Friday, October 31, 2014

No new restaurant here


Foodies and those concerned about the shrinking retail core of Madison Park will be saddened to know that there will not be a replacement restaurant for the late Cafe Parco.  We have it on good authority that the building, located on 42nd near Madison, has been purchased by someone, apparently a Madison Park resident, who is going to renovate the space and transform it into his personal office.

Building owner Karen Binder, who for a couple decades operated Madison Park Cafe from the one-time residential building, did not respond to our request for confirmation.  But it's clear that the place is being emptied of restaurant paraphernalia. One of the problems with operating a restaurant in that space is that the kitchen was inadequate, both in terms of size and the age of its equipment.  Extensive work would have been needed to make it efficient.  Even if that obstacle had been overcome, the limited seating indoors was always a problem with no solution. We've been told that in the restaurant's final years in particular, the outdoor good-weather seating and the weekend brunches were what made Madison Park Cafe profitable. Cafe Parco, as was evident to anyone who wandered by regularly, was unable to achieve the same results.

The brick building to the south of the old Cafe Parco location has also been recently purchased, but there's no indication that it will be used for anything more than offices. The same situation is true for the building that housed the now-notorious Lakeside Capital offices on 43rd. That space had been marketed as a potential retail location, but that's not going to happen according to the word we've received.  The building changed hands recently and the new owners will not be adding to the retail space along that street.  As others have found, in any event, it's tough to do retail off of Madison.

Meanwhile, there's a now-empty shop where Ann Marie Lingerie used to be, in the building that also houses Starbucks.  It's unclear from the sign posted in the window whether the current tenant plans something else for that space.  For some reason, the Madison Park Blogger was unsuccessful in getting any response from Ann Marie concerning their abandoned location.

Perhaps we're losing our touch.

Monday, October 27, 2014

No cheap ticket to Madison Park



Affordable houses are a thing of the past


A current snapshot of Madison Park’s real estate market reveals an extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented situation:  there is only a single house available for sale at under $1 million—and that one is priced at $900,000  Moreover, there is virtually no other inventory of housing available close to the million-dollar mark. The median price of a listed house in Madison Park is over $2.7 million. That’s the highest median value for listings we have seen in the more than five years we’ve been covering the neighborhood’s real estate scene.

Of the 19 single-family residences currently for sale here, there are only two that would pass as “affordable” (using the Madison Park definition of that term).  Those two are priced at $1,082,000 and $1,328,000 respectively.  You’ll have to pay almost $2 million for any one of the next four higher-priced houses on the active list, with the remaining 13 for-sale houses ranging in price from $2.4 million to $4.5 million.  And as might be expected, all of these houses are big.  There is only one residence on the market boasting less than 3,000 sq. ft., and the median size of the 19 homes is a whopping 4,200 sq. ft.

As is obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention, Madison Park has increasingly become “rarified” in recent years, bungalows making way for mega-houses. Based on current listings, it’s clear that the audience for single-family homes in Madison Park today is principally divided between the pretty wealthy and the very wealthy.  Of course Madison Park wannabes can still rent an apartment here or even purchase a condo at a relatively low price point.  Of the five condos currently available for sale, four range in price from $300,000 and $400,000, with the remaining condo listed at just under $1 million.  The median size of the five condos, however, is just 970 sq. ft.

This house at 825 Hillside Dr. is priced at the median for listed homes: $2,745,000.  

Here’s the state of the market as we head toward winter:

Houses

Listings:  19
Median List Price:  $2,745,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,200
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $653
Average Days on Market:  64
Percentage with Price Reductions:  26%
New Listings:  9
            Pending Sales:  4

Condos/Townhouses

Listings:  5
Median List Price:  $400,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  970
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $412
Average Days on Market:  172
Percentage with Price Reductions:  60%
New Listings:  1
Pending Sales:  1

House sales in the third quarter exhausted the available inventory of lower-priced abodes.  The median sales price of properties sold during the quarter was $1,475,000.  That is $1,300,000 (or 48%) less than the median price of houses currently available in the neighborhood: $2,745,000.  Seven of the 28 houses sold were under $1 million and only one house sold last quarter for more than the current median list price for houses in this market.

