Saturday, April 30, 2011

May happenings

May 6 (Friday):  Families and friends of John J. McGilvra Elementary School are gearing up for a fun-filled Seis de Mayo McGilvra Mixer to be held at Pravda Studios (1406 10th Avenue). There will be dinner, dancing, and drinks at this "shakin' things up" fundraiser, which will benefit programs at the School.  The fun begins at 6 pm. Tickets ($30 per person, including dinner and a drink) are available online here.

May 9 (Monday):  Night work on E. Madison Street is expected to begin and to continue for two weeks (8 pm until 6 am, Monday through Thursday).  The roadway affected is in Madison Valley between 28th Avenue E. (next to Luc) and E. Lake Washington Boulevard.  During construction there will be only one lane available on Madison Steet through the construction zone.  Our posting on the reasons behind this night work is available here.

May 10 (Tuesday):  Madison Park-based The Junior League of Seattle is hosting an evening wine and hors d’oeuvres event to celebrate publication of “The Art of Discovery.” The book profiles the work of artists involved in the League’s Northwest Art Project, a volunteer program designed to educate and inspire young minds through exposure to significant area artists and their art.  Profits from the sale of the book will go to the Art Project.  Some of the artists contributing to the book will be on hand at the book celebration, which will be held at the League’s office, 4119 E. Madison St., from 5 until 8 pm.  RSVP to  The neighborhood is invited.

May 11 (Wednesday):  Madison Park’s own independent-film distributor, IndieFlix, hosts a sneak preview of Finding Kind, a “powerful new film” about girl-against-girl bullying, which is reportedly garnering both awards and buzz at film festivals nationally. The event will take place at Town Hall (Eight Avenue & Seneca Street) at 6 pm and will benefit the IndeFlix Foundation, which will offer screenings of the film to schools that can’t afford the screening fee.

First-time filmmakers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Stroud, both victims of “mean girls” during their teenage years, will be on hand for the screening. Finding Kind chronicles their 10,000-mile journey across the country, during which they set up “Truth Booths” in various locations and captured tearful and poignant memories and confessions from schoolgirls.  Madison Park resident Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix’s CEO, reports that she, too, had once been a victim of bullying, which is one of the reasons she is personally so supportive of the film.  To increase the film's audience, IndieFlix has created a new distribution model, Theatrical on Demand (TOD), for screening Finding Kind across North America in schools and community centers, as well as theaters. Tickets for the May 11 event may be purchased here.

May 14 (Saturday): The Original Children’s Shop (4216 E. Madison St.) will be one of the local businesses participating in the Madison Park Spring Fling to benefit Seattle Children’s Child Life Department Toy Fund.  Between 11 am and 5 pm, award-winning photographer Michael Rosenberg will be on hand for mini-photography sessions (suggested donation: $20).

Other Village shops, including Cookin’, Madison Park Bakery, Martha E. Harris Flowers & Gifts, and Red Wagon Toys, will be participating in the Fling by donating a portion of the day’s proceeds to the Toy Fund.

Photos by Cate Petit.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ropa Bella says sayonara to the Valley

Will return to the Park in May

After being in its Madison Valley location (2717 E. Madison St.) for only nine months, women’s clothing retailer Ropa Bella is pulling up stakes and returning to Madison Park.  In mid-May, the shop will be relocating to the space recently vacated by Maison Michel in the Villa Marina building (1928 43rd Avenue E.).   

For over 20 years, Ropa Bella had been a Madison Park mainstay (first in Arboretum Court and later in space on Madison Street now occupied by Key Bank).  But that all ended last summer, when Ropa Bella was unable to negotiate a lease renewal with its landlord.  As a result, the store—having no acceptable alternatives in Madison Park—made the move to the Valley, hoping that longtime customers would follow.   

That didn’t happen, however.  Or at least it didn’t happen to the extent necessary to keep the business running successfully, according to owner Lisa Loban.  The biggest problem, she says, was parking. Many of her customers apparently found it difficult to find parking spaces within close proximity to the new shop.  Construction along Madison related to the stormwater project didn’t help the situation much either, she adds.  If her audience wasn’t going to come to her, Loban decided, she would have to return to her audience.

