In the recent past, Trailside, a homebuilder, used to receive around 300 buyer inquiries per year for its properties located on the sunny side of the Cascade Mountains. However, at the onset of the pandemic, the number of inquiries increased tenfold, reaching approximately 1,500. Although it has slightly decreased since then, founder and CEO Sean Northrop believes that Trailside’s master-planned community, Ederra in Cle Elum, consisting of 962 homes, will sell out within approximately eight years, despite the sluggish housing market.
Northrop, who describes himself as a placemaker, emphasized the long-term commitment of Trailside and the importance of providing houses that cater to society’s needs while considering the right pricing for buyers. The development, valued at $850 million, will significantly impact Cle Elum, a small but growing town with a population of around 2,300, according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Ederra offers lots ranging from 4,000 to 7,400 square feet, with prices ranging from $170,000 to $230,000. So far, 29 lots have been sold to Trailside Group subsidiary Trailside Homes. Trailside, an investment management company focused on real estate and homebuilding, is headquartered in Issaquah.
According to the project’s marketing analysis, most potential buyers are interested in houses priced between $600,000 and $1 million. While high interest rates are currently affecting sales, Northrop remains determined to persevere through these challenges and make necessary adjustments.
In light of the prevailing high mortgage rates and inflation, home pricing has become increasingly important. Northrop intends to address this by constructing innovative, highly efficient homes with a smaller ecological footprint to maintain affordability. Trailside originally acquired 10,000 acres in the Cle Elum area for $25 million in 2001. They also have another development called Skyline Ridge, where construction has started on a 176-unit large-lot development near Ederra.
The overall cost of site work for both projects amounts to approximately $145 million. Trailside estimates that the total value of the nearly 1,140 homes will be around $752 million. To finance the land development, Trailside has utilized a combination of equity and private debt. Additionally, local and industry-leading private lenders have stepped in to fill the void left by regional banks retreating from home construction lending.
While Ederra draws inspiration from Seabrook, a second-home community resort on the Washington coast, Northrop emphasizes that Ederra is fundamentally different. He expects Ederra’s homes to be primarily occupied by full-time owners, including mature couples and families, with a smaller portion consisting of young families.
The vision for Ederra presented at a builder kickoff meeting earlier this year envisions it as a place where people will live, embracing and transforming the city of Cle Elum into an active, healthy, and vibrant small-town community. With the rise of hybrid work models, Northrop anticipates migration from core urban areas to locations with reasonable commuting distances, and Cle Elum fits this trend due to its improved travel time relative to areas like DuPont and Mount Vernon, attributed to worsening traffic congestion in the Seattle metro area.
Located in the hills, Ederra spans just over 350 acres of second-growth forest interwoven with trails that offer direct access to the 50,000-acre Teanaway Community Forest, situated at the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed. At the heart of Ederra, a short walk and bicycle ride from downtown Cle Elum, a 5,500-square-foot welcome center called the Outfitter will be established near the existing Coal Trax mountain bike park. The Outfitter will house a bike shop, offer light food, coffee, beer, and provide a co-working space for residents. Additional amenities, such as an event lawn and a bicycle pump track, are also planned.
The project aims to become the new heart of Cle Elum, seamlessly blending modern energy with the town’s historic roots, as depicted in its marketing materials. Northrop stresses that the team behind Ederra has taken into account the existing town, new residents, and the environment during the planning phase, resulting in a harmonious combination of these elements.
The term “Ederra” originates from the Basque language, meaning beautiful. Northrop highlights the Basque people’s affinity for both urban living and the wilderness, finding a direct correlation between their values and the vision behind Ederra.
Although Cle Elum City Administrator Rob Omans declined to comment for the report, and officials from the Cle Elum Downtown Association did not respond to inquiries, Northrop states that the majority of people are enthusiastic about the project. He acknowledges that a few individuals in the town prefer no change, making it challenging to satisfy everyone’s preferences.