Thursday, November 7, 2013

Batelle/Talaris Site Granted Historic Landmark Status Yesterday

"Proposed Land Use Action" Sign Installed Tuesday evening at Talaris

Yesterday, the City's Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to designate the historic Talaris Institute campus, formerly known as the Battelle Memorial Institute, (4000 NE 41st Street), as an Historic Seattle Landmark.

The eleven member board listened to presentations by members of Friends of Battlle/Talaris, Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle and David Hoedemaker, the design/build architect for the project in 1966.

This recommendations by the Board were based upon satisfaction of the following designation standards of SMC 25.12.350 and that the features and characteristics of the property identified for preservation include: the site and the exteriors of the buildings.
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.
D. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a
method of construction.
E. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder.
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.

The owner of the Talaris property submitted a letter to the City stating that he opposed the landmark designation.

The City website says regarding this stage of the process:
Following Board approval of the nomination (or designation) the owner may give written notice of a desire to confer and consult with the Board and Board staff to reach agreement on specific features to be preserved and methods to achieve such preservation.
A timetable is established by Board, Board staff and the Owner. This written request by the Owner is the only procedure which may alter the time requirements or the public meeting on designation. If the Board designates a property, the next step is the Controls and Incentives Agreement for the landmark, 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.

Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features. Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives.
After the agreement on the Controls and Incentives has been reached with the property owner and approved by the Landmarks Preservation Board, a designating ordinance is sent to the City Council for approval.

Once landmarks have been approved and gone through the process they are then subject to protection by city ordinance, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

On Tuesday evening, DPD (Department of Planning and Development) put up many "Proposed Use Action" signs on the property

LCC told us that these signs don't mean that a permit will be granted. An application for single family housing has been submitted, but no permits have been granted thus far as it was likely that the City was waiting for the results of the landmark process which would likely put a halt to that alternative, now that the site has been designated as historic.

Here is the nomination for Talaris/Batelle posted on the City's Landmark nomination website, submitted by 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.

Friends of Battelle/Talaris wrote to our staff:

We would like to thank all our Laurelhurst neighbors who supported the nomination, Chris Moore with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and especially Ms. Eugenia Woo with Historic Seattle who worked tirelessly for the success of the nomination, and without whose help the designation of this civic treasure would simply not  have been possible.
This is really the beginning of a long process and we encourage members of the community to remain engaged.

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 or go to their Facebook page or website.

The Landmarks Preservation Board is coordinated by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Historic Preservation Program.

Here are public comments on record submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Board:

I am writing you encouraging you to make Talaris a Seattle landmark.  The property is an amazing place of eagles nests, racoons, geese and ducks.  An oasis in the city.  The architecture, the water features, the landscaping is a treasure and needs to be preserved.  So many places are being plowed down and turned in to cookie cutter condos and retail buildings.  It all looks the same.  There is no character.  I  truly believe people will look back with extreme regret if this beautiful property is allowed to be plowed over like so many other areas of our city. Let's keep this UNIQUE and BEAUTIFUL property as it is.  A true treasure, and unique example of the unity between buildings and landscape.  I urge you to preserve this.  Please don't let this magnificent property go to waste.
I strongly support landmark status for the Talaris site! For 40 years this property has been a significant part of our neighborhood and it should be preserved for future generations to enjoy.  Before the signs and fences were quickly installed, families, children, nature lovers and bird watchers actively enjoyed visiting the property to view nature within our city.  We have bald eagles, woodpeckers, ducks, and several varieties of birds, plus small wild animals living there in the natural areas of the property.  I am awe struck by the size and beauty of the trees that grow there, only a few places in the city of Seattle can offer such a mature and varied growth of trees. When Battelle was built, the foresight of the mid-century architectural design of these buildings, their placement, height, size and construction material all worked together to blend with the environment to create a natural setting.  This large beautiful natural piece of property has served as a refuge for our neighborhood from the harshness of size that newer constructed buildings present as they continue to encroach upon the Laurelhurst community.  Please do not allow this unique city treasure to be destroyed by developers who cannot see what is there or what this land means to the residents of our community for the past 40 years.

As the Landmarks Preservation Board considers designating this very special place a landmark site, we wish to add our voices to the numerous voices that have been raised in favor of keeping Talaris intact and preserved as an official Seattle landmark.   We firmly believe that this site embodies the characteristics of modernism and design that harmonize buildings and walkways intended for human activities with the natural beauty of the site itself.  Spending time there provides visitors literally with a breath of fresh air. Spending time there also reminds us that it is actually possible for people and nature to mutually enhance and enrich each other in an urban setting.  Not only is Talaris also a habitat for many types of birds (including eagles) and small animals, it is a prominent and beautiful site that isvwell-known and has for decades provided much quiet enjoyment to Laurelhurst residents, other Seattle residents, and visitors alike.  The Talaris campus  definitely contributes to the distinctive quality of the neighborhood.  Please do everything in your power to preserve this wonderful and historical place that is so loved by so many.

