Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Talaris Development Update

The Laurelhurst Blog has received numerous email asking about the status of the Talaris redevelopment.

The Laurehurst Community Club (LCC) recently told the Laurelhurst Blog that Talaris, managed by Pistol Creek is still in the SDCI permitting process, which has been going on for over a year now, as well as the Historic Landmark Preservation approval process. 

LCC added "Nothing has changed from last year as of yet, except for the recent big clean up which was long overdue." Very tall weeds covered one of the roads making undrivable. Recently the main road used for years to enter the property has been closed and the secondary one that was covered in weeds is open during the day.

The large grassy area on Mary Gates Drive was also finally mowed.

LCC said they have not heard anything specific from the owners, except they received approval for removing about 11 dead trees that fell over in mid August, 2021.

LCC's published this information in their September newsletter:

The 18 acre Talaris campus  has been unoccupied since October of 2019 when Quadrant Homes unexpectedly  pulled out of an contingent deal with site's owner to buy and develop the property.

For the past two years the site has not had any active use and the landscaping has been neglected with fallen trees, and  with  grass overgrown to a fire hazard level. In addition, an additional cyclone style temporary "security " fence was installed in violation of the historic landscape requirements. 

On August 11th, LCC noted the arrival of numerous chipper trucks on the site, and contacted the owner for information. The response was that the site was undergoing a big clean up as a good faith gesture to the neighborhood, and in preparation for potential lease/sale opportunities.  The dead trees were removed, the interior of the site was cleaned out, the perimeter along NE 41st Street was mowed, and the pond that had dried out was cleared out, and scraped down to the pond's clay bottom. The intent in future plans is to re-fill with water this fall after it was cleaned of debris. 

The temporary galvanized fence was finally removed on August 18th, leaving the black one that was installed on  September 12, 2013, the day before the site and buildings were designated by the City as historic landmarks. 

LCC continues to meet with the site's owners about potential development plans, as well as participate in the public comment processes of the City's land use and its historic preservation board.

LCC's July/August LCC newsletter said:

Talaris Update

On June 16, the owner of the landmarked Talaris site requested approval from the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board for a 12- or six-month extension on their current permit for development. The Board approved only six months, with several members expressing concern about the current conditions on the site and the need for more frequent updates. The owner also is pressing the Board to approve more temporary fencing, which is not part of the original site design. 

In September 2020, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) determined that the owner’s proposed plans warranted an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement), requiring the study of the potential impacts from implementation of various development alternatives. Historic preservation, retention of exceptional trees, water, waste, and traffic impacts are examples of impacts that must be evaluated before any permit is issued. The EIS is in process.


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.

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.

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 barricadefence 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

The Laurelhurst Blog posted about the owners of Talaris violating the landmarks agreement with the City, by installing a chain link fence last month at the 7.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street).  
Shortly after, the Landmarks Preservation Board listed on their meeting agenda for Talaris: "proposed perimeter fencing- retroactive."

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.  

In February of this year, neighbors reported a homeless man living on the property. The site manager, living on the property had to use pepper spray to provide some distance between himself and the male,  It was reported that the male left when Seattle Police asked him to leave or be under arrest. Neighbors have reported he is still on the property from time to time leaving traces of needles.  

Affordable Talaris, made up of individuals, want to turn the large property into affordable housing, which would require an upzone of the Talaris property.. Their most recent update says: "We have expanded the scope of our efforts to advocate for a new urban village in the area around the Talaris parcel in the next Comprehensive Plan update."

It has been reported that the group has never reached out to the Laurelhurst Community Club, though they put LCC on their documents, which was not authorized.  It is also reported that they won't  respond to LCC.

Neighbors believe that is not a good fit for the property.  One neighbor commented that it's private property, not City, so can't be deemed as affordable and it's also not near to Transit usually where affordable housing is usually located.  And the massive development at Blakely is all have affordable housing that was required. 

It has been reported that several groups have come forward interested in buying the property. However, nothing has moved forward.  Several are Jeff Granville, with a non-profit called Mindful Presents , who expressed interest in developing the site as wellness center.   Another group, Harmony Hill, that work with cancer survival patients were interested. 

The once beautiful campus is now covered in overgrown weeds, enormous blackberry bushes, trees fallen across once were roads around the campus, most of the buildings in disrepair, the beautiful pond is filled with brown water and the grass on the entire campus is overgrown and very tall.  

In August the Business Journal published this information:

Quadrant's plan for Battelle/Talaris campus heads into city SEPA review

Rendering by Bassenian Lagoni 

The basic plan is for 65 houses on the 18-acre campus in Laurelhurst. Two of the original nine landmarked buildings would be removed.


A nearby neighbor said:

This is a precious piece of land and to destroy it due to greed would be a travesty. It is said that the owners deserve a return on their money but not at the expense of a natural resource which is irreplaceable.  And they maybe should have done due diligence BEFORE buying.

Details on the proposed land use action, EIS scoping, and public meeting can be found in this notice issued by SDCI.  

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