This is not, I repeat not, a sales pitch for Charlie Conner and his new high-end development on Lake Washington, Barbee Mill.
It is a reflection on what can happen when people of vision and means decide to turn something once abused into something beautiful.
I am writing about some of the last developable land on Lake Washington, about 46 acres in north Renton that has been home to both the natural – eagles and osprey – and the toxic – creosote.
Today, the natural remains and much of the toxic is gone.
Robert Cugini and his family tore down their longstanding sawmill and heavily invested in an environmental cleanup. Conner is now building multimillion-dollar homes there. The eagles and the osprey and the salmon have a home, too.
Billionaire Paul Allen took another piece of this gem, to the north of the Cuginis, removed the land’s toxins and created a world-class headquarters for his Seattle Seahawks. With all his know-how, you would think he could come up with a sure-fire way to keep the geese from fouling his lawns. Maybe those fierce-looking fake coyotes will work.
Work still remains to undo the abuse done to the land that lies between Conner and Allen. This middle section remains heavily polluted by the long-gone industrial era that saw the toxic products used to make creosote dumped onto the land and into the lake. I’ve walked this land and seen the oily sheen. Taxpayers will pay a big part of the bill to clean up this acreage.
But back to the original premise. The Cuginis, Conner and Allen (with some help from the taxpayers) have turned the industrial brownfield green. In doing so, they have spent millions and, as is customary in our capitalist society, they will make some money. Good for them.
What the rest of us get in return is something fresh, something green, something that is not toxic. Do drive around Conner’s new development, dream the dream of owning one of his homes. Catch a bunch of over-sized men throwing a pigskin at the Seahawks’ new practice facility in the future.
All the while remember that not that long ago, that would have seemed impossible.
Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.