The addition of another a retail shop to Madison Park is welcome news for the other store owners in the Village, according to Tina Brown of Tina’s on Madison.  She believes there needs to be a sufficient number of retail establishments in the Park to justify people coming here from other neighborhoods to shop.  This has historically been a destination shopping district, she notes, and Ropa Bella’s return gives the Village greater critical mass. Additionally, having a good retailer in the Villa Marina space, she argues, will help reinforce that block of 43rd Avenue E. as part of Madison Park’s retail core.

Dennis Daugs is principal of Lakeside Capital Management, which owns Villa Marina. He notes that the building had once been heavily retail, and he thinks it’s a plus for the neighborhood to have additional retail space in that location.  “Having Ropa Bella back in Madison Park is something I’m proud to be a part of,” he told us.

For her part, Loban is much more enthusiastic about this move than the one she made last summer.  “I’m happy to be back where I am most comfortable,” she said. Teresa [Maloney, her longtime associate] and I are looking forward to working again with our customers who we’ve been with for many years.”  To which she adds, “It will also be nice to have some foot traffic!.”

Last summer, after Sun Precautions shut down, Ropa Bella decamped, and Maison Michel vacated its space (the first time), we were considering doing a posting on how the economic vitality of the retail scene in the general vicinity seemed to be shifting toward Madison Valley and away from Madison Park proper.  We never got around to doing the story. Perhaps we were hasty in thinking it was a story at all.

Space Now Available in Madison Valley

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Little dog gone

Please consider my heartfelt story

Dear Madison Park Blogger,

I have a story I was hoping you might consider putting in the blog to help me pass the word around and get support from our local neighbors.
I've been a resident here in Madison Park for almost a year and a half now.  I love my neighborhood and all the people who live here. It's a GREAT community!
My story is a sad and terrible one, but I’m hoping to bring light to an unfortunate accident.
Last Tuesday, April 19, around 2:30-2:45 p.m., I eye-witnessed a dog by the name of Harry get hit and run over by the #11 Metro Bus on 42nd Avenue. It's the worst thing I've ever seen. Being an animal lover, this REALLY hit me deep in the heart. It was a blessing that Harry didn't suffer...he died instantly. It happened so quickly. I was the only one who saw it happen. Gloria the owner was parking her car, and when she opened the door Harry ran into the street and was hit by the bus. The bus driver did stop and seemed a little sorrowful, but he was more concerned about getting on his way on his route. We exchanged information and he was off. He didn't even offer to help "clean" up the situation or give condolence to the owner of the dog. I know we're all on a busy schedule but you just killed someone's beloved pet, and getting on your way seemed more important. I don't understand our world sometimes.

Harry may have run into the street too quickly, but I wonder if the bus driver had been driving slower and been more cautious when driving down our residential streets, maybe Harry's life could of been spared. He was running to go home, and instead his life was taken all too quickly.
After this happened, I was pretty stunned for the rest of the day, and quite honestly crying with sorrow because I just couldn't get the image out of my head. Have you ever felt you were somewhere at the wrong time and wrong place? Well, this was one of those days I wished I had walked a different way home. Then, I asked myself, maybe I was meant to walk this way, see what happened, and become the "voice" of Harry. I just felt in my heart I needed to do something about it and make sure Harry's unfortunate and quick death didn't go unheard or unnoticed. 

So I started a petition, hoping you could help me spread the word. If I can get enough signers and supporters, I would like to take this to the next level, possibly to Mayor Mike McGinn and Dow Constatine, King County Executive. I want them to realize, understand, take responsibility and action for educating their drivers on being more cautious and slowing down. Those who are walking our streets are just as important as the ones riding the bus. I would like to see if we could get them to change the speed limits within our residential streets on their routes.
 You can find my petition on the “Care 2 Petition” website under “Metro PLEASE Slow Down.”

I truly give THANKS for your time on this matter. It's not just Harry and all pets who we need to be concerned about when walking our streets, but also children, friends, neighbors and loved ones within our community. I know Harry would give thanks too! 

Sincerely and Again Thank You,

Tina Bryan


Many of us noticed the little memorial to Harry set up in front of Starbucks this weekend, in space to the right of the main entrance. But only a few of us, probably, knew the story. Harry, a five-and-a-half-year-old West Highland Terrier, had been a fixture at that location every day.  We asked his owner, Gloria Bjornerud, to give us Harry’s story:

“Harry had been a Christmas puppy and was born in October 2005.  I walked Harry to Starbucks every morning, seven days a week, and tied him up to the gas meter outside Starbucks.  Because I read newspapers with my coffee, Harry would spend at least an hour tied up. So he made many friends.

