Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Update on Talaris Agreed Sale And How Landmark Status Could Impact Proposed Plan

The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street)  was reportedly sold to Quadrant Homes in January, who, proposes 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 plan 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.

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.

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) recently printed this information in their newsletter:

Talaris Homesites? Not So Fast...

A recent article in the Seattle Times stated “For the first time in decades, a large, new private single-family-home community has been proposed in Seattle, as a local developer hopes to transform one of the city’s last big private swaths of untouched land to take advantage of the red-hot luxury-home market. Quadrant Homes has agreed to purchase the 17.8-acre Talaris site....” And has proposed building 63 single-family homes expected to sell in the $2 million range. 
But wait. It’s not yet a done deal. 
On January 3, 2018, the Talaris owner received a one-year extension on establishing official Controls and Incentives from the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board (SLPB). The reason given was that the owner “had accepted an offer” and more time would be needed. 
At SLPB’s January 17, 2018 meeting, the owner’s attorney announced the Purchase and Sale Agreement is with Quadrant Homes to build 63 single-family residences, leaving the existing buildings subject to further study for their future use. This proposal is compatible with the underlying zoning – single-family homes built on 5,000 square-foot lots. It might be operated as a Home Owner Association, but their stated goal is to integrate the new homes into the existing neighborhood. There were some off-hand promises that the chain-link fencing would be removed. 
All of the existing Talaris building exteriors and the campus landscaping are landmarked. Any changes to the site must be approved by SLPB. The use of the buildings must be compatible with zoning regulations, but the interiors can be changed and upgraded. The Quadrant proposal would require that SLPB allow the owner to demolish some the landmarked buildings. That proposal is under review, and the decision is uncertain. 
The Orion Center for Integrative Medicine, a current Talaris tenant, also spoke at SLPB’s January 17 meeting and expressed their interest in retaining the Talaris site as it is today, using existing buildings and landscaping. Their research shows improved outcomes for cancer patients using enhanced therapies, such as therapeutic massage, Tai Chi, positive feedback tools, and more, in a natural setting after standard treatments. Their team has been working on building a financing package to present as another viable option for the site. 
The Orion Center for Integrative Medicine is a nonprofit clinical research and treatment center located in Building G on the Talaris campus. Orion was founded and is directed by Dr. Bonnie McGregor, a leading behavioral scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Orion’s mission is to lead the cutting-edge research needed to revolutionize cancer care, completing the circle of healing with integrative medicine.  
Dr. McGregor commented, “Orion and a group of collaborating nonprofits have a beautiful vision that fits perfectly with the sacred nature of the land and the beautiful structures that were built here. In fact, it feels like the site was built for us!  
We are gathering a circle of interested advisors and visionaries and building a sustainable plan to secure the campus and create a new collaborative center for healing and wellness. Won’t you join us?” For more information please visit Contact Dr. McGregor at or 206-525-0414. 
LCC continues to work with the owner’s representatives to craft a balanced outcome for the Talaris parcel. LCC also is working with its legal counsel to ensure covenants running with the land are protected.  
For more information go here including LCC's letter to the City's Landmarks Preservation Board. 

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