This is the breakdown of sales during the last quarter:

Houses

            Sales:  21
            Median Sale Price:  $1,475,000
            Average Sq. Ft.:  3,430
            Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $431
            Average Days on Market:  48
            Average Discount from List Price:  1.7% 

Condos

            Sales: 7
            Median Sale Price:  $365,000
            Average Sq. Ft.:  949
            Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $385
            Average Days on Market:  56         
            Average Discount from List Price: 4.0%


One of eight under-$1 million sales last quarter: 1031 32nd Ave. E.

Here’s a critical data point about third-quarter sales in Madison Park: houses sold in just 48 days on average, with condos taking only slightly longer to change hands (56 days).  Of the houses sold there were only two outliers in terms of time on the market.  No houses other than these took more than 60 days to sell, and the back story on one of the two is pretty good: the seller held out for the original list price and won the bet after 455 days.  That house sold for $2,250,000.  This was clearly not what’s referred to as a “motivated seller”.

And speaking of successful, we should include the sellers (eight of the 21) who sold their houses at their original list price or at a premium to list.  The biggest winners in that regard were two sellers who achieved more than an 8% premium on their houses, selling them in 6 and 8 days respectively.  Most houses that were sold were very well priced to market, with only two homes taking a double-digit hit: 12% in one case and 13% in the other.  These houses both sold in less than 30 days, proving either that there are some motivated sellers still left in the market or perhaps just some who are not keeping up on what’s possible in this inventory-challenged environment for sellers who are willing to wait.

Condo sales were also brisk (only one outlier among seven sales taking longer than 75 days), and the sold properties for the most part changed hands at or above their original asking prices.  The sales ranged from a 680 sq. ft. unit going for $335,000 to a 1,113 sq. ft. unit unloaded at $705,000.  The sold prices of condos, on average, achieved 99.88% of the final list prices of those properties, which is a pretty good statistic for any market.

[Photo at top: 1535 Parkside Drive E., a 7,020 sq. ft. mansion on a Broadmoor golf course fairway, is the most expensive house currently on the market, listed at $4,500,000. All photos via Redfin.]  

[Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate for her help in compiling the sales data. Listing data courtesy of Redfin, using information from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beach House Bar & Grill opens friday


They were just putting the finishing touches on the space when we barged into the place this evening to get some pix for the blog.  Owner Ricky Eng reconfirmed that the Beach House Bar & Grill will open as scheduled for lunch tomorrow.  The new restaurant's hours will be 11-10 daily, with the possibility of expanded weekend hours sometime in the future, he said.

The space has been freshened up and revitalized, but the basic configuration of the predecessor restaurant, Madison Park Conservatory, has been retained on both floors.


The Beach House purchased some of the assets of the Madison Park Conservatory, but the most noticeable reminder of MPC is the goose on the wall of the upstairs bar.


The goal, Eng told us, is to have comfortable, family-friendly space with a wide menu, where there's something for everyone.  The target audience is the residents of Madison Park. 


The curtain rises tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

While we were away...


It's been a long time since we last did a blog posting, as regular readers of Madison Park Blogger are no doubt well aware.  We've been in the Great Southwest enjoying some excellent vibes, as well as a lot of hot, dry, and sunny weather.  But now we're back; and it's about time to get everyone updated on what's been happening in the old neighborhood---as well as what's upcoming.

First off, one of the two new restaurants slated to debut in September did manage to get the doors open, as anticipated, in a nicely refurbished space formerly the haunt of Mad Pizza on Madison St.  We're of course speaking of Bella Viet Cafe, which we just saw described by one local food blog as a "pho parlor." Though that's certainly not a derogatory term, it hardly does justice to the wider menu that owner Tani Phan (that's her in the photo above) and her business partner, Elena Vo, have created here in the Park.  As a result of our own personal experience at Bella Viet, bolstered by the positive anecdotal responses of other patrons (as well as excellent reviews on both Urban Spoon and Yelp) this new eatery is clearly an outstanding addition to the neighborhood.  (Did we mention that they do take out?)

The second restaurant that coulda woulda opened in September (but didn't, due to construction delays) is the Beach House Bar & Grill, occupying space vacated by Madison Park Conservatory, near the foot of Madison on 43rd Avenue.  We have it on good authority (that would be co-owner Maria Eng) that this Friday is finally going to be the big opening.  The menu has been posted (you can find it here), and reservations are being accepted by phone (206-294-3842).  We expect to post some photos of the revamped interior space of the Beach House on Thursday, after we get a quick tour.



And speaking of things that were supposed to happen but didn't, the fabled SR-510 "Ramps to Nowhere" were slated to get a visit from the wrecking crews last weekend to begin their demolition (those notorious Arboretum ramps are shown in the photo above, marked by the big "X" at the bottom as well as the "X" immediately above).  The Seattle Times just reported (well, three hours ago), that the contractor has delayed the project in order to concentrate on other demolition work related to the bridge. That's surprising, since there was supposed to be some ceremony marking the occasion last Saturday.  No reports on whether that happened or not.  Anyway, for those who may have missed it, Times columnist Danny Westneat had a cute piece on the eventual tear down of the infamous ramps (which you can find here).

And while we're on the subject, let us again remind readers that the Ramps to Somewhere (a turn of phrase that we just coined) will also eventually be coming down. We're referring of course to the Arboretum's freeway ramps that lead to and from 520.  If you've missed that fact after all this time, you must be a new reader to the blog (the story can be found here).

Okay, enough time on what did happen and what didn't happen while we were not reporting. Here are a couple of events upcoming:

Tree Walk:  Here's what our friend, Mary Henry, has to say on that subject: "On Saturday, October 25th Steve Lorton, former Northwest editor of the Sunset Magazine, and Rolland Hiebert, horticulturist at City People's Garden Store, will lead the third Tree Walk in Madison Park sponsored by the Madison Park Community Council.  The walk will begin at Park Shore, 1600 43rd Avenue East and tread new avenues.  Starting at 10 am and lasting about 90 minutes, the walk will head north and explore streets north of Madison.  One of the exotic plants to be seen is a Trumpet Vine twined around a light pole.  Previous walkers have found that pencils and pads prove valuable for noting certain plants, flowers and trees.  Steve is most knowledgeable about all and in addition is a formidable and enchanting story-teller.  The walk is free to the public but donations may be made to the Madison Park Community Council, a 501C3 organization."

Trick or Treating:  The annual happening, sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association, will occur this year from 4 until 6 pm on Halloween, October 31.  This is a kids' event, by the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Walk returns tomorrow


It's become a summer tradition in Madison Park for area artists to display their work in neighborhood businesses as the season draws to a close.  This year is no different, with Art Walk scheduled to begin tomorrow evening and run through September 28.  A total of 30 Madison Park businesses will be participating, with the walk running down Madison all the way from Starbucks to Park Bench Gifts.  The full line up of participating businesses and artists can be found here

The excitement begins with a reception at Starbucks beginning at 6 pm on Friday.



[Upper photo: art of Brooke Westlund; lower photo: art of Arthur Pasette]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Restaurants set to debut



Two openings in September


Madison Park’s cuisine scene will be broadened this month as two new eateries open their doors.  Taking the place of Madison Park Conservatory at 1927 43rd Avenue E. will be the Beach House Bar & Grill, owned by Chef Ricky Eng and his wife, Maria, who are the proprietors of a successful restaurant of the same name in Kirkland.  The original Beach House, which first opened on the eastside five years ago, features “gourmet American” food, such as grilled steak salad, buttermilk fried chicken, and seared yellow fin tuna. The restaurant’s full dinner/lunch/brunch menus are available here.

The Madison Park version of the Beach House will be about 80% the same as the Kirkland’s, according to Ricky Eng, at least in terms of cuisine.  In Madison Park, however, Eng will be able to take advantage of the wood-fired oven left by Madison Park Conservatory.  That means that some new signature steaks and appetizers, at a minimum, can be added to the restaurant’s repertoire, says Eng.

The Beach House will offer “comfort food with a twist.” While everything won’t be organic, the dishes will be as all-natural as possible, and the menu will emphasize locally sourced ingredients (meaning within the Pacific Northwest). There will also be a “healthy” kids’ menu.


