Monday, August 8, 2011

Can't something be done about this?

Anyone thinking that the already decrepit commercial building at 4118 E. Madison St. couldn’t become more of a blight on the heart of Madison Park’s business district was proven wrong last week when vandals smashed the plate glass window of one of the building’s two vacant shops. Building owner Constance Gillespie, notorious for her unwillingness to spend any funds to maintain the structure, is almost certainly unaware of the damage. We understand from reliable sources that she is unreachable by phone or email, and there is some question as to whether she even accepts mail delivery.

The building has been in a state of disrepair (shall we say visibly rotting?) for many years, much to the consternation of other neighborhood merchants, one of whom refers to the structure as “The Black Hole of Madison Park.” (We’ve covered this story in some detail: click here to read our previous postings.)

The question now is whether the situation is to the point where the City can step in and require some remedial action on the part of the landlord, since the recent damage clearly presents a potential hazard to passersby.  Madison Park Business Association President Terry Short has done his best to tape over the glass that remains in the window frame, but the shop is now open to both the weather and to anyone who wants to enter the premises. Glass shards could easily dislodge onto what is the neighborhood’s most trafficked sidewalk.

As of this afternoon, no one had apparently called the City to ask for an intervention; so stepping out of our journalist role, we did so.  We contacted that Department of Planning and Development and made a formal request for an inspection, citing a clear danger to the public. We were told that based on our description of the situation there would be an investigation.

We shall see.


  1. I love reading your posts. It reminds me why I enjoy not living in Madison Park anymore amongst the City's most judgmental, self centered, and sheltered community who believes the are entitled to have the earth revolve around them.

  2. Thanks for taking the initiative. Such a large window with broken glass poses quite a danger, particularly with so many curious little kids passing by that site (ours included).

  3. It seems Constance Gillespie (anonymous#1) does have internet and reads this blog!

  4. So, Anonymous #1, what neighborhood do you live in now that doesn't care about broken glass falling onto its main sidewalks?

  5. Good show Bryan! If a petition from neighbors would help to stench the rot coming from that neglected unsafe place, I'd be happy to sign or help. What is the next transformation for this dump, a meth lab? There must be some legal way to force the owner to do something with the property.

  6. As a resident of Madison Park since 1975 I would like to register my support for the City to require the property owner to clean up this mess that is a hazard to people walking on the sidewalk and also letting the property deteriorate to a condition that invites this kind of vandalism.

    Steve Waszak, MD

  7. DPD was very responsive regarding a derelict property in our neighborhood (i.e. abandoned house with no windows and roof almost caving in). They conducted inspections and issued several citations, but it took almost two years before the property was actually sold and another year for the new owner to completely renovate. In the meantime the building continued to decay and blight the street. Perhaps a guerilla makeover is called for? Get someone in to replace the windows, paint the exterior and maybe hang some drapes (something besides brown paper and tape). Ms. Gillespie seems to care less about the property, so she shouldn't care if the neighborhood takes action to at least make it somewhat presentable.

  8. RIP, I saw the shrine. Thank you for covering this.

  9. Sorry ~ the above comment was for a previous post. In regards to this post, I find it to be so sad that we have these potentially attractive retail spaces, in the heart of our village, left unattended due to {as I have heard} impossible landlords. Thank you Bryan for keeping this issue alive and for attempting to do something about it. I will do anything I can to help.

  10. It is odd how the first comment is viewed by coming from a crackpot and then several of the comments that follow do nothing but support the crackpot's ideas.

    What little bone in your body makes you think it would be any sort of acceptable/legal/moral to go onto someone else's property and perform work (on what would be YOUR behalf) that they obviously do not want done?

    This country and city are full of buildings just like this one. Ones where, for whatever reason, the owners cannot or choose not to make investments in properties during markets that are volatile at best and non-existent at worst. All of Seattle's best neighborhoods have them and there is no reason, except that self-centeredness mentioned earlier to think that we should be any different. It's another welcome to reality moment for Madison Park.

    The real solution, rather than wishing for someone else to think and be like you, rather than breaking the law, would be for someone to pony up the $50k, or so, for just the bare-bones repairs required for occupancy, sign a 20-year lease with the landlord, and move in. Put your money where your fantasies are.

    Every business in this neighborhood has had a window broken by some idiot and we should be more concerned about that behavior than anything.

  11. Just because "all of seattle's best neighborhoods have them" (buildings like this) does not mean the residents should accept it. if a drug house opened next to you would you just say no problem, there are lots of these in the city?
    In a really good neighborhood people do get involved.

  12. Madison Park.... Wake up. This is sad, out of all the real problems in this neighborhood, city, country, world-- You all decided to focus you attention on is a problem that has strictly to do with image.