Harry was raised in my store, Apogee [in Madison Valley], and when he was a puppy just about everyone who came into the store picked him up and loved him.  I believe this made him a very special dog because he loved people so much—particularly little girls, because his first week away from his liter he was just with my granddaughters, who were then nine and ten.”

Gloria with memorial at Harry's spot


“If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.”   Marjorie Garber

“Unlike some people who have experienced the loss of an animal, I did not believe, even for a moment, that I would never get another. I did know full well that there were just too many animals out there in need of homes for me to take what I have always regarded as the self-indulgent road of saying the heartbreak of the loss of an animal was too much ever to want to go through with it again. 

To me, such an admission brought up the far more powerful admission that all the wonderful times you had with your animal were not worth the unhappiness at the end.”   Cleveland Amory


Update:  We hear that Gloria is getting a new puppy this weekend.

Photos courtesy of Gloria Bjornerud

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gratuitous blogging for fun and profit

On Friday, the Madison Park Blogger celebrated its second anniversary as an alternative source of neighborhood news and information. During our 24 months of blogging, we’ve posted 370 stories, averaging just over 3.5 postings per week. At this point we’re flirting with a subscriber base of 300 readers and an average of almost 200 hits per day on the website itself.  It’s been gratifying to have this slow-but-steady growth in readership, which we take as confirmation that we’re doing something right.

We’ve not been entirely without detractors, however. The most surprising piece of negative feedback we’ve ever received came from an outraged news source who emailed to say that what we had written about him was not only “inaccurate, but demeaning and libelous.” That’s not good.  And then there was this indictment from another unhappy reader:  “What you did in your blog is closer to yellow journalism than you may believe.” Indeed.

Our goal is to get it right. And on those occasions when we fail to do so, we’re open to making the necessary corrections.  Like the time we used a photo of a particular Washington Park home to illustrate our story on the precipitous decline in neighborhood property values. The unamused homeowner wrote in to suggest that if we wanted to illustrate such a negative story we should have used a photo of our own house.  We didn’t go quite that far, but we did switch to more generic neighborhood shot to go with our story.

Generally, readers are more likely to be irritated by our tone than by any inaccuracies in our reporting.  Recently we were charged with being dismissive.  And last year we took a shot for having an underdeveloped appreciation of nuance.  But the most-often-leveled criticism is that we are gratuitous.  We admit to that.  Sometimes, it seems, we can’t help ourselves. A principal definition of gratuitous is “uncalled for, lacking good reason, unwarranted,” and we assume that this is the sense in which our objectors use the term.  However, a secondary definition of gratuitous is “given or done free of charge.”  In that sense, this whole blog fits the category.  No one has to read it, and no one pays to do so.

Which doesn’t mean, however, we’re entirely without profit at Madison Park Blogger. Our biggest reward for doing what we do is when readers tell us that they appreciate our efforts. For example, several people reported that they moved to Madison Park (from as far away as Florida and Midwestern Canada) after first getting to know the neighborhood through the blog.  Others wrote to say that they keep up on the “old neighborhood” by reading the Madison Park Blogger, even though they’ve moved away. And then there are those emails (and the occasional in-person interactions we have on street corners) where readers tell us they thought a particular story we posted was interesting, amusing, or thought provoking. We take all this as affirmation that what we’re doing is worth our effort---gratuitous or otherwise.

Thanks for your support over the past two years and for the feedback. We're going to keep on blogging.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rating the neighborhood eateries

Nishino scores highest

When it was announced that KeyBank would be moving into the neighborhood, filling space that was once home to three or more retails shops, a local wag commented that Madison Park was in danger of becoming a place where you do just three things: get a good meal, make a deposit, or have a spa treatment.  An oversimplification, to be sure, but still a somewhat legitimate depiction of our business district’s current critical mass. You may no longer be able to buy a book, rent a video, or try on a new dress in a Madison Park shop, but you certainly can still find a good meal here.  And if you roll nearby Madison Valley into the mix, the area's good-cuisine selection is both wide and deep, beginning with Crush at the top of Madison and ending with Madison Park Conservatory at the bottom.

