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Briarcliff update

May 26th, 2010 · 68 Comments

We have been following the progress of the controversial construction of 39 new homes at the former site of Briarcliff School and wanted to share this note we just received from the developer of the site.


John C. Cochenour, Lexington Fine Homes writes: “We have started construction of our first home!  The adjacent home should also be started within the near future.  It will probably take most of this year to complete them.   Hopefully we will start several other homes before the end of the year.  While the market has improved, we will  start additional homes as the market dictates.  We have not completed the marketing artwork for these homes yet, but will add them to our website once we have established prices.  It’s good to finally be at this point.  We’re hopeful that the homes being built will be a pleasant addition to the context of the community.  Thanks for your continued interest.” 


We reported recently that the roads at site at 39th and Dravus near the water tower had been completed.  This project has been a long time in coming. The Briarcliff School was closed for a number of years before it was sold by the Seattle School District to Lexington in 2003.  As we have been reporting,  construction was delayed as neighborhood groups opposed the project saying it amounts to sticking a dense subdivision in the middle of an older neighborhood of single-family homes.  Critics worry that with so many houses on such small lots there will be traffic problems and congestion. 

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  • Nice wordsmithing –

    “We’re hopeful that the homes being built will be a pleasant addition to the context of the community.” – safe to assume they know this development will not fit in with the surrounding single family homes, and that is why they are hopeful it “will be a pleasant addition to the context of the community” (whatever that is)?

  • Neighbor dave

    Good to see things getting started. Funny the way things work out. The neighbors delaying the project should put more money in the owners hands. Also, the grade looks just the way it was before construction. Carry on.

  • 39th Ave Resident

    I think we should stay positive, folks. There will be some wonderful families moving in to these homes and we need to give THEM the welcome they deserve. At this point, the project is obviously going forward, slowly but surely. We should just look at the bright side now and stop grumbling about change. Yikes.

  • Surrender?

    “39th Ave Resident” –

    Can I just see if I understand you correctly?

    You believe established & invested Magnolians should simply give in to an Eastside developer, with no prior ties to Magnolia, who paid nearly twice the going rate for this parcel, gambling that their ties to City Hall would allow them to prevail with a loophole in a variance meant to save wetlands?

    You give up too easy.

    If this development moves forward as planned, it will negatively change this part of Magnolia, forever.

  • Neighbor dave

    Go burn your bra. How do you think the old brick tudor people felt when Dahl Terrace was developed in the 1950’s. Change happens. get over it.

  • Surrender?

    Typical. Knocked back on your heels, with cold hard facts and reality that don’t jibe with your vision, so you swing away with ad hominem attacks.

    This development should not have been allowed to proceed as submitted by the City.

  • Val

    Just think of the lucky people that get to live in the new homes while surrounded by the construction noises and sights of the other houses being built. Developers should be required to pass an IQ test.

  • La LA LA

    It all fits with the high density urban plan. Pack as many in as the developers can. The invasion into single family home neighborhoods has been going on for quite a while, Magnolia thinks they should be immune. Ahh…nope. Be thankful the economy tanked and you had your idyllic neighborhood for a bit longer. Now welcome your developer overlords with open arms and puckered lips the way Ballard did.

  • Great

    More Homes !!!!!!

    Up Next

    Jack in the Box in the Village

  • Magnolia Tennis

    The developer has deliberately misstated what this site will look like. The City has been complicit in allowing the developer to build up the grade and start his first floor height calculations at the elevated grade (all of course for pure greed and views). As a homeowner, I am very excited that I can just bring in fill or move the dirt around in my yard to do exactly what this developer has been allowed to do.

    The proof is in the pudding. Wait and see. It will look like a townhome crammed condo development – ruining this neighborhood forever. It is sad that the City does not care or even listened to the neighbors.

  • weeds in maganolia

    “Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
    Little boxes, little boxes,
    Little boxes, all the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same”

  • Joe

    This development is what you call “ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag”. Way too many houses in such a small lot.

    I think “Neighbor Dave” is actually the developer, or a friend. Or he’s crazy, because nobody in their right mind would think that this is a good idea unless they planned to profit from it.

  • Michele

    I agree with Joe. I live in the neighborhood and have no idea who “neighbor dave” is. It is so disappointing that the City allowed the developer to build up the property for “view homes” in order to maximize the profit for the developer. If the developer is posting comments, please STOP!

  • Neighbor dave

    HaHaHa, wrong . no developer. Just a happy neighbor. i will miss walking my dog on the PRIVATE PROPERTY.
    Hope the developer does well.

  • Joe

    I would imagine that if enough negative comments get posted about this property with the keywords “briarcliff” and “magnolia”, on all sorts of different websites, that informed potential buyers will read the true story of this development and look elsewhere for a $1M+ home. There are so many wonderful home for sale elsewhere in Magnolia that have character and actual yards, that I find it hard to see this development competing without drastic price reductions. Or maybe they’ll get leased like the prison-like homes across from Bartell…

    “Neighbor” Dave – can you list one good reason for somebody to buy one of these homes?

  • Surrender?

    Dave –

    People investing in single family dwellings should not need to fear a rock crushing business opening up next door – hence zoning laws.

    In this case, the developer siezed on a loophole in a variance designed to protect wetlands, and DPD doesn’t have the backbone to inject a little common sense into this farce.

    PRIVATE PROPERTY does not mean you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your land.

    Good greif.

