiliency, build community and sustain the planned growth of our Graduate M.Ed. Residency program. The project includes building one five-bedroom detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) next to the Blue House that we already own in Marblemount and purchasing and renovating another house, thus gaining space for 10 people.

 Securing reliable housing and expanding our graduate program supports a growing cohort of Graduate M.Ed. students who have deep reach both within and outside of the Institute. These students help provide environmental education for 10,000 people annually, while working with some of the Pacific Northwest’s best educators, naturalists and conservation leaders. We cannot meet demand for this unique program without expanding housing.

Housing near the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is critical to achieving key elements of our 2017-2019 strategic plan to pursue new programs and partnerships, engage more people in lifelong learning and achieve stability in operations. While we have been planning a housing expansion for several years, the loss of Seattle City Light rental houses in Diablo, along with a challenging rental market in Marblemount (the closest community to the Learning Center) made this an urgent need. 

Acquiring housing will make the Institute more resilient and increase our capacity to provide quality environmental education. Owning houses mitigates risks associated with an unpredictable rental market, increases our financial stability over the long term, and frees up time currently used to address housing issues so we can connect more young people, families, adults and school groups to nature.

With support** from donors and board members, a generous grant pledged by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and a draw from our reserve fund we met our $580,000 goal. Thanks so much to all who contributed!

In March, we broke ground on the 5-bedroom detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) located on the Blue House property. Skagit Valley-based architect David Hall — the lead architect for designing the amazing North Cascades Environmental Learning Center — donated much of the design work. After 6 months of carefully reviewing bids, we selected Kaplan Homes Unlimited, a Sedro-Woolley based contractor that has worked with North Cascades National Park, US Forest Service, and Sedro-Woolley School District. Selection took longer than we anticipated because of increased bid prices for the remote location, construction seasonality and increased regional building activity.

We are on track for a mid-August completion— just in time for the 2018 M.Ed. cohort to move in at the beginning of their year-long residency. The foundation, framing, roof, siding, windows, doors, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, insulation and porch are complete and we’ll tackle the septic system, landscape, and interior in August.

This DADU will house 5 graduate students, in addition to 5 currently living in the Blue House. Along with providing student residence, this 8-acre property continues to serve as a community education center. This year, the Confluence Garden ‘grew’ in food production and education programming (see 2017 Confluence Garden Report), local tribes are using the property to monitor fish on Diobsud Creek, and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group is planting native plants and removing invasive species to create stream fish habitat.

We purchased the “Grey House” in Marblemount in July of 2017. Located just one mile from the Blue House, the Grey House has already temporarily housed students, seasonal instructors, and new staff who are transitioning to permanent residences. This summer, four Institute seasonal instructors will live in the Grey House. We plan to remodel the house in 2019 to build additional bedrooms.

This capital project allows us to sustain growth in the graduate program, continue our current level of programming and grow into the future.

Read more about the Blue House, its Confluence Garden and grad student life in articles on our blog:

** Thank you to all who have generously supported this project:

American Alpine Institute
Beardsley Family Foundation
Bill and Trice Booth
Jodi Broughton
Zimmie Caner and Tom Edwards
Judy Chapman and Carl Johansen
Drs. Sterling and Sandra Clarren
Gerry Cook and Hannah Sullivan
Steve Hollenhorst
Peter Jackson and Laurie Werner
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Beau MacGregor and Ryan Castle
Mac and Linda MacGregor
Scott and Frances McAdams
Nan McKay and Howard Berglund
Martin and Lissa Mehalchin
John Miles and Susan Morgan
Stan Miller
Jeanne Muir and Art Brochet
Reliance Ricketts and Dick Wearn
Maren Van Nostrand and Byron Ricks
StudioEdison, David Hall AIA
Kevin Williamson and Jane Talbot
Mona West

Leave a Comment