There are only 72 houses for sale in the popular Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods, so it's not surprising what's happening with the 13 big, historic homes in the middle of Seattle's Discovery Park.

A Canadian company, Rise Properties, is refurbishing the 13 Colonial Revival-style homes on Officers' Row at Fort Lawton, a former military base in the 534-acre park. The project won't wrap up for several months, yet sales are pending on two of the houses and buyers have made reservations to buy seven others, with prices between $2 million and possibly up to nearly $4 million.

"How buyers would respond has been a big guessing game," said Rise Vice President Gary Blakeslee. "It's a really unique product in a very strong market."

Rise's Fort Lawton project began about three years ago, when the company agreed to buy the 13 big houses and 13 smaller ones for $9.5 million, according to public records. Blakeslee said the remodeling work for the large houses cost between $400,000 to nearly $1 million. His company worked with Seattle architecture firm GGLO and the city's Landmarks Preservation Board on the project, which entailed adding new roofs, seismic upgrades, new plumbing and electrical systems, and kitchen remodels.

The 13 smaller houses on Montana Circle were refurbished first, and all have sold for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. The houses on Officers' Row range from around 4,000 to more than 6,600 square feet, and Blakeslee expects them to sell for between $500 and $600 per square foot.

Rise is acting as the general contractor and Blakeslese said the top challenge has been finding subcontractors in Seattle's red-hot construction sector.

"We are paying premium rates to keep people on board there," he said.

Homes aren't listed until the remodeling work is done.

The Officers' Row houses were built between 1899 and 1904, and this is the first time they've been available for sale, so interest is high. To separate the "tire-kickers" from buyers with genuine interest, Rise created an "Officers' Club." To join, people had to write a personal letter or make a $250 donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. Invitations to join were sent to more than 2,000 prospective buyers and real estate brokers, and around 45 joined, Blakeslee said.

The remodeling is schedule to be done in December, though there have been construction delays of six to eight months.

*This article originally appeared on the Puget Sound Business Journal

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