Madison Park's claim to culinary excellence is a fact noted by just about every guide to the neighborhood we've ever seen, and of course those of us who’ve lived here for any length of time know there are plenty of great eats within walking distance. Nevertheless, we've been wondering how our restaurants actually stack up in the opinion of their patrons. To find out, we took a look at what the three principal customer-rating sites (Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Zagat) have to say. In addition, we looked at a top foodie site, Gayot, for its insights. With all of that information in hand, we compiled this ranking of the Top Dozen Madison Park/Madison Valley restaurants, as seen through the eyes of those who dined and then took the time to share their opinions:

1) Nishino (3140 E. Madison St.)

Average 4.5 Stars on Yelp (225 Reviews)

(Zagat: 96% Like / Urban Spoon: 89% Like)

Nishino scored high for its great sushi but gets occasional dings for service issues. It is Number 8 on Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Food Ratings in Seattle list.

2) Rover's (2808 E. Madison St.)
Average 4.5 Stars on Yelp (146 Reviews)
(Zagat: 95% Like / Urban Spoon: 86% Like)

Rover’s is rated Number 10 on Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Food Ratings in Seattle list.

3) The Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (183 Reviews)
(Zagat: 95% Like / Urban Spoon: 89% Like)

The Harvest Vine made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Seattle Small Plates list.

4) Cactus! (4220 E. Madison St.)

Average 4 Stars on Yelp (188 Reviews)

(Zagat: 92% Like / Urban Spoon: 88% Like)

Cactus! made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Seattle list.

5) Crush (2319 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (64 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon:  80% Like)

Crush made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten “Hot” Restaurants in Seattle list.

6) Café Flora (2901 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (301 Reviews)
(Zagat: 83% Like / Urban Spoon: 88% Like)

Gayot refers to this vegetarian mainstay as "delightful" and "upscale," noting the innovative menu and the joy of the atrium setting.

7) Voila! Bistrot (2805 E Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (57 Reviews)
(Zagat: 79% Like / Urban Spoon 88% Like)

8) La Cote Creperie (2811 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp  (57 Reviews)
(Zagat: 75% Like / Urban Spoon: 96% Like)

9) Madison Park Conservatory (1927 43rd Ave. E.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (27 Reviews)
(Zagat: Not Rated / Urban Spoon: 83% Like)

10) Madison Park Café  (1807 42nd Avenue E.)
Average 3.5 Stars on Yelp (45 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon: 91% Like)

The Madison Park Café made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Seattle Outdoor Dining Restaurants list.

11) Luc (2800 E. Madison St.)
Average 3.5 stars on Yelp (89 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon: 85% Like)

Gayot calls this "quintessential neighborhood bistro" a "casual-chic place," praising both the food and the hand-crafted cocktails.

12) Jae's Asian Bistro & Sushi (2801 E. Madison St.)
Average 3.5 Stars on Yelp (59 Reviews)
(Zagat: Not Rated / Urban Spoon: 86% Like)

Gayot cites Jae’s for its “innovative Pan-Asian cuisine in a stylish, lively setting.”


In addition to having a couple restaurants noted for up-and-coming chefs (Crush and Madison Park Conservatory), Madison Park and Madison Valley are home to no less than five superior French restaurants (Rover's, Voila! Bistrot, La Cote Creperie, Madison Park Cafe and Luc), two top-rated Asian restaurants (Nishino and Jae's Asian Bistro & Sushi), and one of the very best vegetarian restaurants in town (Cafe Flora). Add to that great places for tapas (The Harvest Vine) and Southwest cuisine (Cactus!) and you have an excellent array of neighborhood dining choices. Not bad for a section of street stretching but 1.5 miles from hilltop to water.

[Note: This list is not an attempt to evaluate or make coherent the critical restaurant reviews of professional cuisine journalists. It is simply a ranking of neighborhood restaurants based on the evaluation of patrons, as cited by three major aggregator websites. The list was prioritized based first on Yelp's ratings, since that site has by far the greatest number of reviews of each restaurant and a five-star ranking system (the other sites only have a Like/Don't Like differentiator). Zagat's score was then evaluated, unless it was not available (as in the case of the relatively new restaurants, Jae's and Madison Park Conservatory).  The Urban Spoon ratings were given the last consideration.  Note that users of these ratings sites may skew towards a younger demographic than may be typical of the patrons of some Madison Park eating venues.  

Using Yelp as the principal determiner of the rankings has an definite impact on the outcome.  If the Zagat ratings had been given the highest weighting rather than Yelp's, for example, Madison Park Cafe would have moved from Number 10 to Number 6 on the list, though the other restaurants would have been basically ranked in the same order. If Urban Spoon's ratings had been given first priority, La Cote Creperie would have topped our list, with 96% positive customer response, and Madison Park Cafe would have been in second place, with 91% approval.]

