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Letter: At risk heritage - Trost Country Club building


Dear Councillors (and interested others), I hope the material I’ve sent about the Trost Clubhouse has been of interest to you. It has taken time given by several people to pull these items together.

Like a number of the places we’ve lost in Las Cruces, the Country Club was a part of the town’s cultural history. From its early days when the “greens” were patches of sculpted sand held in place from the wind by a topping of oil, to the closing of the Club more than eighty years later, this WAS some place, this was a part of how Las Cruces became a city rising from the desert sand.

All of it is gone now except for the Trost Clubhouse - the ballroom, the pool, the ponds to feed the irrigation system, and finally the deep-rooted trees that graced the property and are now scavenged for firewood. What remains after a decade of demolition by neglect is a distinctive structure that is in the way of a phantom development. I say phantom because the current owners have presented no plan despite our repeated requests.

The property has passed through several sets of developers since 2012. Robert Pofahl and the first group of investors had a plan that they showcased at an open house in 2014. The Clubhouse was a central element of that plan and was treated as a gem. But the group’s vision melted into bankruptcy.

A group led by Zachary Wiegert, an NFL veteran turned developer with many projects in Nebraska, had a plan for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in which the Clubhouse initially remained intact. At the City’s suggestion, this group invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to present a Tax Increment Development District (TIDD) proposal for City approval. During preparation of the TIDD, a City engineer seems to have drawn a road through the location of the Clubhouse, perhaps unaware of the existing building.

When the TIDD came before City Council, it wasn’t approved. The Wiegert group pulled back, built Three Crosses Regional Hospital and the associated Medical Office Building, and seems to have moved on.

The Trost Clubhouse has been checked by two structural engineers and deemed safe and still sound. It stands much as it has stood for over ninety years with a view that begins with sunrise over the Organ Mountains and continues across the valley toward sunset. The Trost firm’s designs were known for the care with which buildings were oriented and landscaped. In spite of a notable fire in January 2016, incursions by some seeking shelter and by others in search of plunder, and years of disuse, the Trost Clubhouse survives.

In some of our discussions we’ve sought to make sense of this situation. A plan that isn’t offered. A road that can’t be moved yet hasn’t even been graded. A rush to demolish a building that’s sound, serviceable, and sits on a mere half-acre surrounded by over seventy acres of bare ground ready for immediate development.

Our best guess, the only idea that seems to make sense, is that the intent of the current owners is to raze the Trost Clubhouse and then flip the whole of the property and be rid of what has become beyond their abilities or inclinations. Personally, I’d place a bet on that being the end game here - demolish, flip, and be done. If that comes to pass, the community will have lost another marker of its past, while gaining nothing.

A group of citizens has been working to avoid demolition by reaching out to prospective buyers, by contacting structural movers, and while there has been some interest, so far we’ve been unable to secure firm commitments. Therefore, we are now working with Randy McMillan as principal representative of the owners/developers to allow for documentation of the building as it currently exists. Ideally this would involve what is termed a HABS/HAER process culminating in submission of a document package to the Library of Congress. We are having to modify that process due to very limited availability of state-recognized experts at this time.

We have also let Mr. McMillan know about our interest in salvaging some parts of the structure, including distinctive interior elements and possibly the facade. Three local people with experience in construction and historic buildings are actively working on plans to accomplish limited salvage.

To have some sort of “win” here for historic preservation we need money and time. We are also reaching out to the local community for help with the money question.     The amount we need is minimally $1,000 as requested by Mr. McMillan to show buy-in from the community for documentation costs. Equipment and personnel costs will go beyond that figure if we are allowed to try to save the facade.

We need the City’s help and Mr. McMillan’s grace to have the time we need. Throughout the decade since the beginning of this development saga, there have been only two visible constants - Mr. McMillan as a broker, and Ken Miyagishima as Mayor.

The citizens who have been working earnestly on finding a win-win for historic preservation AND for the owners of the property, have been at this for less than four months. We’ve made some noise and progressed in how we listen to and talk with the developers. We’ve learned a great many things.

Despite our efforts, no one has emerged with deep pockets and a shovel-ready project to breathe new life into the Trost Clubhouse. But, in some way, we’ve done more for this culturally significant building in a few months than others have done in a decade.

Here, finally, is MY ASK:

Is there some way now that you can help us by appealing to the grace of Mr. McMillan to postpone demolition until February 7th? That date would allow volunteers two weekends and the week in between to accomplish the tasks outlined above with some allowance for winter weather.

Sincere thanks for any and all assistance, Jo Ruprecht, PhD


(NOTE: Although the demolition permit was issued to the contractor on January 9th, none of us, including Judy Berryman as Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, was aware of the issuance until two weeks later, on January 23. Further, the City’s response to my online IPRA on January 23 for the permit-as-granted contains a link that neither Dr. Berryman nor I have been able to access through the online system. I will be making a second request in person later today. Hopefully then we will be able to see the particulars of the demolition.)

Again, thank you for your time and consideration. I wish I could have made this a briefer email, but I hope its length offers clarity overall.

Best regards, Jo