Fort Collins community leaders Dave and Paula Edwards built their one-of-a-kind home at 218 West Magnolia Street with the dream that it would become a gathering place – a house designed for family, friends, and the community. That dream will take on an unexpected new dimension next fall, as the Edwards transfer ownership of the stately, three-story brick home to Colorado State University.
CSU has purchased the home through a negotiated sale of $1.5 million (half its appraised and insured value). The University expects eventually to use the house as a home for future CSU presidents, given its close proximity to campus and the special setting it provides to host events, visiting dignitaries, and small gatherings. Colorado State President Tony Frank doesn’t currently plan to live there, because he and his wife remain in the family home where they’ve lived and raised their family since 1994, but he said it will be a critical tool in recruiting future presidents to CSU.
“For universities fortunate enough to own a president’s residence, there exists a special gathering place – with an environment that fosters connections among students, faculty, alumni and the community,” Frank said. “CSU previously had such an opportunity, and many of our alumni still have fond memories of visits at the president’s home. This generous gift from the Edwards will allow us to re-establish that wonderful tradition in the years to come.”
For the Edwards, this gift is an extension of their longtime support of the Fort Collins community – and their commitment to fostering connections among people. “We hope in some symbolic way our home, by being part of CSU, can better connect the campus and the community. The concept makes us smile,” Dave said. “It can also serve as a reminder that the campus isn’t defined by the borders of Laurel, Shields, Lake and College. CSU is the heartbeat of our community.”
“This is such a rare and generous gift, but it’s a reflection of how much Dave and Paula love CSU and Fort Collins,” Frank said. “Their passion and energy enliven every part of the community they touch, and this is just the latest example. We’re just delighted that their home will become a centerpiece of campus and community life, and we’re deeply grateful to them for making it possible.”
Home uniquely suited to CSU
The former CSU president’s home on Shields Street hasn’t been occupied by a president since the 1970s. It was converted to administrative space and now serves as CSU’s Diversity House, housing offices and meeting space for the Vice President for Diversity.
The Edwards home is uniquely suited to CSU, Frank said. It is just three blocks from the CSU Oval and connects directly to the heart of campus along the MAX rapid transit line. The home was briefly listed for sale last summer for $3 million, but the Edwards withdrew the listing in the fall when they realized the potential for a negotiated sale to CSU. (They will be moving to the soon-to-be-built Library Park Townhomes just a few blocks away.)
“This is an extraordinary home – there’s really nothing like it in the City of Fort Collins,” Frank said. “It simply would not have been possible for us to construct a facility of this beauty and quality for this price. The home is a labor of love, and that shows in every aspect of its design. This will be a tremendous asset to Colorado State for generations to come.”
Every detail perfected 14 years ago
With its mahogany front porch and richly paneled alder wood entry and living room, the Magnolia house has the charm and character of a classic, older urban brownstone. But it was built only 14 years ago on what had been a vacant downtown lot since 1983. Architect Frank Vaught, Interior Designer Gary Hixon, and Dohn Construction worked collaboratively with the Edwards on every detail of the home’s design and construction to achieve their shared goal of a timeless, elegant, and functional home/office.
When it was constructed in the year 2000, the Edwards believe it was the first new home built from the ground up in Old Town Fort Collins in more than half a century.
“There’s a common misconception that we dressed up an old house, which means we achieved our goal of building a home that looks like it’s been here a long time, “ Dave Edwards said. “Interestingly, students walking by will often comment on the house and say it reminds them of their grandparents’ home.”
The 7,449-square-foot house sits on a lot only 45 feet wide and 138 feet long. The home itself is actually commercially zoned and includes two dwelling units – the main house and a 1,125-square-foot two bedroom carriage house over the garage. The 989-square- foot finished garage also includes an additional 264 square feet of loft storage, making it unusually suited for hosting events. There is also an enclosed courtyard for smaller, outdoor gatherings.
The Edwards spent many hours in the house while it was under construction and came to know each of the skilled laborers by name. “We believe those who built the house took pride in what they created,” Paula said. When construction on the home was completed, the Edwards invited everyone who had worked on it to a party. Some of the workers left early only to return with their families to show them what they had accomplished. The finish carpenter who built the mantel over the living room fireplace even signed the back of it.
Dave Edwards remembers growing up in Pittsburgh in a mixed-used neighborhood a few blocks from the Carnegie-Mellon campus, where he could hear the Tartan marching band play during football games. Paula noted how, in many suburban neighborhoods, people often come and go from their garages and miss the interaction with their neighbors. Those personal observations – and a commitment to the emergence and revitalization of the Old Town area – spurred them to build the home downtown, rather than in a suburban area where such new construction is more common.
“When we built the house, we wanted an urban lifestyle on a Fort Collins scale, and Old Town is everyone’s neighborhood,” Paula said.
They first were inspired to sell the home to CSU after noting the University’s importance to the local economy during the last recession – and the commitment the University has made to building and maintaining exceptional facilities.
“Honestly, if we hadn’t seen the University’s commitment to excellence and improving its capital foundation and physical facilities, I’m not sure we would have thought about this,” Paula said. “But recent CSU administrations have really emphasized excellence in facilities, in academics, in programming – and that’s important to us.”
The University will take possession of the home in Fall 2015. The house’s like-new condition and proximity to campus will allow it to be readily maintained as part of the campus’s facilities portfolio.
Both Paula and Dave appreciate the opportunity to pass on a home that has such meaning and significance to them to a university with which they are deeply connected.
“We are thrilled to think about how our home can be enjoyed by so many more people by being part of CSU,” they agreed.
Dave and Paula Edwards – Community Builders, Donors, and CSU Rams
Offering their home to Colorado State University is just the latest way that that David (BS Agricultural Sciences ’72) and Paula Edwards have demonstrated a profound commitment to the Fort Collins community and to Colorado State University. The two are tireless volunteers and generous philanthropists who have been helping make Northern Colorado a better place for more than 40 years through their commitment to the arts, philanthropy, community building, health care, social services, and education.
Paula Edwards has been an active leader with The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the Fort Collins Discovery Science Center, the Fort Collins Museum of Art, the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, and more. Over the years, David Edwards served on the Fort Collins City Council, the Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Board, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, and was the visionary behind the creation of UniverCity Connections. They jointly chaired the CSU College of Liberal Arts Development Council and have been ardent champions of the arts, athletics, scholarships, and faculty development at CSU.
The Edwards are lifetime members of the CSU Alumni Association and, in April of 2009, they received the Charles A. Lory Public Service Award for extraordinary contributions to the university. In May 2014, they each received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts.