Ed and Barbara Lee know about making folks comfortable with their lodgings.
Now the Lee’s, who own the Edmonds-based Hotel Group which owns and operates hotels stretching from Fairbanks to a recent purchase in Connecticut, are looking to make themselves more comfortable. Ed Lee is positioning himself and the company for an acquisition much closer to home. In fact, if all goes well, it will be home for the couple and the company.
For 20 years, the Lee’s have lived in their Shoreline home, just south of the county line, and made the short commute to the firm’s offices on James Street in downtown Edmonds. Then, Ed Lee found out about a long-neglected piece of property, hard against the railroad tracks on Sunset Ave., just north of the ferry dock.
Lee thought the blackberry-choked hillside could be perfect for a combined office and residence. The only problem with the plan was that the property, sandwiched between an apartment building and a home, wasn’t zoned for that use. He went to city officials who outlined the arduous process to change the designation.
The first step was accomplished March 15 when the city council voted to adopt changes to the downtown comprehensive plan, changes that opened the door to a potential office/residential use for the Sunset Avenue property.
“First we had to get the comprehensive plan,” Lee said last week. “Then comes the zoning application and permit and design.”
The property became a visible side issue during the council’s comprehensive plan debates. Because the lot’s steep slope, how building height is measured became critical to Lee’s plan. A motion by Council member Mauri Moore was approved and gave Lee what he needed.
“We’re planning on below-grade parking and two stories above the street level,” he said, adding that they hope to have no impact on the scarce on-street parking in the area.
“The first floor will have about 8,000 square feet of office space,” he said. The Hotel Group’s 20 employees only need about 5,000 square feet so there will be room to rent office space to someone else, he said.
The second floor is where he and Barbara plan to live.
“The residential plans are yet to be defined,” Lee said. “There will be one residence and possibly a small apartment.”
The overall height of the building will be comparable to those on either side, within a couple of feet, and under the allowed 25-foot limit, Lee said.
As for the prospect of moving from their comfortable home, both Lee’s said they’re ready.
“Our children are not at home and we’re looking for a change of lifestyle,” Ed Lee said. As for moving from the serenity of their two-acre lot to a spot 100 yards from railroad crossing, he said, “I think trains are kind of romantic.”
He added that modern materials can make structures very soundproof.
Barbara Lee said she, too, is looking forward to a change.
“We love Edmonds,” she said. “We come here for walks and have always said we’d love to live here.”