Wednesday, May 10, 2017

All About The Talaris Property For Sale And The Laurelhurst Community Club's Long History Of Partnership In Redevelopment

The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) recently went on the market for an undisclosed amount. 

A small conference center, offices and lodge sit on the vast open green space with walking paths, a wildlife pond and water feature.  

The site,  built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute.  In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000. 

The county has assessed the property at $14 million. 

Pistol Creek Management, appears to manage the property and may be involved with ownership.  Bruce McCaw is referenced as Chairman Emeritus of Pistol Creek and Co-Chair of TalarisThe owner of Talaris listed on the City's Public Records is Greg Vik, with 4000 Property LLC, also associated with Pistol Creek.

Seattle Mansions Blog said that Bruce McCaw "is involved in large scale commercial real estate investments with his Pistol Creek Financial Company."

The property was originally sold with an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel.  The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc).  And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.
The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

Last year, 4000 Property LLC was exploring several options including a planned residential development with townhomes and houses, as well as development of the entire site into a private school campus, Academy for Precision Learning School

The housing proposal, initially presented in January of 2015 included three options: 1) 37 houses with no removal of existing buildings  2) 63 housing units and remove existing Building G and 3) remove Building G and the lodge and add townhomes and 72 single-family homes. 

.The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site for over 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development.  LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance.

LCC's other priorities in partnering with the owners are maintaining open space, the eagle's habitat and valuable mature trees, supporting and enhancing property values and character of the entire Laurelhurst neighborhood and minimizing traffic impacts on all neighborhood streets and access points.

LCC issued this statement following the recent Seattle Times article about the property going on the market.

At Monday's LCC monthly Board Meeting the Talaris property was discussed.
The Seattle Times story  that was published yesterday was filled with many inaccuracies.
The Laurelhurst Community Club has had a long standing role in the development of the property since it became a unique" island" in the single family zoned neighborhood when the Battelle Research Institute began in the 1960's.
The original architects including Bill Bain Senior, and later , Bill Bain Junior (Founded NBBJ), and Richard Haag  (who built Gasworks Park) were visionaries for the site with overarching concept of providing a respite for the "think tank" scientists. The Battelle Research Institute was built with the purpose of an "Institute for Advanced Study", and the City of Seattle granted that special use permit for that purpose because it  was a small institution located within a single family residential neighborhood.
Governed by a legally binding "Settlement Agreement" that runs with the land, both LCC and Battelle were "good neighbors" throughout their occupancy, and access to the site was openly casual, without barricades as the architects has designed to meet the needs of the scientists within, and the neighbors from the outside. The Battelle owners maintained the landscaping at the site and shared in the maintenance of the median strip outside their entrances, as per the mutual agreement.
When Battelle vacated the site, numerous proposals were offered, and many did not materialize due to their own financial constraints.  LCC supported many of these new ideas and development plans.
Bruce McCaw and his immediate family bought the property in the early 2000's and the Talaris Institute was welcomed by LCC and neighbors-another good fit with mutual respect.
More recently, the Talaris Institute was dissolved, and the property was offered on the market for development for the past 4 years. . LCC has vetted a variety of uses, and only the 400 unit apartment complex was strongly opposed as it was not compatible with the underlying single family, nor Institute for Advanced Studies. That proposal would have completely destroyed the entire site, and LCC fought hard to prevent that development that was not context compatible.
The Seattle Landmark's Board then designated the exteriors of the buildings in late 2013.  In addition, the relationship of the buildings to each other and the garden as "landmarked" are also landmarked. This limits the development to uses that retain the buildings and the site configuration.
Other proposals such as single family connected housing was proposed by the owner, as was a school for autistic children called Academy for Precision Learning. LCC worked through each one in a constructive manner, and had not rejected either concept.
The owner, Bruce McCaw, now wants to completely dispose of the property from his real estate holdings and hired a big real estate broker, CBRE to list the property for sale.
LCC has heard from some sources that the price is around $30 million.
Another entity called the Orion Center For Integrative Medicine, a clinical research center, which specializes in integrative medicine support for cancer patients , expressed interest in buying the property. Bonnie McGregor, the founder and executive director, who is located currently at Talaris, spoke at the  Monday night LCC meeting with a positive reaction.
LCC maintains an open viewpoint and willingness to work with any, and all, proposals that respect the Landmarked status and underlying zoning, and the Settlement Agreement of the property, and provide the owner with compensation for his initial purchase, albeit the covenants were in place at that time which restrict development and its future value.

As mentioned in LCC's statement above, for decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricade, fence on northwest side and a surveillance camera.  Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed. 

A real estate agent told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that, though there is residential development potential,  in speaking with a few investors they feel the project is too complicated and are not interested.

Bonnie McGregor, mentioned previously, who operates the Orion Center for Integrated Medicine at the Talaris campus, commented in the Seattle Times article:

...the property "is frequented by wildlife ranging from coyotes to ducks. Bonnie  often pulls into her parking spot and takes a minute to breathe in “the peace of this place” before starting work, she said. "There’s nothing else like it,” Bonnie said. “To lose it, to have it developed, I think would be a crime. It breaks my heart to think about that happening.”

Here is an article from The Registry and also the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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