Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why Talaris May Have Been In Such A Hurry To Put Up The Fences And Yesterday's Seattle Times Article

Talaris Campus (courtesy of Talaris website)

The Laurelhurst Blog has learned that the Talaris represenatives appear to have had a deadline in mind, when putting up the new fence, along NE 41st Street and the northwest side of the campus, as it needed to be completed before the Landmark Nomination Public Meeting last Wednesday, as they wouldn't know the outcome if the nomination would be approved or not, and didn't want to take a chance it would, just as it did with a unanimous 10 member vote.

With the  Battelle/Talaris campus approval for nomination as an Historic Landmark by the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, no changes can now be made to the property without the Landmarks Board approval. 

Any additional fencing, gating or modification to the site should be reported to Erin Doherty Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, at erin.doherty@seattle.gov.

The next step in the process is the designation and the Public Hearing will be on November 6th.

The critieria for this next consideration by the Board are that the building or site must  be at least 25 years old and must meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12.350):
a) It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, a historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or

b) It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or

c) It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or

d) It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction; or

e) It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or

f) Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.

Although the Landmarks Preservation Board does not have to cite specific criteria at the nomination stage, there was discussion at the Public Hearing that the Battelle/ Talaris site meets standards c,d,e and f.

If the Board does not designate the property, the proceedings end and the property can't be considered for designation for five years, except at the request of the owner.

If the Board designates the property, the next step is the Controls and Incentives Agreement, which is negotiated by the Board staff with the property owner. Once an agreement is reached and signed, it is then sent to the Landmarks Preservation Board for approval at another public meeting with possible subsequent appeals in meetings with the Hearing Examiner. If approved, the property is then subject to protection by city ordinance, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

Friends of Battelle/Talaris, a group of Laurelhurst residents who have an avid interest in preserving and protecting the Battelle/Talaris site, landscape and buildings based on their unique modernist design and intact original character, submitted the nomination to seek formal recognition of the property’s historic, cultural and architectural significance.

"Recent development proposals may adversely affect the integrity of the site," the group said in a recent press release.

Here is the nomination for Talaris/Batelle posted on the City's Landmark nomination webiste.

For more information on the City's nomination process go here and here for the City's ordinance pertaining to the nomination, designation, and Controls and Incentives process and appeal procedures.

To contact Friends of Battelle/Talaris email preservetalaris@gmail.com or go to their Facebook page or website.
The Landmarks Preservation Board is coordinated by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Historic Preservation Program. The Historic Preservation Program handles the identification and protection of more than 400 historic structures, site, objects, and vessels, as well as eight historic districts throughout Seattle.

For questions or concerns with the campus icontact Steve Goff with PC Management at 206-571-7487as Alan, with the Talaris Conference Center, told our staff.

The owner of Talaris listed on the City's Public Records is Greg Vik, with 4000 Property LLC, also associated with Pistol Creek
Here is yesterday's article in The Seattle Times:

Laurelhurst neighbors seek landmark status for Talaris site

Seattle Times staff reporter

Residents of Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood are hoping landmark designation for a historic private park will keep it from becoming a site for more than 80 single-family homes.

For almost 50 years, the private park that is now Talaris Conference Center was an informal urban oasis for Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Its modernist landscape was planned in the mid-1960s by the same man who designed Gas Works and Victor Steinbrueck parks, Richard Haag. He transformed the swamp where his children used to chase frogs into a bowl-shaped park with a man-made pond, fountain and flora influenced by Japanese style.

The public was allowed to stroll freely through the site, even though it was privately owned with buildings that housed nonprofit research groups such as the Battelle Memorial Institute and Talaris Research Institute.

“It was open to anyone,” said Haag, who at 89 still designs landscapes in his Capitol Hill office.

Now Laurelhurst residents have been fenced out of the property and are lobbying to have the entire 18-acre site designated a landmark to preserve as much of it as possible while the property owners consider development options for it.

Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously approved a nomination for landmark designation last week, and the site’s owner, 4000 Property LLC, has been temporarily blocked from moving forward with plans to build at least 80 single-family homes .

But the owner says that especially since the Talaris Research Institute assets were sold in 2012, it has needed a viable financial solution to maintain the property.

The owner has subsidized the property for several years, says George Thurtle, the company’s spokesman. “That is ending,” he said.

In 2012, representatives of the owners presented the neighborhood with two options: One could be done under current zoning laws, and the other, lower-impact plan would require rezoning for apartment buildings.

With current zoning, the company could completely take over the site with more than 80 single-family homes.

They offered that plan for shock and awe,” said Haag, who has supported Laurelhurst residents’ efforts to designate the site as a landmark. “I think developers often do that — they develop a plan for the most intense use as a scare tactic.”

Thurtle says developing the site for single-family homes was proposed because it’s one of the only legal ways to eventually make a profit off the property.

“The site costs hundreds of thousands each year just to maintain, and ownership needs to see an exit strategy,” Thurtle said.

The other plan allowed for preservation of some of the buildings and landscape, and informal public usage, if the neighborhood supported a plan to rezone for apartments. A maximum of 350 units would be built in two- to four-story buildings that would have taken up less than 2 acres, said Thurtle.

Many Laurelhurst residents and a grass-roots group called Friends of Battelle/Talaris instead focused on a landmark designation.

After the city rejected 4000 Property LLC’s request for rezoning, the option for partial preservation of the site was not possible, according to Thurtle.

“Significant time and money was spent developing a preservation oriented land use concept and business model,” a statement from the company said. “That proposal was rejected by the Laurelhurst Community Club who lobbied Council to reject it.”

Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board may decide Nov. 6 to approve the landmark designation for the entire site, blocking development for even longer, but not permanently. The property company can still negotiate with the board for other ways to preserve parts of the property while allowing the owners a reasonable way to manage the site financially.

Thurtle sounded optimistic about that potential process. “Uses need to be allowed that support and pay for the site,” said Thurtle. “The preservation community understands that, and it’s also written into the Seattle Municipal Code, which requires an owner be given reasonable economic use.”

The board can approve changes to the property that include development. Laurelhurst residents such as Jeff Davies, a real-estate agent who has meditated and exercised in the park for years, hope that process preserves most of the site’s aesthetics.

Davies, who lives next to Talaris, called the site a model of Northwest architecture and one of the first examples of integrating buildings with natural surroundings.

“It’s held up so well,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that a historic resource could be lost.”

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com.

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