  • Neighbor dave

    I’ve seen this Deliverance mentality before. Look at Elliott Bay marina. Why does Magnolia have such a crappy access to the Marina? Its called cry babies. Peace

  • Joe

    That confirms it, “neighbor” dave’s cheese has slipped off his cracker. He still can’t list one good reason to buy one of these.
    I’ll come right out and say that I hope the developer loses his shirt over this project. I think he actually will since there’s little reason to pay so much for a home in such a cramped neighborhood.
    If this happens, call it retribution for barfing out so many homes in an area that obviously doesn’t support it.
    He would have been better off building these homes on nice, large lots that people actually want to buy.

  • Neighbor dave

    Joe i’m not a buyer. i have a home real close to this project and i am happy with this situation.Why would you really hope someone would lose his shirt. Do you feel better when someone else is not doing so well. That is kinda weird. Economic Darwinism will control this. Thank god you won’t. In another 2 years you won’t remember any of this. because you will be fighting to try and stop the casino in Discovery park.

  • Michele

    I truly believe that this person who calls himself “Neighbor Dave” is definitely not a neighbor. No one in our neighborhood recognizes his name and we live a block from the development. So, Dave, if you are a front man for John Cochenour, please stop your untruthful statements. You comments have no truth and do not speak for the neighborhood.

  • Neighbor dave

    wrong, michele. i actually live nearby and went to school there. there’s lots of people in the neigborhood that actually think this is a good idea. And your comments do not speak for the neighborhood either. Just the big mouths who are jealous.

  • Joe

    I think Michele’s comments do speak for the neighborhood. I live close by too, although not that close, and haven’t met one person who thinks this is a good idea.
    And since “developer” Dave, er, I mean “neighbor” Dave is a bit sensitive, I suppose I’ll clarify my statement above… No I don’t like when people lose money, but in this case, it’d be great if this developer lost money on this project so he’d have less capital to ruin neighborhoods in the future.
    The Lexington website actually shows some pretty nice homes on large lots. I wonder why they’re straying so far from what’s worked in the past? Let’s just hope the homes are nice, so we can refer to this as “ten pounds of nice crap in a 5 pound bag”.

  • Confused

    Just an observation. “dave” why do you use lower case on the beginning of sentences and on your name? It’s kind of creepy. Are you really a neighbor, or are you the illiterate guy who also wrote the opening intro about this development for your boss? Your writing styles are very similar, minus the lower case issue.

  • i don’t live in magnolia

    Nobody “speaks for the neighborhood.” You speak for you.

  • Nancy

    oh well, we have to try and accept this now-us little people didn’t win the fight against the big rich Bellevue deloper. I have a hard time picturing how this whole development will look-maybe it will be nice.

  • Nancy

    I meant developer

  • DavidB

    I’ve been shopping for a home on Magnolia and many sellers are still in denial that houses don’t sell at 2007 level prices anymore. It will be a long time before prices reach bubble levels again.

    I welcome the addition of more homes to Magnolia since more supply of homes will put additional pressure on prices to decline.

    This looks like it may be a nice new development of homes. I wouldn’t like this development if I was a homeowner but as a potential buyer I think it’s great news!

  • Linda Carlson

    Given that Lexington implied years ago that the Briarcliff homes would sell for $800,000 and up, it was interesting to see that the building permit for this first house claims the cost at just under $400,000. Assuming three stories and a basement garage, that’s about $100 per square foot, which does not sound like luxury construction to me. Of course the house’s anticipated sales price of $1 million has to include the cost of the land, which—to contradict an earlier post—was at the time considered a real bargain. Many of us still question why the financially-strapped school district sold so cheaply. It said it had to due to asbestos in the old school, but no abatement was done during the demolition, and Cochenour’s crew testified that there was no asbestos. It is sad to see how the existing trees that neighbor the west and south sides of the project are threatened by the excavation and re-grading that has been done—certainly demonstrates how little Cochenour cares about the neighborhood.

  • Darlene

    I find the grade on the west end of this development concerning. We’ve been here since 2001 and spent time on the land when it was still owned by the school and the elevation there has most certainly increased! I hope the developer takes into consideration the impact the height of their houses will have on these bordering neighbor homes. I’d say most folks wouldn’t embrace buying homes that negatively impact their new neighbors.

  • Seattle DPD is Weak

    The Seattle DPD is to blame for this fiasco. They have repeatedly sided with an obviously greedy developer. The DPD director should be fired for such letting so many homes be built on built-up land in such a small space.
    Didn’t the DPD also just approve the opening of a strip club right next to Safeco Field? Another obvious failure on the part of DPD. And aren’t they at least partly to blame for the Belltown highrise that is being taken down? I could be wrong here, but there seems to be a string of letdowns from DPD in the last few years.

  • William

    For the uninitiated, what you are witnessing here is known in the political and land-use realms as Smart Growth. Smart Growth demands that the population will be crammed at high density into the urban areas and restricted from the rural areas to save the environment. Whether it will do that is questionable. One person commented that developers should build houses on large lots elsewhere. The truth is that they would if they could but they can’t because those lots no longer exist. Thank Smart Growth. Within the Urban Growth Boundary all will be small and stacked up in the future. Note that if you voted for Greg Nickels, Ron Sims, Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips and a few others, you voted for Smart Growth. In fact, Mr. Sims was “promoted” to D.C. as an Under Secretary of H.U.D. because of his “leadership” for Smart Growth. Nickels was named as head of the national mayors conference due to his Smart Growth leadership. And uber environmentalist Mike McGinn will make Nickels look like a piker. We get what we vote for, folks.

  • thatguyinmagnolia

    I’ll think of that every time I hike in the Cascades or have a drink of cheap, clean municipal water from the protected Cedar River.

  • El Flaco

    One of the most affluent neighborhoods in Seattle complaining about development is the apex of hypocrisy.

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