View of PRBO's Headquarters and SF Bay Research Center; Photo shows entrance from Shollenberger Park wetlands looking east at the northern reaches of San Francisco Bay.
3820 Cypress Drive #11, Petaluma, CA 94954, 707-781-2555
visiting hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
PRBO's Lasting Legacy: Capital Campaign Completed!
Ellie M. Cohen, President & CEO
PRBO reached a major milestone in November 2010: we completed the capital campaign for our “new” headquarters in Petaluma and now own it outright! Thanks so much to each of you for your generosity that made this possible.
This landmark achievement represents a major step forward. By securing PRBO’s infrastructure for the long haul, we can now focus fully on addressing the negative impacts of our changing environment on birds and ecosystems. With a permanent home base, your investment in PRBO’s award-winning conservation science goes even further!
Things were much different when I first arrived at PRBO in 1999. We were literally operating by the skin of our teeth—month-to-month, year-to-year, and without any reserve funds. PRBO had (and still has!) tremendous “net worth” in the form of our scientists, long-term data sets, and stellar reputation, but we lacked the ability to sustain operations in the event of a truly “rainy day.”
From my first day, a top goal was to help institutionalize PRBO: to make it financially strong and permanent beyond any single individual; to ensure we could withstand the unexpected.
The building campaign was, needless to say, a massive undertaking! PRBO was already in search of more space by the late 1990s. Sites in West Marin were explored but none had the communications capacity or square footage required. Working with Board member Steve Thal and a handful of others, we proposed that PRBO launch a major capital campaign to secure a new headquarters to meet our growing needs.
At the outset, only a small fraction of Board members favored the idea. For this reason, we conducted a feasibility study to demonstrate that PRBO could successfully raise the minimum $5 million needed.
With some friendly pressure from our conservation colleagues, we dropped the idea of building a new facility on undeveloped open space. Instead, we chose the “in-fill” approach and searched for a location already zoned for our high level of use—including a 50-car parking lot! But an office park for PRBO’s new home? This was a difficult concept at first for us all, coming from our long-time home nestled in over 200 acres of coastal Marin County thanks to Audubon Canyon Ranch!
One chilly late-winter day in 2004, then-Finance Director Bob Hunter and I drove by the last undeveloped lot directly adjacent to the wetlands on Cypress Drive in a Petaluma office park– with its huge “opening in 2001” sign outside! We both knew immediately this was it! PRBO would soon own 20,000 of the office condominium’s 36,000 square feet. This would prove to be much more affordable than building our own facility, enabling PRBO to devote more resources to our vital programs. And we could employ cutting edge communications technology—finally!
A $6 Million Goal
Once the campaign was undertaken, everyone was committed and passionate. The Board took the lead by making the first substantial financial commitment, followed by the DMARLOU Foundation and many other generous gifts from our supporters. The early fundraising was capped by a surprise $500,000 gift from an anonymous donor, and Capital Campaign Committee Chair and future Board Chair Carolyn Johnson took the lead from there. The campaign soared!
In 2006, with $2 million left to raise in our $6.2 million campaign and at the suggestion of Board member Rebecca Patton, PRBO was able to obtain a “project related investment” (a low-interest loan) from our long-time partners at the Packard Foundation.
And finally, in November 2010, we succeeded in completing our repayment and wrapping up our capital campaign—one year early!
Former Board President Bill Foss recently emailed his good wishes: “As you surely will recall, I cast my vote in favor of this project with a healthy measure of skepticism. My hat is off to you. It is a wonderful thing you and your team have done. Congratulations!”
Congratulations to us all! What a fantastic team effort—a truly invaluable outcome for us and future generations.
A Lasting PRBO Legacy
To ensure your place in this “lasting legacy” success story, please consider including PRBO in your estate planning if you haven’t already done so. There has never been a better time for investing in PRBO’s future! Thanks again for all you have done and continue to do for birds, ecosystems, and our future.
For information about the Tern Society, PRBO’s planned giving program, please contact Nancy Gamble, Director of Individual Giving, at email@example.com or 707-781-2554.
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About the Building
The Center is a 19,780 square foot office condominium (part of a 36,000 square foot building). It is located at the southeast corner of Petaluma’s urban growth boundary. Adjacent to a 261-acre parcel of newly protected wetlands and uplands, and with direct access out of our front door to Shollenberger Park, a popular haven for birders and nature lovers on the Petaluma River, opportunities abound for public outreach and engagement of new members.
The inside of the building is furnished with ecologically friendly carpeting, paint, office cubbies, shades, tiling and countertops. We also use diffused light from skylights accompanied by energy efficient light bulbs to conserve energy. For more information please contact our building manager at 707-781-2555 ext 311.
The outside of the building is landscaped with native plants thanks to the help of PRBO's long time friend and landscaper, Anne Young. The Petaluma Wetlands Alliance (PWA) is also making strong efforts to remove non-native invasive plants around Shollenberger Marsh and replace them with native plants that support more diverse native wildlife, often with the help of local school groups.
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What about West Marin?
In addition to our new capacity in Petaluma, PRBO will maintain a major presence in West Marin in cooperation with Point Reyes National Seashore including our long term partnership at the Palomarin Field Station. PRBO's bird ecology research and conservation guidance will continue throughout Marin County in partnership with the Seashore, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California State Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, private landowners and other interests to best protect our natural resources.
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Partners at Shollenberger Park
Petaluma Wetlands Alliance (PWA) staff and volunteers are leaders in conservation and education at Shollenberger Park. PRBO is excited to collaborate with PWA. For an excellent history of Shollenberger, birding information, and much more, please visit Petaluma Wetlands Alliance's website.