It's been bridge games with the "girls" on Tuesday mornings and poker with the "fellas" on Wednesday nights for the past 20 years at Canterbury...
It’s been bridge games with the “girls” on Tuesday mornings and poker with the “fellas” on Wednesday nights for the past 20 years at Canterbury Square in Woodinville. But the retirees who live there will soon be moving their cards and colored chips elsewhere.
If the price is right — around $30 million — the homeowners have agreed to sell their coveted land in the heart of downtown to the highest bidder.
A pedestrian village stacked with condos and retail shops likely will replace the 125 small mobile homes and manicured lawns that sit on a 20-acre plot of prime real estate just a few yards from City Hall.
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The sale is the result of an unusual agreement worked out a decade ago that allowed the homeowners to buy their leased lots if they agreed to a collective sale by 2008. The idea was to give the residents a chance to profit from the sale while freeing the site for future development.
All 200 residents voted last month to hire a Bellevue-based real-estate brokerage firm to put the property up for sale. The firm, Leibsohn & Company, says it already has had a range of offers from across the nation.
The majority of suitors plan to build a mixed residential and retail project, just as Woodinville officials had hoped. Any new development on the property must fit with the city’s downtown plan, which depicts the park site as a mixed-use, high-density, pedestrian-friendly area where people will live, shop and walk to mass transit.
“Their vision is fairly close to the city’s, with only minor details that need to be worked out in the future. From that standpoint, it’s positive,” said Mayor Don Brocha.
Brocha said that although city zoning code restricts buildings to five stories in the business district, there is room for flexibility, which could include raising the height limit.
The Canterbury Square sale reflects the steady decline of mobile-home parks around the region as the land they occupy becomes more valuable for other uses. Between 1990 and 2000, 1,454 mobile homes disappeared in King County, according to census reports.
In Woodinville, the homeowners’ decision came three years earlier than the city expected.
When residents bought the park from former owners Al and Donna DeYoung in 1995, they agreed to a clause requiring them to sell in 2008 to the highest bidder more than $10 million.
In previous years, tenants had fought potential sale of the property by forming The Canterbury Criers, a group of tenants in what was then a standard mobile-home park where residents owned their homes but leased the land underneath.
After a legal battle, residents worked out an agreement with the owners allowing them to buy the park for $7.6 million. The settlement turned the park into a condominium community, where everyone owns his or her home and the land it sits on.
Money from the sale will be divided among owners based on their lot size.
Rod Olzendam, 83, said he’s hoping for $200,000 — nearly triple the $65,500 he paid for the lot nine years ago.
He bases that number on proposal letters from developers he’s seen rolling in as a member of the condo association board of directors.
Like most of his neighbors, Olzendam hasn’t found a new place to call home yet. He’s not worried, though.
“We’re all in the golden years here, but there’s still time to figure it all out,” he said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
He estimated it would be at least a year before a sale is finalized.
Meanwhile, residents will consider whether to relocate their existing homes to another mobile-home community or find alternative housing. There are no other mobile-home parks in Woodinville.
With the median age at 75, and all residents retired, choices are limited.
The average Woodinville home costs about $406,000 according to a list released in July by CNN Money Magazine of the “Best Places to Live” in 2005.
Ron Leibsohn, owner of the brokerage and principal agent of the Canterbury sale, says his firm is offering counsel to residents on everything from tax advice to purchasing a new home.
“We’re hoping that it helps them make this difficult change a little smoother, easier and less traumatic,” Leibsohn said.
The move will be a big transition for residents, and many of them have mixed feelings.
Van Cyphers, longtime resident and one of the original Canterbury Criers, and his wife, Vivian, enjoy the regular bridge and poker games at the clubhouse and the “peace and quiet” that Canterbury provides. No other place could offer the same comfort and stability, he said.
“More than anything else, I moved here 20 years ago for the possibility that, if I should drop dead, my wife would be with good friends rather than living alone in a duplex,” he said.
Lara Bain: 206-464-2112