Photo: Flickr/Council of Presidents

A massive swath of undeveloped private land in Laurelhurst is now up for grabs. Formerly home to The Talaris Research Institute, the 17.8 acre parcel now holds a small conference center, offices and a lodge, but the majority of the land is green grass and water. The property’s owner, an entity linked to telecom billionaire Bruce McCaw, who funded the Talaris Institute, put the property up for sale but listed no asking price.

The modernist landscape was planned in the mid-1960s by Richard Haag, the same designer who gave us Gas Works park. What was once a swamp in Laurelhurst is now a bowl-shaped park with a man-made pond, fountain and Japanese-style flora.

According to the Seattle Times, developers could build 80 to 90 homes worth over $60 million on the site, an incredible money-making opportunity in the piping hot Seattle real estate market.

As the Times points out, Seattle hardly ever sees new single-family houses these days. The majority are built one at a time, to replace torn-down, older homes. In total, Seattle has seen a net increase of just 2,700 single-family homes over the past 12 years.

However, major private development won’t come without significant local opposition. When the owners tried to develop the site back in 2013, the Laurelhurst community was outraged and lobbied for the area to receive landmark status. Thank’s to Haag’s craftsmanship, they won.

Jeannie Hale, president of the Laurelwood Community Club, told the Seattle Times that the neighborhood would be willing to support development if someone can come up with a proposal that matches the spirit of the community.

Past development ideas, such as two 200-foot-tall residential towers, were a not well-received among residents of the low-slung neighborhood, but the club would be open to something with a smaller impact like single-family homes.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Hale told the Times. “But we’re not opposed to development; we just want something that fits in nicely with our community.”

To develop or not to develop? That is the question.

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