Home AEC Landmark Designation Complicates 17.8-Acre Laurelhurst Development Site

Landmark Designation Complicates 17.8-Acre Laurelhurst Development Site

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By Brittan Jenkins

With 17.8-acres of private land development now on the market in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood, the possibilities are endless, so long as they gain approval from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. The Talaris Campus, formerly the Battelle Memorial Institute, went on the market earlier this month and is one of the largest privately owned properties in Seattle. It also happens to be designated a city landmark, creating more hoops for future property owners to jump through when deciding what to do with the land.

Seattle, CBRE, Talaris Campus, Laurelhurst, Battelle Memorial Institute, Puget Sound Tom Pehl Lou Senini Dean Johnson Teaching Strategies Columbia HospitalityWith any building that’s declared a city landmark, anyone wishing to make changes to a building or site must have permission to do so. Lois Maag, strategic advisor, communications with the Seattle Neighborhood Director’s Office, said, “Making alterations to the exteriors of the buildings or the site, including the proposal of new buildings, will require a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Board.”

Changes to the buildings, including color change, installation of new signage or existing signs, change in right-of-way, demolition or new construction and changes to the interior that are visible from the street, require the Certificate of Approval.

If the future owner of the site wants to make any of those changes, they’ll have to have them approved, and the timeline could be lengthy. “The timeline for every project is different and depends on the development of the design, its scale, and any issues related to its complexity,” Maag added.

While it’s not certain what will be or even could be developed on the land, Tom Pehl, senior vice president with CBRE, said the land provides an opportunity for tremendous growth. That growth could come in the form of an education-based campus, medical center or single-family residential homes. On the site now are office and conference facilities, a banquet area and additional structures.

“Physically, the site has been constrained from expansion by the presence and influence of the surrounding residential and commercial development,” states the Landmarks Nomination for the site. “The apparent high-quality of the original construction, the inherent flexibility of the simple building designs, along with the evident considerable care and maintenance over the years, has minimized the demand for change over time.”

Originally developed in the 1960s, the site was developed as a life science research campus for the Battelle Memorial Institute, a charitable non-profit that explores emerging areas of science to benefit people and institutions. The Battelle Memorial Institute operated the campus until 1997 when it sold the property to ERA Communities of Laurelhurst. That owner only held onto it for three years, until it was purchased in 2000 by a holding company for Bruce McCaw, Telecom multimillionaire. It was then leased by the Talaris Institute, which operated the site until 2012 when it was sold to Teaching Strategies.

Seattle has designated over 450 landmarks since 1973 including sites, buildings, vehicles, vessels and street clocks.