by Sara 

Briarcliff Sells for $14 million


By reporter Steven Smalley

The remaining 36 undeveloped lots in the former Briarcliff Elementary location have been sold to CamWest, an east-side builder of luxury homes. The price is about $400,000 per parcel. Lexington Builders, the original developers of the property, still own the three initial homes and they remain available for purchase.? CamWest, one of the five largest builders in King county, was recently acquired by Toll Brothers Company, a firm with offices and projects nationwide. Current division president and former CamWest owner, Eric Campbell, spoke exclusively with Magnolia Voice about the deal. When asked how soon we might see new construction, he replied, ?The earliest would be 90 to 180 days, depending on permits. New architectural designs will need city review before construction can begin”, he said. The platting will not change, so permitting should not be as difficult. ?We?ll start off with 3, 4, 5 homes ? some ?spec? and some pre-sold,? Campbell revealed. ?They will start at lower price-points than what?s there now. Also we will design more privacy into each home site.? When asked about the different approaches by the two companies. Campbell asserts, ?We?ll better meet our buyers? demands with better value. And with our years of experience building and designing urban homes, we?ll utilize our market-right price at the right location.? We try to hit the right price point to take advantage of the soft market.?

He went on to explain how in the past 90 days a lot of home sales has shrunk the amount of supply at hand for purchase.? ?Homes-in-distress? have been gobbled up, leaving sellers in a better position with less inventory available to buyers.?CamWest targets an up-market clientele for most of their projects such as the ones in Kirkland which Campbell sees as similar.??Most people are placing a premium on location,? he points out. ?With transportation issues as they are, people are choosing to live closer to their places of?employment. The 520 commute makes having a job in South Lake Union, for example, more appealing.? You?re seeing thousands more jobs here. It?s changed the epicenter. Magnolia is one of the closest neighborhoods. It?s one of the compelling reasons for our decision.?

Briarcliff is CamWest?s first foray into Seattle proper.?If you have questions, Campbell says go to their website,, click on Quick Contact and he promises they will get back to you.?He says,??Magnolia is a great neighborhood. We would like to create another great neighborhood within it.?

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  1. Word of the Day -? Arrogance? (an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions) brought to by Lexington Builders.

  2. Golly.? Well, it was obvious enough that the Lexington homes were hugely overpriced relative to the market, but I wonder whether these guys will do any better.? $400K is a huge amount to pay for a substandard lot, and it’s hard to imagine what they can build that’ll make that pay.?

  3. Since housing and the economy are gonna be at best “flat” for years (and probably more down than flat), who are all these wealthy people who are gonna pay for $1M plus homes squeezed close together? The big problem is that the banks are holding out a lot of foreclosed properties so a flood of homes doesn’t hit the market at the same time. It is the little secret that NAR always glosses over when they say “it’s a great time to buy”!!! Of course they ALWAYS say that. A hungry stomach (or Mercedes payment) has no conscience….

    1. I got the feeling from the builder’s comments that they realize that young urban professionals will snap these up.? With $400,000 in land cost and another maybe $200,000 or less in building costs, they can make a sensible product that people in the professions can afford at $850,000 or less.? The two new houses next to Bartells were priced well and sold immediately while other bohemoths over a million just sit.? ?The stores in the village need these new buyers to survive.? Young people in IT and biotech with great salaries?will see homes at that price level to be a great alternative to condos, and THEY will qualify.? They don’t care about yards and they don’t want to buy beaters.? This building company realizes that.? It will change the “look” of the neighborhood, but will vitalize the village for sure.

      1. ?Interesting theory.? But the three already for sale are priced between $1.1 and $1.3 million.? I doubt “young urban professionals” are ready to drop that sort of money.

        1. Yes, you are right.? Wrong pricing.? That is why the new company says it recognises it is a soft market and must build in the lower price range.? I realize I am a lightening rod in my opinions here, so I will stop posting on this.? I just wanted everyone to know the issues from more than one perspective.? Thank you.

  4. Would really like to know what Eric Campbell was thinking.
    Magnolia isn?t Woodinville. A?one-in-a-million 4.5 acre lot, literally butchered by a
    mis-applied clustered housing permit, was a travesty to begin with and it
    wouldn?t have taken much research to discover this HUGE problem with project. I
    really don?t wish him bad luck, but Magnolia will forever be worse-off if these
    tiny houses on tiny lots ever come to fruition. What really pisses me off more is that Lexington got $14 million for their $7.5 million (granting less improvements, etc.) investment – they should have taken it in their shorts for ruining this part of our neighborhood.

    1. Tiny houses on tiny lots? ?Hello? ?You can’t complain about that. ?This is Seattle.

    2. Little houses on little lots is the future.? If you fight this one, it will be? at the expense of Magnolia.? The new buyers I’m thinking work long hours and, as in Belltown, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, will want the kind of?restaurants and services they are used to.? This will help Magnolia.? Magnolia needs?to not be at war with the city’s planning.? Live with the future.?

      1. From your messages, it sounds like you have a dog in this fight. I welcome your opinions, as others should, but knowing you are invested in this in some way puts a perspective on your opinions.?As a multi-generational Magnolian, changing a unique neighborhood consisting of 5,000 and 7,500 sq ft lots into a mess that Briacliff has become is not an improvement. If you want a tiny house, on a tiny lot, go find another neighborhood. The Village will do just fine wihout this kind of blight.

        1. I am not in the building industry.? I gain in no way if this project moves forward or not.? I am seeing? people in the “Monts” who won’t accept change ruin it for a community.? If Magnolia considers itself an island that fights off all contenders to bring it into urbanization, then answer the poor woman who asked several postings ago “does the city dislike Magnolia?? Why won’t they help us??(schools/blight, et al)?”.? Most of Magnolia doesn’t live in the neighborhood at the top of the hill.? I want all of Magnolia to win.

          1. With due respect, Eric, I’m not tracking with your argument. There are plenty of other urban centers within Seattle that have sought out density and have received approval from the City; Magnolia is not one of those communities that sought density. This development, and specifically the mis-applied clustered housing permit, was pursued soley for financial gain by Lexington, and not as?a lofty ideal of creating urban desnity for the sake to Mother Earth, etc. This development, if built-out as planned, will forever change the look and feel of Magnolia, for the worse in my opinion.

          2. Magnolians just like to complain and play the victim/NIMBY card. ?Sooner or later the “multi-generational” Magnolians will finally realize they live in a city and they’ll move out to the ‘burbs in search of the Magnolia they remember from 50 years ago.

        2. I’m really not following you. ?You don’t think a 5-7k sq ft lot is a tiny lot? ?Magnolia already IS a village of tiny houses on tiny lots. ?

          1. Sorry if I caused a misunderstanding, Guest. I beleive 5-7K sq ft lots are tiny when you compare them to many suburban areas. Magnolia has been a neighborhood of 5,000 and 7,500 sq ft lots for 100 years. Now, due to a greedy developer taking advantage of a variance designed to preserve wetlands, this is being threatened and Magnolia as everyone knew it, is being?detrimentally changed. Do you follow??

          2. I looked at this plot on a map (because, honestly, we may be in the market in the next year). ?It appears to be more or less a city block. ?I hardly see how that fundamentally changes Magnolia for the worse. ?It’s not like it’s Ballard and other neighborhoods, where they are razing the smaller homes and putting three townhomes on a 6k sq ft lot. ?(Although those microhouses people are putting in their backyards here push that envelope for me…) ?Sure, I’d love to see homes with larger lots (and maybe CamWest is reading and will take heed, LOL) but that doesn’t seem to be the norm around here and they probably don’t think they’d get their money’s worth out of it.

          3. The builder gave his website and suggested you contact him with questions.? This is your opportunity to say what you feel directly to them.? Notice that their communities run in the $400,000-$700,000 range, just what would seem to be indicated.? Make your voice heard, everyone, without anger, if you feel it will help in the decisionmaking.? Note also that builders buy land to make a profit, not to help Mother Earth.? High density building increases tax revenues for the city and leaves outlying areas for larger lots.? That is part of the city plan.? 100 years of Magnolia history may well work be fighting for…its a conversation you should start with the builder.

          4. Zoning on one aside of this project is 5,000 sq ft lots, 7500 on the other side. This development is 39 lots that average less than 3,000 sq ft. That IS tiny, compared to the exising neighborhood.

