Island sees the prime Meridian

Architect Dennis Kirkpatrick gives a lift to Bruce McCurdy and John Erickson, outside the new Meridian building on Knechtel Way. The building promises 16 units of luxury living. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Architect Dennis Kirkpatrick gives a lift to Bruce McCurdy and John Erickson, outside the new Meridian building on Knechtel Way. The building promises 16 units of luxury living.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

The Knechtel Way project is aimed at buyers seeking luxury.

You might call it resort living, without the resort.

The Meridian experience begins as you step into the expansive, hotel-style lobby, replete with grand fireplace, piano and barista service.

After a brief stroll beneath high ceilings to a gleaming, wood-paneled elevator, one is whisked silently to an upstairs suite – or perhaps to the top floor, where a high-end health club beckons.

There, one can put in some miles on the latest machines, take a few strokes against the current in an outdoor swim spa, or indulge in the sauna or steam room.

Something not quite to your liking? Call the concierge.

This is the Meridian on Knechtel Way, the newest and most unapologetically posh entry in the island’s stock of upscale condominium living.

“This is what works for Bainbridge,” said a confident Bruce McCurdy, CEO of project developer Malibu Development Corporation. “(Buyers) want the higher level of service, they want luxury, and they want to be within walking distance of the ferry.”

Buyers will get all of that, in 16 residential units sized from 1,400-1,700 square feet and each with its own terrace, some as large as 600 square feet.

An investment of $450,000 will get you in the front door, according to Malibu’s sales sheet; $697,000 will buy the roomiest unit in the building, a northeast-facing, two-bedroom affair with a wraparound deck.

High-end appointments are everywhere, from hardwood flooring in entryways to imported stone bathroom tile to milled trim.

The design by island architect Dennis Kirkpatrick – most recently credited with the new American Marine Bank building on Winslow Way – is being called a “Northwest contemporary lodge” style.

The principals emphasize the quality of the construction, with extra materials used to dampen sound between the units. During a recent holiday event, McCurdy said, an 18-piece jazz ensemble playing on one floor couldn’t be heard on the next.

While Winslow’s downtown core has seen a number of high-dollar condominium projects in recent years, the Meridian is the first that comes with its own prepackaged lifestyle.

McCurdy got the idea while working on a project in Sun Valley, Idaho, where condominium guests enjoyed their proximity to a nearby resort and its various amenities. That set off bells for him and Malibu president John Erickson, who had previously been involved with renovation of the Roosevelt and Vance hotels in downtown Seattle.

“Once you get into the hospitality side, you can’t get away from it,” McCurdy said. “It’s a great business.”

The Meridian’s ground floor includes the lobby and bistro, with a small parking garage at the rear. The 16 units are sandwiched on floors two and three, while the fourth floor includes the health club, commercial office space and two guest suites.

The suites will be available for residents who want to put up out-of-town guests. And taking advantage of the property’s mixed-use zoning, 200 health club memberships will be available to the community.

“We’re deliberately keeping the number of people down so you can get a machine,” McCurdy said.

The developers – who are not from California, but named the company after a boat McCurdy restored on Lake Union in the 1970s – hope the Meridian will be “an active building.”

McCurdy envisions art displays, and a lobby that is a gathering place for community groups as well as condo-dwellers.

But residents who eschew the limelight are taken care of; the elevator comes with a “Brad Pitt entrance,” a private door off the parking garage for discrete ingress and egress.

“You can have extreme privacy, or a more social experience,” said Mark Smaha, director of fitness for “Club Meridian,” as the fitness center is known.

With occupancy slated for early January and marketing already in full swing, it’s been an unusually circuitous path for the Meridian principals.

As announced in 2000, the original business plan called for development of a senior community with a full-fledged medical facility on the top floor.

The project evolved through a change in investors, then was stalled by financing and permit issues after excavation began. The property was a conspicuous hole in the ground for more than a year, with construction finally getting under way in mid-2003.

But McCurdy considers the delays fortuitous, and Malibu has proffered goodwill gestures to the community.

The company is installing a sidewalk in front of Knechtel Way neighbor Helpline House, is paving a shared driveway and tossed a new coat of paint on several Housing Resources Board units next door to the east, and dismantled – at no charge to the city – an unused water reservoir to the west.

Malibu plans similar projects in other communities, including Mercer Island and Gig Harbor.

As a measure of his confidence in the Bainbridge prototype, McCurdy himself will be one of the first tenants.

“What I wanted to do with this building,” he said, “is exactly what we’re doing right now.”

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