    So there is a derelict building madison park... been to a midwestern city recently?

    I would say get out of your bubble and travel the world and see where your efforts could be so much more meaningful, but i know you all do. Maybe its because too often people decided to protect themselves from these problems in a Four Seasons resort where image is everything and substance is nothing.

    Madison park blogger how about a story about how the #2 bus route is about to be axed? or the cost of food at our grocery store compared to the city? or the policy regarding homosexuals at the tennis club and racial profiling? Then again, your probably a member.

    Issaquah can really complain, they have whole subdavision unfinished and derelict.

  13. There is a long way between "getting involved" and breaking the law by trespassing on someone else's property to make alterations that they obviously do not want and certainly would not have been authorized in such a ridiculous scenario.

    As for drug houses, your point is irrelevant. The property in question is not a drug house, it is ugly and some people wish it weren't ugly. Drug houses are illegal and I would certainly not allow something illegal to be in operation next door to me, ugly or not.

  14. As Constance Gillespie's neighbor in Montlake, I can confirm that it is not just her retail space that is a deteriorating and unsafe nightmare. In answer to the blogger, she does not receive mail at her home and I'm quite convinced she doesn't have electricity. Her yard, which is full of broken, decrepit, unsafe junk, is very likely an indication of the interior of her house. My neighbors across the street and I try to keep an eye out for her because she has no visible family presence and quite obviously no one in her life who cares about her mental or physical well being. Days/weeks can go by where we haven't seen her and quite honestly fear the worst. As of this week her parking strip garden has been watered recently so I assume she is still with us. She is hostile and paranoid, which is both sad and frustrating all at the same time. She welcomes no help in her life and allows no one access to her property, which makes maintaining the space between our houses impossible. All of this is to say that a little city intervention is probably necessary, not only for the safety of people in and around her building there in MP, but quite possibly for her well being as well. As to the self-righteous poster above, her space isn't ugly- it's unsafe. The roof is caved in in at least one of the unrentable spaces and this is why she doesn't have tenants in them. You are the first person I know of that believes a tenant should be responsible for repairs to a rental property, but let me enlighten you- she is not only financially responsible for those repairs, she is required by law to make them for the safety of the occupants. You should probably go help starving children somewhere whilst patting yourself on the back and feeling smug and leave this issue to the people of this community.

  15. Clearly your frustration with Constance has affected you deeply.

    While you are her neighbor over in Montlake, I am a member of the community in Madison Park AND have read her tenant lease and know very well, two different people that have rented from her in the past and several others that have tried to rent from her and/or purchase the building from her.

    Let me enlighten you. Her lease makes the tenant responsible for everything. Read again: EVERYTHING, including the repairs to the roof, as well as repairs to leaky pipes that have been buried under the building for decades.

    She is unwilling to budge on lease terms and is unwilling to pay to make the repairs herself, obviously missing the correlation between having tenants and having income.

    In order for her to be responsible for repairs she would have to a) want to rent the space and b) have someone willing to rent the space. Since neither of those things will happen under present circumstances, I have already described to you the ideal tenant: Willing to pay thousands of dollars to fix someone else's problems for zero return on investment. Anyone? Anyone?

    There has been a long line of people ready to rent from her, once fair lease terms have been negotiated. She is unwilling to negotiate. People have (let's face it, selfishly) offered to do cosmetic work to the place for free and she has turned them away. Many people are anxious to purchase the building from her, but she refuses to sell it. Seriously, if she would do it, she could have cash-in-hand in less than 60 days.

    Now that I have set you straight, I am off to help the starving children who want to be helped, rather than the eccentric millionaires who don't.

  16. It appears to me that Constance may be more amenable to offers of buy the property if she had NO tenants, therefore NO income! Maybe the Council or Business group could help Spa Jolie relocate to another location in The Park.

    This is worth a shot, since nothing else has worked and if nothing is done the situation can only get worse!

  17. I tend to agree with you, however, we are operating under the assumption that Constance likes/needs money and there is nothing to indicate that is the case. I have heard that she owns property all over town, has owned it for a long time, and therefore probably owns it outright. I doubt any would be more valuable than our Madison Park commercial space, though.

    The word on the street for many years has been that she she has willed the property to her church when she passes. If true, I am guessing it will go up for sale at that point.

    Your ideas constitute pretty big thinking for the community council or business association, two groups interested only in making sure nothing changes.

  18. The last comment deserves a big AMEN!

  19. amazes me the negative energy some commenter's post about Madison Park! I love where I live b.c people here in this "bubble" care.....and you must to negative commenter, or you wouldnt be reading this blog.....alas you can't fool me, I see you in line at Starbucks ordering your 5 dollar latte. One can't have it both ways my friend, either be part of the community we all love here, or take your negative energy elsewhere!


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