Saturday, December 11, 2010

Short takes No. 11

The case of the vanishing swings

The big swing set in the play area of Madison Park was suddenly missing its swings last week, though the cause was not immediately evident. On Wednesday, however, an explanation was provided by the parks department, which reported that it had removed the swings due to safety concerns.

It seems that during a routine safety check, an inspector detected that the swing set’s top rail, which is twelve feet high, tends to bow considerably, especially when “a large person” is on the swings. According to Seattle Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter, the top rail was actually bowing as much as two or three inches. This, in turn, was causing other structural bending, which is unusual. The swings have been removed until the problem can be addressed with the manufacturer.

While the swings are presumably in the Park for the use of children, their occasional use by “a large person” must be engineered for. As Potter notes, “play equipment safety is the highest priority for us.” The opportunity to swing in the Park still exists for those who can maintain proper ground clearance. The much lower, two-seat swing set remains functional—though probably not comfortably so for “a large person.”

Spa del Lago on the move
One of the neighborhood’s several spas, and the only one with a hair salon, is getting ready to pack up and move out. But it’s not going very far. When the New Year opens, Spa del Lago will be located just across the street from its current location. Its new digs will be on the first floor of the Villa Marina building, 1928 43rd Avenue E.

The move is reportedly necessitated, at least in part, by the recent sale of the building in which the Spa has long been located. But the move also fits nicely into the plans of Villa Marina owner Lakeside Capital Management, which is in the process of converting the building from apartments to retail/commercial use. Another ground-floor retail unit in Villa Marina is being built out as retail space on the 43rd Avenue side of the building. That space, which is next door to Maison Michel, should be available for lease in the first quarter of next year.

As MPB readers may recall, the Villa Marina Apartments was slated last year to be replaced by a ten-unit condo project. Changes in market conditions, however, forced a change of plans; and the conversion of the existing building to commercial use was the outcome.

No word yet on what will be happening to the current Spa del Lago space at 1929 43rd E.
Madison Park Café to ring in the New Year

Karen Binder is about to celebrate her 31st New Year’s at the Madison Park Café and would like us all to come celebrate the occasion with her. She reports she’s planning a special fixed-price New Year’s Eve dinner, promising both a glass of free sparkler and “great fun.” The menu is available here.

Binder and a business partner opened the Café in 1979, and it’s been serving French-bistro cuisine since Binder assumed full ownership of the restaurant in 1999. It is, without challenge, the longest-running white-tablecloth eatery in the neighborhood.

The Madison Park Café will also be doing a Christmas Eve Dinner this year, with an “early-ish” seating, says Binder. For reservations to either event call (206) 324-2626 or visit the website. The Café is located at 1807 42nd Avenue E.

Chase lowers the voltage

From the moment the large neon sign was installed above the Chase (née WaMu) branch in the summer of 2009, it was controversial in certain quarters. The Madison Park Community Council (MPCC) certainly took a dim view of the bright sign, which it felt violated the sign standards for the Madison Park business district. The goal of those standards is to exclude large, lighted commercial signs from the neighborhood. Though not every Madison Park commercial establishment adhers to the voluntary standards, the MPCC still hoped that it could get Chase’s attention to the issue and, hopefully, convince the Bank to be a bit less visibly present at nighttime.

Now, almost 18 months after the effort began, the Council can finally report success. Chase this week installed a smaller neon version of the Bank’s logo above the entrance to the branch. To get this action, the MPCC’s Kathleen O’Connor reportedly went straight to the top at Chase, asking for the help of Chase’s Washington President, Phyllis Campbell.

Rumor has it that the next target of the tone-it-down effort may well be Madison Park Conservatory’s newly installed representation of a flying Canada Goose, a skeletal image which is lighted at night. No confirmation of this, however.

Update: Since our original posting, the Community Council put to rest the rumor that anyone there has a problem with MPC's goose. Board member Lindy Wishard, in fact, reports that she "worked directly with the owner to insure that his sign was in keeping with the guidelines," adding that "we're grateful to Cormac [Mahoney] for caring about the sign and his storefront."


  1. The Conservatory's newly installed sign is smart and extremely well-executed. No alterations needed.

  2. I loved the neon sign. Where did you get it from?

  3. I agree with Mr. Myers. The MPC sign is a beautiful artistic approach for a business sign which is exactly what we should want in our neighborhood. The MPCC would be over stepping its bounds if it asked for alterations.

  4. Why does Chase branch even need a neon sign?

    It's not open after dark anyway.

  5. Bryan- Not sure if you take requests, but I would appreciate a post about the Madison Park Community Council(MPCC). I saw their suggestion boxes around town and based on those and their mis-guided concerns described in this post, I can only assume they are looking for something meaningful to do.

    There is increased crime in the neighborhood. Retail business are failing and leaving the area. Some are even falling down. People are setting up their own snow brigades and re-furbishing natural areas themselves. The efforts of a group acting on their own laid the groundwork for the installation of the speed limit sign and crosswalk flags. The neighborhood needs a comprehensive parking plan, including metered parking, before one is imposed on us.

    What is the community council doing besides complaining about lightbulbs?

    Madison Park Conservatory has chosen to move into the neighborhood. They have spent money at local businesses and their customers will shop at other businesses here. They have been open for a week and the official welcome to the neighbohood from MPCC may be, "Your sign is too bright."

    Please don't humiliate the rest of the neighborhood by raising the issue of the brightness of a man's two lightbulbs. Do something real and meaningful and lasting. You know, something difficult.

  6. Open letter to the town of Mayberry:

    First, the signs in question are not neon signs, they are plastic signs, lighted from within by good 'ol lightbulbs of one sort or another.

    Second, last I checked, it gets dark before the bank closes for a good portion of the year 'round these parts. Also, just because you are nestled all snug in your bed does not mean banks aren't doing business. Since about the Reagan Administration, banks have had these neat new inventions called ATMs which dispense real paper money when you put your card in! Shaazzzammm!! A lighted sign is required because people driving around in the dark and the rain need to know where to find the bank.

    Gomer Pyle, USMC

  7. Gomer Pyle needs something to do.

  8. Sarcasm is lost on Gomer the town oaf.

  9. The Board Members of the Community Council have no objections to the lovely sign at the Conservatory, nor to light bulbs. The restaurant's sign is in keeping with the neighborhood signage guidelines. We agree with Mike Myers above who described it as, “smart and extremely well-executed.” We're thankful to Cormac for caring about the artistry of his sign and storefront.

    The commenter “Anonymous” above thinks the Council should direct its attention to crime watches, snow brigades, and speed limit signs.

    Those are all Council initiatives.

    I encourage Anonymous - and anyone else - to attend a council meeting and participate in making Madison Park a more pleasant community.

    Lindy Wishard
    Board Member
    206 325-9037 | lindy at lindywishard dot com

  10. I love the MPC goose. It's elegant and whimsical at the same time. Of course, it took me a while to figure out it was a restaurant (I'm new to the "hood). The name and sign made me first wonder if it might be a taxidermy studio. That's not a criticism or sarcasm....just plain old, "duh" factor. However, a peak into the interior showed promise of tasty restaurant. I can't wait to try it.


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