Luxury homes to replace long-closed Magnolia school

The paint is peeling, windows are boarded up and weeds are invading the playground at Briarcliff Elementary School, a Magnolia institution that was closed down two decades ago. It's no longer the Seattle School District's worry, though.

Bellevue-based Lexington Development recently agreed to buy the property from the district for $7.3 million, and the company plans to demolish the old school and replace it with luxury homes, said Lexington president John Cochenour.

"But the exact layout and actual number of lots - we're just not there yet," he added. The zoning allows for 5,000-square-foot lots, but how that works out in practice will take time to determine, Cochenour said.

"The deal will close near the end of this year, but we have to go through the planning process with the city," he said. That should take a year or so, and groundbreaking on the project is tentatively scheduled for early 2005, Cochenour said.

The property at 3901 W. Dravus St. was last appraised as being worth $4.6 million, but the bidding process and market conditions drove up the price, noted Ron English, the school district's deputy general counsel and the staffer who led the sales effort. "We had a lot of bidders, and in real estate, location is everything," he said.

Cochenour conceded that his company is paying a hefty price for the property, but he also agreed that the location is a prime one. "It's a very unique opportunity to have this many new houses [in one city location]," he said.

"It's been quite a while since we've built in the city," he said of Lexington, which has built high-end homes primarily on the Eastside since the company was formed more than 20 years ago.

Cochenour said he's had an architect scope out the homes around the old school so that the new houses don't clash with the existing ones. "It shouldn't be a dramatically different style," he said of the project.

Replacing the school with luxury homes won't change the feel of the neighborhood, either, said Kathy Johnson, who lives about a block away from the school. There are already expensive homes in the immediate area, Johnson added as she walked her two dogs last week near the water tower across the street from the school.

"I mean, there's a home at the end of this street that was listed for a million dollars," she said, pointing down 39th Avenue West. "So it's not really that out-of-character in the neighborhood."

Johnson said she and several neighbors she's talked to are happy that something is finally being done at the old school site. "I think it's a good thing," she said of the project. "It's been an attractive nuisance for quite some time," Johnson said.

Cochenour said he was thrilled that children in the school district will benefit from the sale of the Briarcliff school, but he's also excited about his company's plans for the location. "I predict it will be pretty neat to have a whole little pod of new homes built there."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at

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