The 22 homes on Officer's Row and Montana Circle are within the Fort Lawton Landmark District in the very heart of Discovery Park. They are protected from alteration, and are subject to many Federal, State, and City Preservation restrictions.
In about 2003, the US Navy formed a partnership with a private corporation, American Eagle, later succeeded by Forest City Military Communities, LLC to own and manage the housing in Discovery Park, and to develop new military housing near their Everett Home Base at Lake Stevens, in the Poulsbo area, and around their Oak Harbor Naval Air Field on Whidbey Island.
The homes in Discovery Park continued to be owned by Forest City, and were leased to a variety of occupants, with the Navy's intention to eventually sell them and to use the proceeds to assist in financing the aforementioned new military housing.
In anticipation of their future sale, Forest City negotiated with the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board to permit some minor improvements to the sites, and for permission to enlarge and add some garage structures that are compatible in style with the former military homes and positioned so as to not block the view-scapes for park visitors.
Friends of Discovery Park made an offer to acquire all of these residences to be managed and maintained as a single entity, but this offer was declined by Forest City, as the agent for the U.S. Navy. Friends maintained that a single ownership, as rentals, was the best way, if not the only way, to protect the quiet and tranquility of the Park in the future - one owner with only the Park Department's benefit to be achieved, as opposed to having up to 22 new private owners, with only their own self-interests as a driving force.
In September 2012, Forest City put the properties on the market for purchase as a single package for all the units, as is, where is, but with the Federal environmental guideline certification completed.
In January 2013, Forest City announced it had entered into negotiations with a buyer, a large Vancouver BC developer, Rise Properties Trust. They are represented locally by Thrive Communities.
In anticipation of the sale, Forest City applied for permits from the Department of Planning and Development to subdivide the property into 22 individual lots so that each existing house would own its own piece of land. Friends of Discovery Park was strongly opposed to the issuance of these permits, but they were, nevertheless, granted by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, much to the future detriment of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
After Mayor Murray settled into office on January 1, 2014, but before the negotiations to purchase the site were concluded, Friends of Discovery Park attempted to awaken the Mayor to this impending lost opportunity to the City.
Mayor Murray refused an audience with ardent supporters of City ownership of the heart and high ground of Discovery Park, as set forth in the 1972 Master Plan for the park. He signaled no interest in becoming involved, even if non-municipal funds were used for the purchase.
Due to the lack of competitive pricing, the eventual sale price fell to about half of the appraised economic value, based on existing rental income alone. Rise Properties Trust closed the purchase of the Officers' Row and Montana Circle properties on February 13, 2015 at a little over $9 million, with the access, utilities, surrounding environment, and views protected by the Park Department to perpetuity.
What had been 26 Army, then Navy, homes are now platted for 22 private dwellings to be sold in fee simple interest at market prices. This is a much different conclusion than the Friends of Discovery Park had worked diligently and continuously for nearly ten years to avoid. This is a civic tragedy knowingly allowed to proceed on Mayor Murray's watch.
Montana Circle Houses
Officer's Row Houses