          5. OK, indeed. ?So voice some discontent to the company. ?As a prospective buyer, I wouldn’t look at something with a lot that small and certainly not for that price. ?Let them know that Magnolia is a family community, with lots of kids. ?Families with kids want yard, etc., etc.

  5. personally, i’m just mad because that’s the midway point of my evening constitutional, and i like burning down a joint and letting my dog run free for a moment around all that unfinished foolishness. ?

    i like it the way it is right now. ?

  6. The City allowed the developer to build a “clustered housing” development. ?Unfortunately, if you look at other “clustered housing” in the City, ?the end result can look like rows of town homes. ?In fact, the existing homes all appear to be shared back walls. ?In any case, had this developer respected the surrounding neigborhood and built standard 5000 SF lots (surrounding the development is 5000 SF and 7500 SF), then the homes and neighborhood would probably be developed. ?Instead, because of greed, 39 homes, with many smaller than 5000 SF and no yards to speak of, will one day, occupy this small slice of land.?

  7. Without knowing the details of the sale it looks like the new developer overpaid for the lots. Good luck and I hope they build something nice – they may need to live there themselves.

  8. Potential buyers are … who, again? Current houses feature elevators and no yards, which suggests a mature demographic. Yet what’s posited in these posts are young professionals seeking a condo alternative — in a neighborhood with limited entry/exit points on a block surrounded by many other blocks of family-friendly homes. Am not sure how that appeals. Looking at other areas in the city that are building up for the younger professional crowd — can Magnolia compete with that amount of retail and late night restaurants? Does it want to? Maybe. It’s working for Ballard. On the other hand, is there merit to the idea of condo alternatives, certainly, but for downsizing Magnolians who like the Village as is?

    1. Yours is a magnificent addition to the discussion.? It exactly targets the dilemma.? This is not about a greedy builder, it is about what the city communicated to builders it desires in its downtown areas…housing that will attract taxpayers close in within high density developments.? The builder is preparing to make?that product.?? He is doing what all builders do…whatever is allowed, and he paid for the right to do that.? The curse and blessing of Magnolia is its positioning in the city.? Not everyone who buys into a neighborhood wants the same thing.? The individual buying one of the proposed units may just be buying proximity to his/her work.? Could care less about family friendly or lot size.? Wants better than he has now.? Many kinds of people/situations make up a city.? If Magnolia want to remain “Leave it to Beaver” land it will be an uphill battle.? The younger professional crowd may not be the target buyer the builder has in mind at all.? Profit is, and its not a crime.? Try to communicate with this builder?without the acrimony.? He already bought the land so he will be doing us a service to listen.

      1. “Not everyone who buys into a neighborhood wants the same thing”? Is this meant to excuse the greedy actions of an eastside?developer permanently scaring our unique neighborhood? You can’t go buy a house in SeaTac, then ask the Port of Seattle to move the Airport. If you don’t like Magnolia, stay away -?you have plenty of other options. What has happened to this unique 4.5 acre area, the highest point in Magnolia, is a travesty.

        1. Did you know that there are many lots in Magnolia under 3800 sq ft, many with yards and houses with large families?? I am not the front man for this builder.? He posted his announcment on Magnolia Voice because his company is reading our postings.? Fighting him may give you satisfaction, but it doesn’t change the fact he will build lower price units than the last builder, something I suspect you’ll like less.? I am trying so hard to get all of us to be in positive contact with him, to accept that the CITY wants this kind of development, and for us to interface with him in a way other than hoping for his failure or accusing him of scarring the “unique neighborhood.”?

          1. The?CITY may want this?but the market will dictate what will be successful. The developers should do more research before moving forward and decide whether to redesign things now?before getting any deeper in the red.

          2. Of course you are right.? Would it be more cost productive to put apartments or condos there?? Row houses might be prefereable.? I know zero about the zoning, only that if, as “Disappointed” says the rules were played fast and loose, then the market may dictate something even less desirable.? No one cares to budge on all of this.? Good luck to us.