Renovation of the MPC space has been underway for several weeks. The revamped space will have new light fixtures, new hardwood floors downstairs (replacing tile) and new tables and chairs, including the addition of downstairs banquette seating.

The timetable for the Beach House’s opening is mid-month.

Meanwhile, further up the street at the old Mad Pizza location (4021 E. Madison), a new Vietnamese restaurant will be making its debut near the end of the month. Bella Viet Café is the first restaurant for owner/operator Tani Phan, whose background in the restaurant business includes many years at various Thai restaurants in the area.  She and her business partner, Elena Vo, needed to gut the Mad Pizza space, which was less than pristine after the long-time tenant pizza purveyor moved out. The new restaurant will feature all-new bathrooms, kitchen, and dining room.  It will seat 20, with additional seating outside (perhaps two or three tables) when the weather’s decent.  Of course there will be a take-out menu.

Phan says that her focus is going to be on fresh, high-quality Vietnamese fare, though not necessarily in the traditional style. Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) will be a feature, with five varieties slated for the initial menu.  Phan says that Bella Viet Café’s Pho will be distinguished from that of many other Vietnamese restaurants in that no frozen broth will ever be used its preparation.

Among the other items on the menu will be sandwiches, including lemongrass marinated beef and Trio Ham, and salad selections such as fresh lotus root shrimp salad.  Fresh rolls, spring rolls, pork skewer, crispy wings, and garlic edamame round out the initial menu, which will change with the seasons.  There will be multiple vegan selections as well.

We’ll have more to share about both restaurants, including the exact opening dates, as we move further into the month.  Stay tuned.

[Photos courtesy of Beach House Bar & Grill.]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cafe Parco closes


Chef Celinda calls it quits


The restaurant business is a tough one, and the Madison Park audience doesn't make the situation any easier for a restauranteur.  After almost three years of struggle to hit the right notes, chef/proprietor Celinda Norton has decided to give it up. In an email to patrons sent early this morning, Norton writes "the time has come to bid you a farewell...Despite working seven days a week, since 2011, cooking every meal myself, the business continues to be ‘economically challenged’. It is time to seek other avenues to satisfy my need to create great food."

As Madison Park's only Italian restaurant, Cafe Parco occupied the space that for many years housed Karen Binder's French-themed Madison Park Cafe (1807 42nd Avenue E.).  Binder is the property's landlord and will again have the task of finding a tenant, as she did after closing her own restaurant three years ago. The onetime private residence is difficult space for a restaurant to operate in because it has a very small kitchen (which is in need of renovation) and limited interior seating, among other factors.

It is always sad to see a neighborhood business fail, sad for both the business's patrons and for the many of us who care about maintaining a 'critical mass' within the Village's business community.  We wish the hard-working Chef Celinda and her son, Nic, well in whatever their futures hold.

Seeing Cafe Parco close, however, reminds us of the old adage, "When one door closes, another opens."  Ironically, our intended posting today was about the two new neighborhood restaurants that plan to open their doors later this month.

We'll have the details tomorrow.

[Photo by S. Pratt for Seattle Eater.] 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Music in the Park returns this evening


Every Thursday this month there will be Music in the Park, presented by the Madison Park Business Association. On the boards tonight is The Moonspinners, a "60's-esque" trio. You can get a good idea of their particular vibe by watching this YouTube video.

In upcoming weeks, three groups that have appeared in past years at Music in the Park will be back:  August 14, The Side Project, August 21, Two Scoops Combo, and August 28, Gin Creek.

The music begins at 6:30 and ends at 8.  The venue is the grassy area of the park, near the tennis courts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

HomeStreet gets the doors open



After a very long gestation period, Seattle-based HomeStreet bank birthed its Madison Park baby today, finally revealing to the world its long-awaited branch along the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. The prominent Madison Street location next to Bert's Red Apple was most-recently the site of the Tully's, the much-lamented and long-departed coffee shop.  It's been almost two years since that exit.

