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January 19, 2018
Quadrant Homes has the landmarked 17.8-acre former Battelle Memorial Institute campus near Laurelhurst under contract to buy, and plans houses there.
The initial plan for the property at 4000 N.E. 41st St., now called the Talaris Conference Center, is for 63 single-family homes. Some of the original nine buildings would be preserved; others would be removed, if the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board allows it.
Quadrant previewed its plan on Wednesday to the board. Its initial team consists of land use attorney Jack McCullough, of McCullough Hill Leary, Robert Hidey Architects of Irvine, California and civil engineer KPFF Consulting Engineers.
CBRE's Tom Pehl, Lou Senini and Dean Johnson are marketing the property on behalf of the owner, an LLC controlled by Bruce and Jolene McCaw. The McCaws paid $15.6 million for the property in 2000 to house their childhood education nonprofit, The Talaris Institute. A few other nonprofits are also still tenants on the campus.
The McCaws sold the institute, but not the land, in 2012. With Triad Associates, they then proposed a plan to raze all the existing buildings for 89 residential lots. That resulted in local groups successfully submitting the campus for landmark designation in 2013. The campus was built between 1965 and 1971, designed by landscape architect Richard Haag and NBBJ's Bill Bain Jr. and David Hoedemaker.
McCullough and Quadrant's Bonnie Geers told the board on Wednesday that, “We know this will be a long process.” They spoke of Quadrant being selected from “a large stack of offers” in part because of their desire to “maintain a single-family approach to portions of this site.”
What portions will be preserved or removed is bound to be contentious. The board meeting was attended by over two dozen representatives from the Friends of Battelle/Talaris and Laurelhurst Community Club. Most public comments were negative, but polite. A resident den of coyotes was mourned.
Board members were not opposed to the residential plan. “This doesn't scare me,” said one member. Though some questioned the number of houses. “In a perfect world, this would be a park,” said another.
The proposed 63 homes would mostly be arrayed around the perimeter of the campus, which is largely surrounded by houses. Individual lots would average about 5,500 square feet.
McCullough cited the example of Fort Lawton as a protected historical mini-district where a “design book” would regulate individual home design. He suggested that a homeowners association could oversee the community buildings that would be preserved.
Regarding Laurelhurst residents' past access to the park-like campus and central pond, until it was fenced in 2013, Geers said, “We don't have a plan for fences.” She emphasized that Bain, now 88, would also consult for Quadrant.
Geers also cited the local roots of Quadrant, which is based in Bellevue but owned by Irvine-based Tri Pointe Homes. Quadrant was previously part of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. until the $2.7 billion merger in 2014 between WRECO and Tri Pointe. The publicly traded Tri Pointe Group has a current market capitalization of about $2.8 billion.
Architect Hidey doesn't list any Northwest projects on its website, though the firm has much experience with master-planned communities and counts Tri Pointe among its past clients.