Please consider my comments as you make your decision on the status of the very remarkable property in the midst of an extremely dense and highly-impacted by medical facilities small area of the reminder of our place in nature. Neighbors and businesses appreciate the treed and natural area.  The occasional raptors who find the old and mature tall trees as a likely place for nesting add to the very Seattle mindset when seen soaring high above school grounds and back yards.   In my over 40-years of living in Seattle, I am aware of how many places have disappeared and how valuable to our health and well-being the former Battelle property is to us.

We support the designation of Talaris as a Seattle Landmark.  According to the Standards for Designation, the main reasons are: It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction; Specifically, it provides open space along 41st street that is used essentially as a public park.  Moreover, the lakes and wetlands are used by children and adults as a park.  It is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of Laurelhurst.  All you need to do is drive along NE 41st Street to see this in action.

Here is a letter submitted by Greg Vik, President, 4000 Property LLC, owned by Bruce Mc Caw:

For many years 4000 has been intensely focused on finding viable ways to preserve its property. Please accept this letter as its opportunity to formally address the Landmarks Board as it makes the decision about whether to designate the Talaris Campus as a landmark pursuant to SMC 25.12. We understand understand that Historic Seattle has
recommended landmark designation of the Talarís Campus. While ee agree with Historic Seattle that the Talaris Campus is a special property,  we respectfully disagree with the nomination, as it does not appear to us that it meets the criteria for designation under SMC 25.12.350.
l) While we appreciate certain aspects of the buildings, it must be acknowledged that, pursuant to Criteria D and E, the buildings are not a notable example of N BB] architecture in Seattle. This project is just one of many that N BB] designed, many of which were significantly more architecturally notable.

2) Unlike Gasworks Park or Bloedel Reserve, the site is not a well-known or particularly outstanding Richard Haag designed landscape. Thus, the landscaping ofthe site does not merit landmark designation under Criteria D and E.
 3) In addition, over the decades, the integrity of the landscape design has been significantly altered. While the general grading plan and ponds remain, at least fifty percent of the original trees and plants have died or are at the end of their
lifecycle. Invasive Himalayan blackberry and ivy have overtaken significant portions of the site. Thus the site fails to meet the integrity criterion for designation in SMC 25.12.350.

4) The site does not meet criterion F because it is not prominent as to spatial location. Its buildings and the Vast majority of its landscaping are largely hidden to the public. The presence of open space by itself is not a ground for landmark
As we have indicated, the existing Wood framed buildings and living landscape were not designed for long-term use, and in fact are generally at the end of their useful life. Much of the landscape is dying and needs replanting. The buildings are all in need of repair and require substantial upgrades. The capital to make this happen will not be available without both additional building area and changes in land use on the site.

4000 attempted a preservation-oriented action to rezone the property earlier this year. We appreciate the support that effort received from Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. At the last moment, that effort was stalled, apparently due to outside political pressure.
Furthermore, in 2004, 4000 completed a full EIS and in 2005 received a Master Use Permit that would have demolished substantially all of the buildings and replaced  them with a contemporary 98,000 square foot research facility. Landmark designation was never discussed through that multi-year process. Without any major circumstantial changes, the entire question of Whether the Talaris Campus should now be designated as a landmark cornes as a major surprise. ln the event the Board does elect to designate the site, then 4000 is hopeful that the Board, Historic Seattle and itself can work cooperatively towards developing an alternative preservation-oriented use, which also meets our Company objectives and
allows reasonable economic use ofthe property.

Here is the Laurelhurst Community Club letter to the Landmarks Preservation Board:

The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees (LCC) supports landmark designation of the Battelle/Talaris site and buildings as a first step in ensuring preservation of and determining future use on the site.
As documented in the nomination, the site and buildings meet many of the designation criteria. The architectural style and landscape design are exceptional and distinctive as noted by comments submitted by design professionals and many who have experienced the property. The beautifully designed landscape complements the onsite residentially-scaled buildings. The property was designed by well-known architects and a well-known landscape architect. The 18-acre site and its buildings were designed to be compatible with the surrounding Laurelhurst residential community and are a prominent feature of the neighborhood. The peaceful, garden setting has been a treasure to the region and a unique example of context sensitive architectural design for almost five decades.

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