Thursday, June 23, 2016

Concept Plan For "Academy Of Precision Learning" To Potentially Be Housed At Talaris Presented At LCC Annual Neighbors Meeting

concept drawing for Academy of Precision Learning School at Talaris

At the recent Laurelhurst Community Club Annual Neighbors Meeting, the Academy for Precision Learning School leadership team and architect presented their concept plan for potentially using the Talaris property.  

Presenters were Jonathan Kil, APL parent and Board President, Jennifer Annable, APL grandparent and Executive Director, Brad Porter, APL parent  and Facilities Chair, Board President-elect, and Craig Conrad, MMEC Architecture.  

4000 Properties, owners of Talaris, have been exploring the use of the site by the local private school, which has outgrown its University Heights space. 

The website says that it is a "K-12 school that provides a nurturing, inclusive, and individualized learning experience for neurodiverse students. APL offers targeted opportunities that promote the academic achievement and social development of students who benefit from a smaller, supportive learning environment."

The Laurelhurst Community Club said in their April newsletter:

In conjunction with the approval from the Seattle Landmark’s Board preservation requirements, the Talaris site would retain most of the existing buildings (some possibly unused) and add at least two larger buildings to address the academy’s specific needs. 4000 Properties owner’s representative, Nathan Rimmer, presented the preliminary concept plan at the April 6 Seattle Landmark’s meeting. LCC will continue its efforts to collaborate with all parties to find a win-win solution for this very special property in the neighborhood.
At this time, LCC has many questions, including:
  • Will the school lease or own all or part of the site?
  • What is the potential trip generation and parking demand?
  • Would the school use be for day use only or have a residential component?
  • Would there be other uses established or continued on the site?
  • Would the chain link fence, cameras, and security compound approach be maintained? These are not part of the settlement agreement approved landscape plans. (Neighbors don't like the idea of having parking lot in open space on 41st)  
  • Will discretionary land use approvals be sought?
  • Will there be any requests for redesignations/rezones?
  • Does the school now have or would it have any institutional affiliations, for example with the UW or Children’s?

LCC said in their most recent newsletter:
It is expected to take two to three years before the plan is approved and the site is in use. The ratio of students to staff for this type of targeted learning requires more classroom space and the spacious outdoor setting is seen as ideal — for both learning and for preserving the site. Enrollment of 250 to 350 students is anticipated. LCC will continue to participate in review of plans as they develop.

Brad Porter, APL Facilities Chair and President-elect of the APL Board, told the Laurelhurst Blog following the meeting:
At the meeting, a representative from MMEC Architecture who did the design concepts, described how we believe our concept fits well with the history and Landmarks objectives for the site.   
Our concept was developed by MMEC Architecture in partnership with APL based on extensive review of the Landmarks Board findings with thoughtful consideration for how to maximally preserve the unique characteristics of this landmark while supporting the needs of a vibrant school community.   
We  encourage people to review particularly pages 3 and 4 of our concept for more information about how the concept works to integrate naturally with the site.  
The concept was developed with the vision of occupying the full site as a school without a residential use component.  APL does not have any formal institutional affiliations with the University of Washington or Children's Hospital nor are any planned.  However, we do deeply value being in close proximity to these institutions that are leading the way in autism research. 
We believe the work APL is doing to advance the state of the art in inclusive education is a natural extension of the heritage of the Battelle/Talaris as a scientific research center and specifically as a center for the study of early childhood learning.   
APL has a number of families who live in Laurelhurst today who are deeply committed both to APL and the Laurelhurst community and we look forward to developing deeper ties to the Laurelhurst community.  While there is still much work to be done to make the concept a reality, we hope that the meeting will prove to be the kick-off of a long-term partnership with the community.

