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An Interview with Mike Faber of Capstone Quadrangle, on the Native Landscaping Project for Design Ready Controls

Editor’s Note:  Recently we published an interview our project manager Erin O’Leary had with Troy Schmidke, Owner/CEO of Design Ready Controls (DRC) about the exciting native landscaping project we designed and installed for their Brooklyn Park corporate campus.  On that project we worked not only with Troy but also Mike Faber, partner at Capstone Quadrangle, the land developer.  This second post in the series is an excerpt from Erin’s interview with Mike about the project. 

 Erin:  We’d like to think this project is a great example of what other developers should aspire to for their land development projects! We are proud to have been chosen to assist you with the project, as well as provide you and Troy with quality local eco-type seed and plants. To further develop the information about the project for our current and future clients, I am wondering if you would answer a few questions that I feel are important to others considering non-traditional landscapes for either their companies or residences. Troy shared about why he chose a nontraditional landscaping approach for DRC’s campus.  Can you tell us what inspired you along those lines as well?

 Mike:  Primarily it was the preferences of our client. Troy had previous knowledge and was very familiar with the science and concept of using only native species, and he had a preference for a natural design style.  As the developer handling a build-to-suit, our mission is to translate our client’s desires and preferences into a high quality result, both site and building.

There were also other factors that probably made us a bit more receptive to this concept than might otherwise be the case.  One of my undergraduate degrees is Environmental Design from the University of Minnesota.  As a developer, we at Capstone have always been slightly different, because we take steps to preserve quality species that already exist on our sites, and we have always included species that are rarely used in commercial development (such as oak trees, underutilized because they grow so slowly and are not easily transplanted).  But we have a long-term perspective, akin to stewardship.

Also, like my client Troy, I enjoy being outdoors.  I am an avid outdoors-man, hunting and fishing and traipsing around undisturbed places.  I see spending time in wild places as recharging my batteries, and I appreciate both the functional aspects (benefits of habitat and variety of species) as well as aesthetic beauty.   I quickly embraced Troy’s vision on this.  I am hoping that I can utilize this approach and still keep the economics somewhat on par with the costs of more traditional commercial landscaping.

Erin:   Were there incentives or pressures from the city of Brooklyn Park or MN/DOT to add natural or native landscaping areas to the campus? 

Mike:  There were no incentives or pressures from the city, the county, or MN/DOT to do natural/native landscaping.  However, they all conceptually liked the ideas, and we felt no measurable resistance.  I think the City of Brooklyn Park was already very familiar with it due to significant installations at Target’s campus and at PDL (now Baxter), very close to our site.  Both Hennepin County and MN/DOT commented that they were looking forward to seeing the results, and that assuming it is successful, they hope to point to this project as an example of what other private property owners can do.  They see it as an enhancement to their rights-of-way.

Erin:   I asked Troy this, but I’d like to hear your perspective on any cost benefits/deficits with a native landscape compared to a more traditional approach that’s based on turf grass.   

Generally we consider the initial capital cost of a native landscape to be a bit higher than the traditional commercial approach, despite the avoidance of a permanent in-ground irrigation system.  We expect to see slightly higher annual maintenance costs as the site gets established, but then become less than typical annual costs.  In the long run, my sense is that the native landscape approach may be a slightly higher cost due mostly to the pressures of all the non-native species encroaching on the site, and the need to keep them out or controlled.  But we anticipate the overall costs, all things considered, is not much different if you take a long-term perspective.

Erin: What do you hope to see or accomplish by installing a native plant landscape? 

 Mike: First, satisfy our client’s desires.  Second, gain satisfaction of being part of creating a better environment, and perhaps setting some example that other commercial developers might try.  Third, adding a unique and attractive differentiator to our projects.

Erin:  Habitat loss, pollinator species decline, and water quality and runoff are all environmental concerns showing up in mainstream media lately. Were any of these concerns a part of your decision making process when it came to installing a native landscape? 

Mike: While I was vaguely aware of these matters, it was really our client that had these concerns; they expressed them to us beginning with our first meetings.  In addition to Troy’s personal feelings, he also sees it being a consistent theme with many other decisions he preferred in the building development such as energy conservation and productivity, employee satisfaction and morale.  All of these things seem to be aimed at attracting the best and the brightest young staff, and I think Troy sees that the younger generations have more awareness of these things than previous generations might.


PRI is pleased to have partnered with DRC and Capstone Quadrangle in creating this native landscape project, and we appreciated getting the background and perspectives from both Troy Schmidke and Mike Faber on this landscape installation.

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