Thursday, December 19, 2019

Talaris Installs Fence Without City Approval, Violating Landmarks Agreement

The Laurelhurst Blog has received many inquiries about the fencing that was recently installed at the 7.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street).

Neighbors said:

What is going on at Talaris?  There is a tall new fence and large signs that say the property is under surveillance.
There are new temporary chain link fence panels installed along the 41st street fence, the conference/hotel booking site said it ceased operations on October 29th, and a lot of construction/real estate people have been gathering at the old Seattle Gym building, which looks like it’s being lightly renovated. There hasn’t been much discussion since the 10/2018 MUP change after the sale to Quadrant. I think it would be interesting to find out if demolition is beginning soon and refresh past neighborhood conversations on what that means for neighborhood traffic, the eagle’s nest, future school boundaries, and beach club boundaries. 
Curious if there's any update on the Talaris property? Noticed that new, taller fencing has gone up. Any info would be of interest in the Blog. 
On December 18, the Landmarks Preservation Board listed on their meeting agenda for Talaris: "proposed perimeter fencing- retroactive."

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted the L
andmarks Preservation coordinator about the outcome of this agenda item and they said:

The owner’s representative attended the meeting on December 13. They were asked by Board members to look at a more comprehensive security plan for the campus, in addition to, or in lieu of the new 6’ fence. 
To be responsive to this request, the owner requested to table the item, so it was not considered by the Landmarks Board at their meeting on December 18th. 
When work is done without approval we assess the situation and attempt to remedy the issue. In this case, we’ve asked the applicant to seek approval, so they have started that process.  
They are currently planning to return to the Landmarks Board meeting on January 15, 2020.

In 2018, Talaris removed a large oak tree with proper approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board and asked for retroactive 
Certificate of Approval from the City, violating the Landmarks agreement.

And in April 2016, Talaris again cut down trees without proper approval from the City Landmarks Board and after the trees were cut down, then requested a retroactive Certificate of Approval from the City.

And again, in November 2013, Talaris also cut down another tree with approval from the Landmarks Board and then suddenly got a retroactive certificate in place after the trees were cut down.

Shortly after after the Battelle / Talaris property was nominated, the Landmarks Preservation Board, "issued a report that informed the property owner that they were required to have approval from the Landmarks Board before making alterations or significant changes to specified features proposed for preservation. The areas of control for this property include the site and the exteriors of the building."

Also in recent Talaris news, LCC published this information in a recent newsletter:

Talaris Hospitality Services Now Closed  
The Talaris site owners have shut down operations of Columbia Hospitality management, which offered conferences, banquets, and overnight rooms in its unique Northwest setting. Quadrant Homes, the current applicant, is proposing to redevelop the parcel into 67 home sites. They continue to file reports required by the Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections for a Master Use Permit. 
On September 9, the Landmarks Preservation Board determined that their Preliminary Certificate of Approval Application was complete as required by the Seattle Municipal Code 25.12.680.B. However, landscaping and tree removal was not addressed, and that information will need to be provided before further consideration of their development is evaluated by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. 
As previously reported, the entire Talaris campus (the seven existing buildings and the entire landscape) was designated as a landmarked property by the City of Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Board in November 2013. With its current set of proposals, two landmarked buildings would be demolished entirely to accommodate the new structures, and over 52 percent of the site would be altered. With the recent deaths of two of the four original architects, Richard Haag (August 2018) and Bill Bain (June 2019), preservation of the site has become more significant as a legacy of their collaborative work together.
Columbia Hospitality, managed and operates 31 guest rooms at Talaris Conference Center. The guestrooms, had double or queen-sized beds, and some rooms had adjoining suites with decks and fireplaces. Amenities included wireless Internet access, cable television, desks, coffee/coffee maker and hairdryers.

The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) was sold to Quadrant Homes, who has proposed to build 63 single-family homes on large lots that could sell for about $2 million each, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times and Daily Journal of Commerce.

The original plan proposed would keep some of the existing buildings and park space, including the existing conference center and four other buildings, and two ponds. Two other small buildings, including Building G, housing a lodge, would be demolished.

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 and sold in 2000 for $15.6 million.

The property, when sold several decades ago, included an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) 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.

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.

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.

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