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Development is ready to blossom with new owner
John Jacobi now has a challenge to tackle during his “semi-retirement” years.
The founder nearly 40 years ago of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle has purchased the stalled Blossom Hill development with the goal of helping turn the Lynwood Center neighborhood into a community service center that is second only to Winslow on Bainbridge Island.
When Jacobi bought the 16.5 acres two weeks ago from Whidbey Island Bank he was still unsure about exactly what to do with the three pieces of the puzzle, other than to rename the development Pleasant Beach Village and to continue with the general vision of the original developer/owner, Bill Nelson and Rich Pass LLC.
He is no longer vague, however, especially about his ultimate goal.
“It’s a huge project, though I’ve actually done something like it before and had some success. But this is not about the money in this case,” said Jacobi, who has spent his working life buying, selling and developing property. “This is about leaving a legacy for my family and being a steward for property that will be a good contribution to this community. I feel very strongly about it.”
Jacobi still spends some days at his office in Lake Forest Park and has houses in both Seattle and Bainbridge. But much of his family lives on the island, where, at 70, he’s spending more time these days. And that will increase as he assumes a “hands-on” approach to his new project.
A family affair
As is his nature, he said, he’s surrounding himself with many people who share his vision for Lynwood Center, including: several family members; Tab Fairbank (of Fairbank Construction Co.); Bainbridge Island Windermere broker/manager Jim Laws; architect Charlie Wenzlau, who created the original design for the Blossom Hill project; and Norm Landry, who served as Nelson’s project supervisor for the four unfinished buildings fronting Pleasant Beach Drive.
After spending 60 days of due-diligence analysis before purchasing the property from Whidbey Island Bank for less than $10 million, Jacobi said it’s “now full speed ahead” with the first phase of the project’s new life.
Some parts of the plan are still being formulated, but the general concept is to turn the area into a service center that supports the south end of the island. It goes something like this:
• The last phase of the project – construction of some living units on the upper part of the property – remains intact at this point and is still at least a few years from fruition.
However, the original concept called for some 75 living units of various types and Jacobi said the number of units may be reduced and the types of residences changed, too. He considers a hillside community viable in the future, but there’s no rush because of the current real estate climate.
• The first move involves Edna’s, the current name of the large restaurant sitting on the bluff above Pleasant Beach Drive. Nelson spent more than $1 million renovating it inside and out, and then reopened it as an upscale eatery just about the time the economy slowed
It bombed, and was on the market at one time for about $3 million.
Jacobi wants to turn it into an event center, which he thinks makes sense considering the size of the complex and the dramatic view it offers of Rich Passage.
Work is already under way to return the interior into the dark-wooded “manor house” environment that still exists in the small “fireplace lounge.” Jacobi hopes to hire an event director soon with the goal of opening the complex before the holidays.
• The pivotal change involves scuttling the condominium/apartment concept for the planned 15 units located in the four two-story buildings that are now about three-fourths finished. Instead, he’d like to create a “small, boutique-type lodge” of about a half-dozen units in the upstairs of the three buildings that are currently connected.
The fourth building, which is northerly and the furthest from being done, might become a microbrewery and provide an anchor tenant. The bottom floor of the other three buildings would remain retail space.
This part is tentative, of course, since Jacobi would need to get a rezone from the city in order for an overnight lodge to be included in the project. He sees the lodge as overnight accommodations for people attending weddings or other large events at the restaurant.
“We’re still open to what the community wants and we feel this will complement what is already there – what Steve Romein has done at Lynwood Center, which is terrific,” he said.
With that in mind, he wants the exterior facade of the four buildings to be similar to the historic Lynwood Center complex. Originally, the four buildings on Blossom Hill were going to have a wood and brick facade, but Jacobi wants it to be only wood so it mirrors the building across the road.
“My vision of this is as a service center that fits in with what exists,” he said. “And I have no restrictions. I am open to suggestions and I will be in touch with Romein and others involved in commerce in the area.”
A different time
Whidbey Island Bank took over the City Bank of Lynnwood’s assets and loans after a FDIC-forced closure, including the Rich Pass LLC loan. The bank officially became the development’s owner in early April when it paid $10 million for the property at a foreclosure auction.
Nelson said this week that he has “pending negotiations” with the new owner for equipment, fixtures and furniture in the restaurant. He said there’s also the matter of nearly $1 million in liens – including nearly 400,000 by Nelson Wood & Glass as a subcontractor for the project – that were filed against Rich Pass LCC after the Lynnwood bank stopped funding the development in 2009.
Jacobi, who said he’s never met Nelson but admires the vision he had for the area, said the sale by Whidbey Island Bank was “subject too all liens being cleared.”
Nelson said he understood and has no hard feelings about what has happened.
“It’s really a global problem, I’d like to take it personal, but it’s hard to do that unless I’m abused on the way out the door,” he said. “I started this thing six years ago and it was a hell of an opportunity, but not for this time. These days, only people with cash can play. But I’ve moved on and now Mr. Jacobi can go forward with it. For him, I think the value is three to five years out.”
Jacobi said after work on the event center is done his team’s attention will turn to getting the four building completed, and then focus on what will be placed inside them.