We've  done our best to prepare relevant information for sharing an dissemination.  Given this is an early phase of our concept development, we still have a lot of work to do on questions like how to balance the needs of safety with both ours and the community's desire to minimize fences.   
Also many of these questions speak to very specific land use issues that we will have to worth through as we move beyond the early concept phase.  We did our best at the LCC meeting to be as transparent as possible about what we know and what we don't at this point.  In phase 1 where we've had deeper discussions with the property owner, land use experts, the City and the architect has made more progress on detailed design that many of these questions become clearer. 
If additional questions come up from the Laurelhurst Blog or community, please don't hesitate to reach out.  When we've made sufficient progress that we can answer these specific questions in writing for you, we'll reach out again. 

The concept is available on the Laurelhurst Community Club site here.

Here is information handed out by the school at the LCC Annual Meeting:

Who is the Academy for Precision Learning (APL)?

APL is an independent K-12 school serving 107 students in the University Heights Community Center on NE 50th Street and Brooklyn Avenue NE.  In 10 years, APL has grown from 4 students in a basement on Mercer Island, to its present size and location.  APL's mission is to be the reference model for inclusive education where typically developing and gifted students work side-by-side with students across the autism spectrum to receive an individualized academically rigorous education in a welcoming and nurturing environment.  We are also developing a groundbreaking transition program to make sure all students succeed in maximizing their opportunities after graduation.

How do you see APL fitting into the Laurelhurst community?

APL was built with inclusion as the core founding principle.  This extends from the classroom to the community.  Today APL is a shared occupant in the University Heights Center and we benefit greatly by both our students being included in programs like Broadway Bound, Seattle Boys Choir and the YMCA but also by including those programs into our school family.  We look at being part of the Laurelhurst community in exactly the same way.  We’re very excited to find ways that our families, staff and students can be included in Laurelhurst community activities and similarly, we will work hard to bring the Laurelhurst community into our activities and the broader APL community.

How did this concept come about?

In July 2015, APL initiated a Facilities Planning Committee to look at short-term and long-term space requirements for the school due to our inability to continue to expand in the University Heights Center.  APL currently has very low year-to-year turn-over, but over 92 families waiting for a slot.  In September 2015, the committee became aware that the owners of the Talaris property were willing to entertain independent school campus concepts for the property.  The APL committee engaged MMEC Architecture to create a concept study based on review of the history of the property, the site features and an initial assessment of APL’s requirements.  

Where are you at in the process?

We are at the concept phase.  4000 Property LLC was very helpful in providing detailed site studies based on prior concepts to accelerate that work, which allowed us to complete a draft of the concept by January 2016.

While we have received overwhelmingly helpful support from the property owner in developing this concept, APL and the property owner have no formal agreement in place at this time for APL to occupy the property.  APL has recently begun early fundraising work, but has not announced a capital campaign.  Due to the special characteristics of this site, the community interest in the site and the Landmark status both we and the property owners have felt the most prudent course is to meet with the Landmarks Board and the Laurelhurst community to get early feedback on the concept.  
We first met with LCC Officers in late March to introduce ourselves and discuss how best to introduce APL and our concept to the community.  We then met with the Landmarks Board of Seattle on April 6th to share our concept.  The Landmarks Board expressed enthusiasm for our proposed use, while sharing a variety of feedback on the concept itself all of which could be addressed in subsequent phases of developing a controls and incentives agreement.
We are here tonight to share our concept with the Laurelhurst community and hear your feedback.  

What are the next steps?

The next steps all involve going from concept toward development.  These include determining a structure for APL to begin to occupy and develop the site that would make sense for APL and the property owner; beginning more detailed architecture design starting with functional programming; beginning more detailed discussions with the Landmarks Board; further meetings with LCC and interested parties on specific feedback or concerns; ultimately through to permitting and construction.  

How long might all this take?

Raising capital, working through the city and landmarks, reaching agreements to occupy can all take many months and up to 2-3 years.  We believe the level of community support, both in the Laurelhurst community and the APL community will ultimately dictate how quickly we can proceed.  We are hopeful that by collaborating closely with the Laurelhurst community, the property owners and the city we can jointly find ways to work together to move the project forward at a pace that preserves the momentum.  

We have more questions, how do we get answers?

We have set up a mailing list  We are happy to answer any questions that come along.

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