          3. “Would it be more cost productive to put apartments or condos there?”? -how about if developers put apartments, condos and skinny houses where its zoned for apartments, condos and skinny houses? This parcel wasn’t zoned for apartmens, condos or skinny houses – the City caved in to a greedy eastside developer. If Eric Campbell still has an option to get out of this mess – RUNAWAY!

          4. My kingdom for a 5 bedroom home with a 2.5 car garage and ample storage space on .3 acres.

  9. $14M? ?Let me ask again, $14M? ?Lexington Fine Homes must be so happy to be passing off this enormous mistake to another builder. ?Given that LFH can’t sell their houses, what makes Camwest believe they can do it better. ?A previous post mentions the property was butchered by the Cluster Housing ordinance and the resulting platting. ?Unless Camwest solves that problem, nothing will change. ?People in Magnolia generally don’t want a singe family home with absolutely no yard. ?The front 9 homes have an approximate lot size of 3400 sq ft, which includes easements. ?I imagine the effective lot size is closer to 3000 sq ft. ?You can’t build a small enough house, given set backs etc., to incorporate a reasonable yard. ?Good luck Camwest, you are going to need it. ?

    1. What I really don’t get is the price Camwest paid.? Right now you can get a standard Magnolia lot with an old house on it for around $400K; why would you buy a passel of unimproved?substandard lots at that rate?? And what could possibly be built on these that would result in turning a profit?

    2. I don’t know the answer to this and would appreciate it if anyone does:? The two houses built next to Bartel’s have virtually no yard (what is their lot size?), are on a busy street (not particularly kid friendly) and next to a store.? They sold in the $850,000 range right away and are actually built out of the lot of the house beyond.? Why were these successful?

      1. The ?Bartell? houses are in an area that was already designated
        for commercial and higher density dwellings. They are also a short walk to a
        large park and tennis courts and an even shorter walk to grocery stores, bus
        stops, restaurant and the pharmacy. The proposal that you seem so enamored with,
        is a huge change for the immediately surrounding homes that people invested in well
        before this abomination was hatched.

        1. I actually hate the proposal, but I am not a fool.? I know when something is going to happen and I try to make the best of it.? Lots of people invest in land and then feel discouraged when the greenbelt next to them turns into a housing plat that mars their paradise.? The answer was for the neighborhood to buy it up and preserve it.? Otherwise, its no different than anyone else’s situation.? The “huge change” is now your reality.

          1. Actually I apologize, Disappointed.? You are obviously in pain over this whole thing.? I’ve done all I can to try to create a more positive take on this.? If the neighborhood cannot see fit with making a step towards reapproachement with the new builder, then at least think of how the legal action that was made to try and stop the last builder actually resulted in what is happening now.? If you ultimately decide to fight this one too, to hate this one too, you have every right to your feelings.? I am not the enemy here and I think the new builder has seen a broad spectrum of our views in these postings.

          2. If “you?actually hate the proposal” why defend it like you have been doing? You are naive in thinking Magnolia could have purchased this parcel. It was assumed whomever bought it would have built according to exisitng codes, and not a mis-applied variance designed to protect wetlands. This huge change may be a reality for Magnolia, but I don’t think people who disagree with the City’s decsion should simply turn the other cheek.

          3. My “defending it” is my way of getting the parties involved to work with each other rather than fighting.? I am able to see both sides of the argument.? The “rules of the game” for land development change over time, and you are right, how could you have known?? But since the rules HAVE changed, do you see a way to work with this company in any positive way??? I strongly feel a first step, the part I actually defend fully, is to drop the “evil Eastside builder” line.? Its someone who bought the land playing by the current rules.? You also certainly have the right not to turn the other cheek…but that was already decided in court.? Please consider making something positive here.? I know from personal experience that if he is considered the enemy, the new builder won’t listen to much you might have to suggest.

          4. No one can honestly?justify the application of the Clustered Housing Permit for this parcel, period. The rules have not changed, Eric, and if the City had played by the rules, they would not have granted LFH the permit as submitted. Your stated attempt of being the mediator here is really weird. LFH and Toll/CamWest have stated they want to cram 39 tall skinny houses on top of 39 TINY lots on a prime piece of real estate in the middle of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle – that is a travesty that will only diminish the quality of Magnolia. Go to South Lake Union or Ballard if you want density.

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