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May 28, 2014
The city of Seattle will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Magnolia Community Center about subdividing land surrounded by Discovery Park that a Canadian firm wants to buy.
Rise Properties Trust of Vancouver, B.C., has a contract with Pacific Northwest Communities to buy 26 officers quarters that are on the land, which is in a historic part of the park in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.
Pacific Northwest is a subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises and the U.S. Navy.
If the sale closes, Rise plans to update the interiors of the 24 townhouses and two single-family houses and then sell them, starting this fall.
Rise is asking the city to allow it to subdivide three development sites under much of the housing into 22 lots so individuals can own their homes in a fee-simple manner and be part of a homeowners association rather than part of a condo arrangement, said Gary Blakeslee, vice president at Rise, a private real estate investment trust.
“It's a standard form of home ownership,” he said. “(It is) more what people are used to or what they expect.”
The 534-acre Discovery Park occupies most of the former Fort Lawton site overlooking Puget Sound. It has two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadows, sea cliffs, forest groves, sand dunes, thickets and streams.
Fort Lawton is a city landmark, and the former officers quarters are on the National Register of Historic Places. The townhouses range from two to five bedrooms and the single-family houses are four-bedrooms.
A group called Friends of Discovery Park, which says its goal is to defend the integrity of the park, has a notice on its website asking the public to oppose the applications.
“These permits to subdivide this property should NOT be issued on the grounds that this is not business as usual,” the website states. “Twenty-two individual property owners in the middle of Seattle's largest City Park is a travesty. These owners would benefit from their unique surroundings maintained by City taxes, but without commensurate restrictions to protect the experience of Park users. ... Discovery Park should not become the private estate for 22 private homeowners.”
A representative of the group could not be reached Tuesday.
Blakeslee said the historic housing is not part of the land the federal government transferred to the city for Discovery Park, even though it is surrounded by park land.
He said the housing is being rented out already. Rise has no plans to redevelop the property, he said, and changes to the historic housing must be approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Board.
He said Rise will move forward to purchase the housing whether or not its applications are approved.
Rise is just completing a market study to help it determine how to price the homes.
Bryan Stevens, a spokesman with the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, said approval of the subdivision would not allow new development. He also said the property is in a single-family zone that does not allow multifamily.