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Future Snoqualmie Ridge lots change hands in $50-million-plus sale

Workers take a lunch break from lot development at Eagle Point as resident Mary Beth Emert walks her bloodhound, Scout, at the Ridge dog park. Future lots in Eagle Pointe are under new ownership. Emert said she hopes the new builder follows the same pattern as seller Murray Franklyn. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Workers take a lunch break from lot development at Eagle Point as resident Mary Beth Emert walks her bloodhound, Scout, at the Ridge dog park. Future lots in Eagle Pointe are under new ownership. Emert said she hopes the new builder follows the same pattern as seller Murray Franklyn.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

The rollicking sounds of "Good Lovin'" by the Young Rascals issued from the garage of future home number 58 on Eagle Pointe, keeping painter James Gillespie entertained as he rolled on another coat of Brazilian brown.

The region may be deep in a recession, but the sounds of work were still evident Tuesday, Dec. 28, at Eagle Pointe, an in-progress subdivision of Snoqualmie Ridge. Besides Gillespie's classic rock, small backhoes rumbled, landscapers scraped and shoveled cement and large earthmovers prepared the ground for the next crop of houses, among the final ones in Eagle Pointe to go up under current ownership.

This week, the Pulte Group, a Bloomfield, Mich.-based company, bought $50 million in lots and land from Snoqualmie Ridge II Development LLC, a joint venture of Quadrant Homes and Murray Franklyn Family of Companies. The sale included much of the future Ridge inventory in Eagle Pointe, Aster Creek and west of Snoqualmie Parkway, as well as land on Redmond Ridge.

Snoqualmie Ridge residents won't see many immediate changes as a result of the sale. Quadrant and Murray Franklyn will continue developing both residential and commercial properties on the Ridge and the joint venture will retain its role on the board of the Ridge Residential Owners' Association (ROA). The "new" developers include an old face, Kirkland-based Centex, which has been building in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years, including properties in Phase I of the Ridge build-out.

Centex, Pulte Homes and Del Webb, the Pulte Group's construction arms, will develop some 500 residential properties in their purchase areas of Plats 24 and 25, using existing homes as their models.

"I think both Murray Franklyn and Quadrant had starting building in most of these neighborhoods and had set the tone as far as quality. We want to continue to follow that tone," said John Ochsner, Pulte Group Division President for the Pacific Northwest.

Quadrant Vice President David Dorothy said that his company would also serve as advisors to the Pulte Group developers.

"We want them to be successful," he said.

As does the city of Snoqualmie. Mayor Matt Larson said city staff had been aware of the pending sale, but "we were careful not to meddle."

The city's concern, he said, was ensuring that the Pulte Group was "willing to and able to take on the commitments of the property," including the impact fees associated with the development of a new community center starting this spring, and a new park in the summer. "All of the lots have a share of the obligation for mitigation for parks, schools, and other facilities."

Snoqualmie is one of the fastest-growing communities in Washington, and has been for the past decade. Before the recession began, Larson said the city averaged a newly-built home each day of the year. Growth slowed, but did not stop during the recession, reducing the new-home numbers to about 100 per year.

The Pulte Group is one of the largest home-builders in the country and in a financially-stable position that reassured Larson.

"Pulte is a well-capitalized group," he said, adding, "It bodes well for the community."

The entire acquisition by the Pulte group represents close to 900 units, with seven different entities, said Ochsner. The Quadrant/Murray Franklyn joint venture sold about the bulk of the units, 500 in Snoqualmie Ridge and another 200 in Redmond Ridge.

Since the sale was finalized on Monday, Dec. 27, Ochsner said the company has not made specific plans yet regarding where and when the company would begin building homes. However, "I think we can actually start construction in the second quarter of 2011," he added.

The effect of the new build-out on construction jobs in the area isn't clear yet. Ochsner said the Pulte Group already employs several area sub-contractors, but added "this is going to bring other opportunities."

Same standard?

Life went on as usual in the wake of the sale for Eagle Pointe residents like Mary Beth Emert.

The Realtor and flight attendant moved uphill from Aster Creek three months ago.

"I love it up here," Emert said. "I've watched it evolve over the years. Things have been moving along here pretty well."

Emert's only concern with a Ridge sale is that the new builder follow the pattern set by Murray Franklyn.

"I'd hate for them to bring in something that doesn't look as good... that doesn't fit," she said. "I think this works."

Construction workers on Snoqualmie Ridge were optimistic that the sale will mean continued work building high-quality homes, and commented that only the strongest, best developers are still in business.

"It's a big change," said Gillespie, who has painted houses in The Heights, Palisades and Bandera neighborhoods for RC Painting Co. of Woodinville. "We've done a lot of work with Murray Franklyn, so hopefully we can pick up some work with the new builder. We definitely need to keep working."

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