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A neighborhood full of food, beer and art at Ivywild

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'I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!"

Yes, the White Rabbit's tune from the Walt Disney Co.'s version of Alice in Wonderland is a fitting one for the Ivywild School, which has finally opened a little over a year after initial projections, sending impatient Bristol Brewing Co. and Blue Star aficionados down the common rabbit hole that is a giant renovation project, along with project co-founders Mike Bristol, Joseph Coleman and Jim Fennell.

Fennell, the building's architect, can explain. He cites factors including "a substantial delay" with the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority; an unexpected, $30,000 support wall that had to be built; worker absences due to the Waldo Canyon Fire; and aesthetic decisions such as to expose and restore underlying interior brick and other features, a $15,000 adjustment. That's out of the roughly $4 million the nearly 40,000-square-foot project cost (not including the brewery equipment's extra million-plus), which is at least $1 million more than initial estimates.

"What happens in construction is, it always takes longer than you think," Fennell says. "I tell people that this is the most challenging project I've ever had. We've worked on renovations over at the Fine Arts Center back in the '80s — that was very difficult because it was on the National Register [of Historic Places] — but we knew that we wanted to be true to the original detailing here, and to preserve a lot of the original character."

There's that sensitivity, and there's also the larger mission illustrated in Fennell and colleague Lola Scobey's new book, Build Ivywild: How Awakening an Old School Is Sustaining Our World. (Published by Fennell and Scobey's own company, Centurion Servant Publishers, it's found at or in Ivywild's Bristol Dry Goods merch store.)

"The businesses were aligned with the sole purpose of being able to have synergies and exchange the by-products of their operations, to create greater efficiencies and to build this culture that Joe talks about," he says. "It proposes a new development model for neighborhood revitalization."

Fennell says that even the federal government is interested in Ivywild's model. He's contracted with a Pentagon general who has talked about military outposts across the country encountering the same problems of aging infrastructure, abandoned buildings and the missed potential of exchanging potential waste products.

In Ivywild's case, consider how greywater generated by Bristol's brewing process will, in coming years, feed garden drip systems and the operations of a future greenhouse on the building's south side. There, an old brick dodgeball wall still marked with paint boundaries will become a thermal mass wall, or heat sink, inside glass walls.

With the addition of a small fan system, that heat can be pumped during cold months to warm the retail business spaces. Heat from the brewing process on the building's north side can also be fed through taproom windows by natural convection currents down the central corridor. And special exterior passive shading devices will feed sunlight inside in winter, while blocking it in summer. (View a model of them within our expanded online content at

That greenhouse and planned outdoor raised beds will supply herbs and veggies for the Meat Locker (see here) and other Coleman enterprises. In later phases — two more have been approved for a total of around 90,000 square feet, which should include a pair of three-story residential buildings on the front south lot — Fennell plans to place solar hot water and PV panels on Ivywild's roof, and potentially a LiveRoof system, a commercial living-roof infrastructure to grow plants and again control the building's overhead heat absorption.

Yes, there are the expected low-VOC paints, reclaimed lumber elements and other touches that give Fennell the confidence that he could likely achieve a silver LEED designation if he cared to add green certification to the project's cost. But he doesn't, more content to put his dollars into things more tangible, like the tiny solar PV array in the building's rear that feeds his snappy Nissan Leaf electric car.

Call that one of many small symbols for Ivywild's trajectory, but it's emblematic of the project in a nutshell, now that it's finally coming to fruition — certainly better late, than never. And in many senses, still right on time and even ahead of the game.

"Building Ivywild is more than just the building," he says. "It's this notion of building families, neighborhoods, communities and how you do that from an economical, cultural and environmental standpoint."

Ivywild School articles with video slideshows

Big picture on Ivywild School green building project

The big picture

A neighborhood full of food, beer and art at Ivywild
Old School bakery Ivywild School

Baked goods

Old School Bakery brings a twisted transcendence
Meat Locker charcuterie Ivywild


Meat Locker chefs show respect for the whole beast
Principal's Office Ivywild

Booze and beans

Get paddled inside the Principal's Office
Bristol Brewing

Craft Beer

Bristol Brewing goes all in

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