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Capitol Hill’s Gaffney House lined up for new life with overhaul from child care center owner — UPDATE

A Capitol Hill assisted living facility’s next life will be as a 8,400-square-foot, three-story day care.

Gaffney House, the longtime assisted living facility for residents living with dementia in a 1906-built mansion at 17th and Madison, is being lined up by the company behind E Olive Way’s International Montessori Academy to become a “child care center”  with a day care and “early learning center,” according to preliminary permit work with the city.

The E Olive Way academy’s owner Yimin Chen has not responded to CHS’s questions about the project. The Gaffney House property was listed for sale for $3.6 million in mid 2018. The price dropped to $2.75 million at some point and the property is currently listed as “pending.” Chen is listed as the property owner in planning documents.

UPDATE 10/16/2019: International Montessori Academy owner Yimin Chen confirms that she is planning to purchase the Gaffney House but said she can’t yet reveal details of her plans for the property. Chen did say that the plan has changed from the permit description of an “early learning center.” She said to expect more details of her project to be revealed soon.

The 1906-built house could also be heading to the Landmark Preservation Board for review along the way though its not clear if any of the currently planned work to the interior will hasten a review. “This is one of south Capitol Hill’s most significant homes, both architecturally and historically,” a City of Seattle report on the historic property reads. “It is located in an area where most of the homes similar in scale and design have been demolished, leaving it as the only reminder of the neighborhood’s former character.”

CHS reported last year about families seeking new arrangements for loved ones and the decision to wind down operations at the assisted living facility operated by Full Life Care and its parent company Transforming Age since 2004. In a letter announcing the closure process, the company cited the “financial losses” and said it “explored many different options” to keep Gaffney House open but it had “just become impossible to operate this small-scale assisted living home without losing money.”

UPDATE 8:55 AM: Acting executive director at Full Life, Scott Slater, tells CHS that services at Gafney House were shut down months ago and that the sale of the property is near closing. “We’ve had multiple sale agreements (in the past),” Slater warned, but said he was cautiously optimistic this transaction would close. Slater said he could not divulge the buyer but that signs for the new project should go up “soon.” He said proceeds from the sale would go toward Full Life’s ongoing social services work in the area.

Looking out from E Olive Way’s International Montessori Academy

Child care, on the other hand, is a Capitol Hill growth industry. Big chain day care Bright Horizons opening in Pike/Pine in 2015 and a day care was also a community priority that is now part of the plan when the development underway around Capitol Hill Station opens in 2020.

The International Montessori Academy, meanwhile, first arrived on Capitol Hill when it opened on E Olive Way late last year transforming an unsuccessful Chinese restaurant into a new expansion for the Bellevue-based provider of Mandarin Chinese, French, or Spanish language immersion and Montessori education for elementary school-age children.

“Currently, we are not accepting applications for toddler classrooms,” the academy’s website informs surely disappointed parents.

Those toddlers might miss out but If the Gaffney House property sale and project come together, their little brothers and sisters will have a new option in the neighborhood.

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