HomeStreet would have been here earlier had it not been for the involved design and permitting processes and the fact that the hundred-plus-year-old building was in worse shape by far than originally anticipated.  The end result of all that rehabilitation is pretty impressive, however.  If you're willing to accept the fact that Madison Park is now a banking hub with five bank branches calling the neighborhood home, you will probably be pleased with the attractiveness and compatibility of HomeStreet's finished product. The bank sign apparently meets the community standards for its modest size, and the building doesn't look too bank-like. That, we're told, sits well with the neighborhood "powers that be" who try to enforce the various "village" standards.  Another concession to the community: the fireplace that graced Tully's is back in an improved form to add to the ambiance of the bank's interior.

While we certainly can't claim that HomeStreet is not a bank, it can be argued that it's a bank that is different from the others that (with the exception only of KeyBank) have been part of the Madison Park community for many decades.  Though they certainly didn't start out that way, each of the neighborhood's other four bank branches is a part of a big national bank organization based out of state---far out of state, in most cases (New York in the case of Chase, Ohio in the case of Key and North Carolina in the case of Bank of America).  Only Wells can make the claim that it's even based in the general region (California).

Not that there's anything wrong with being from out of state.  However, HomeStreet is definitely home grown, having been founded in Seattle as a mortgage company 93 years ago, later becoming a federally-chartered savings bank.  HomeStreet, with about $3.3 billion in assets, operates 31 branches, ten of these in Seattle.


In charge of HomeStreet's Madison Park location is Ila Wagner, who joined the bank from Chase during the past month.  She told us that she understands the fact that "there's a fear of over-saturation with banks in Madison Park."  But "HomeStreet will be a different kind of experience."  She cites the bank's intense involvement in the communities it serves as one example.  Also, HomeStreet is, we're told, the "official bank" of both the Seahawks and the Sounders, with promotions related to both teams (special deals for season ticket holders, for example).

While today is Day One for HomeStreet's Madison Park incarnation, the big official grand opening will take place for the community in early September.  That's when the bank will be giving away a lot of money.

Just kidding.  (About the money give-away, that is).

[As a matter of self disclosure for those not already aware of the fact, the Madison Park Blogger is a banker by day, though not an employee of any of the banks who operate branches in Madison Park.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Speaking of trees


It's just a lovely memory now. It was trucked away, for the most part, over the weekend. But for multiple decades this majestic tree, believed to be a Chinese Elm, graced the E. Highland Drive road end near Lake Washington, just off of 43rd Avenue E. It split apart Friday morning at around 2 am, and a significant portion crash landed in the owners' backyard with a big kaBOOM (though at least some neighbors, we understand, slept through the whole thing). While the tree had not been known to be diseased, a not-very-close inspection shows the rot that must have caused the collapse.


There was no saving the standing portion. We're told that the arborist who made the initial inspection of the downed tree commented that what remained upright could fall at anytime: ten months, ten weeks---or perhaps ten minutes.  The homeowners wisely decided not to take the chance.

As an aside, we note that this Lake Washington road end has something of a reputation, or perhaps multiple reputations.  "Lovers' Lane" is one descriptor.  We've heard that when the tree fell in the dark of the early morning there was a car either directly underneath or close by. It was occupied by a couple who were not only startled out of doing whatever they were doing but also seriously impeded in their efforts to exit the scene.  No injuries reported, however.

It was just a few weeks ago that another prominent Washington Park tree experienced its own sad separation. This tree overhung E. Lee Street near 39th Avenue E.:


In this case the the rest of the tree has been saved, at least for now.  Though some of the tree is still there, it's standing with a lot less elegance and artistry than before the fall.

And speaking of trees, these two very tall trees located on the lot of a soon-to-be-demolished house at the northeast corner of E. Galer and McGilvra Boulevard are the subject of some concern.  It's not because they are in imminent danger of collapse, however.


In this case the issue has to do with the possibility that the recent purchaser of the property, Chaffey Building Group, may decide to remove the trees as part of its redevelopment plans.  The immediate neighbors and some other Madison Park residents are interested in petitioning to keep the trees. If you would like to help you can contact Gayle Jack, who is heading up this effort: gayle.sjack@gmail.com.

[Middle photo courtesy of Nancy Dobrin.]