By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Dr. Jean Nokes, her beloved mare Cielo, and Luna, the three-legged cat who used to ride Cielo in her heyday, are still holding the fort down at Falconridge Farm, the 4.2 acre oasis in Highland Park.
As West Seattle Blog first reported in early September, Nokes and her husband Milt Ghivizzani put the horse farm up for sale because Nokes, an experienced equestrian, is no longer riding. We checked back on its status after the topic came up at last week’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting.
There has been an avalanche of interest, from developers and also parties who want to save it from that fate, and keep it as an equestrian farm. Nokes said she has been in constant negotiation with multiple parties, but so far no ink has been put to paper.
As reported here a month ago, a Vashon Island group, Tasha Therapeutic Riding, started a crowdfunding effort to raise $6,600,000 to buy the farm, but was unsuccessful. However, Julia Montagnet, who started the crowd-funding effort, turned it over to a professional organization called Altruist Partners, led by Robert Harrahill. A horse person, Harrahill said he got involved because he helps organizations raise impact capital for projects that benefit the greater good. He said he’s the go-between for Montagnet, who would lease the farm for Tasha Therapeutic Riding, from Friends of Falconridge, yet another organization, which is actually raising the money.
“Altruist has not been officially retained by Friends of Falconridge, and we’ve worked pro-bono to assist their efforts,” Harrahill said. “There are several of us who have horses and so it is a pleasure to help both groups (Tasha and Falconridge).”
Harrahill said they will use impact capital markets to provide the funding. They have commitments of $3.2 million, and potentially another $600,000 on the condition that 100 percent of the money to buy the farm is raised. Friends of Falconridge confirmed to WSB, “We have set our internal goal before we can place an offer to Dr. Jean. … We need to hit our goal and have an offer to purchase before these funders will be on board.”
Meanwhile, Nokes has proceeded with taking down 13 alders on the east side of the property to ensure the safety of homes on 5th Avenue downhill of the farm. She said her neighbors have been very kind and very involved in the process.
“I had no idea this would generate the amount of emotion and interest,” Nokes said. Our original story was followed up by citywide media outlets, and a video production company, Rainmakers, produced a 28-minute video called “Horse Farm in the City.” In the video, Nokes talks about many of the stories from the farm, including the story of Othello, Ghivizzani’s pet chicken, and the tragic tale of an accident involving a horse named Bo, who was being transported to California when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The driver was killed; the horse survived, although injured. Here’s the video:
(As you’ll see if you watch the video, it ends with a short interview with the real-estate agent marketing the farm.)
Whatever the fate of Falconridge Farm, Nokes said it probably won’t be spring until there is a closing. She and Ghivizzani will be heading south to California for the winter, with Cielo in tow.