Photo courtesy of Nishino

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Longtime Madison Park psychiatrist suspended and sued over sexual misconduct

For reasons unknown to us, Madison Park and its environs seem to have a disproportionately high number of mental health practitioners in residence.  The offices of psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists and other related professionals abound both here and in Madison Valley (Yelp lists 19 psychiatrists, for example, as practicing in Madison Park alone).

Last year, the local mental health community gained a bit of unwanted notoriety when the State announced that it was investigating longtime Madison Park psychiatrist Dr. Richard T. Adamson, who for many years practiced in offices just above the WaMu (later Chase) bank branch on E. Madison St.  The Washington State Department of Health alleged last summer that Adamson had, among other questionable actions, engaged in improper sexual relations with a patient and had disclosed confidential patient information without authorization.

After investigating the charges, the State’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission late last month suspended Adamson’s license to practice, stating that his sexual relationship with the female patient had violated standards of professional conduct.  Additionally, according to the State, Adamson later disclosed information about the woman to a second patient, also a violation.  Adamson has until later this week to respond to the suspension, which will otherwise become permanent, according to published reports.

The State’s case against the 56-year-old Adamson is a pretty serious one.  He is accused of having engaged in an “abusive and potentially harmful” sexual relationship with the patient, who he had been treating for depression.  The woman, a family-practice doctor, was dealing with issues related to sexual abuse by her father.  According to the State’s “Statement of Charges” (as reported by the online Psychiatric Crime Database), in November 2008 Adamson encouraged his patient to seek psychotherapy treatment from someone else, following which he immediately entered into a sexual relationship with the woman, who later left her husband.  Adamson is alleged to have had sex with his former patient at both his office and her apartment.  Adamson reportedly ended the relationship by stating that he was obsessed with another, younger woman with whom he had been engaging in “phone sex” and “instant messaging sex.”

Earlier this month the former patient with whom Adamson had the affair sued him in King County Superior Court, according to the Seattle PI.  The civil complaint reportedly accuses Adamson of negligence for having caused his former patient “severe psychological and emotional injury.”

Publicity about these allegations has apparently not been helpful to Adamson, who is now the subject of two new complaints of misconduct filed with the Department of Health last month, at least one of them involving an allegedly improper sexual relationship with a patient.  In the “Amended Statement of Charges” filed by the State, Adamson is reported to have revealed to a patient with whom he was having an affair that “he was involved sexually with numerous women, including a 30 year old married woman with whom he was currently emailing and texting, a married woman whom he had been involved with since his wife died, an infectious disease physician, and a family practice physician.”  The recipient of this uninvited disclosure then “ended the relationship” with Adamson, according to the Amended Statement.

Adamson, who has since moved his practice (such as it is) to Lake City, apparently has not spoken publicly about any of the charges. His former space in Madison Park no longer houses a psychiatric office.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Police Blotter 4/14/11

Perhaps there's some consolation in knowing of the apparent correlation between the less-than-Springlike weather we've been having and the low level of crime in the neighborhood over the past month.  As the temperature rises each year, the crime rate in Madison Park seems to increase.  So enjoy the wind, rain and cold (not to mention the occasional hail storm)* while it lasts.  Your car and your house are each less likely to be broken into while winter holds.  For that matter, your chances of finding used syringes in the alley behind your house (or on your front steps) are also lessened.

We haven't been exactly crimeless since our last Police Blotter on March 17, but nearly so.  There were two car thefts during the period: one on the 1100 block of 36th Avenue E. on March 31, and one on the 2000 block of 41st Avenue E. on April 7.  Additionally, there were three car break-ins (aka prowls):  one on E. Foster Island Road in the Arboretum on March 23, one on the 3200 block of E. Madison St. on March 26, and one on the 3100 block of E. Madison St. on March 27.

A theft was reported on the 900 block of E. Mercer St. on March 23. The only other crime reported during the period was a case of credit card fraud. The victim, located on the 1800 block of 43rd Avenue E., told police he had discovered that four unauthorized charges totaling $1,700 had been made to his credit card on one day earlier in the month.  The police report indicates that the investigation is still open.

[*UW Meteorologist Cliff Mass reported today that our Spring is, at this point, the second coldest on record (there was a slightly colder one in the early 1950's).  There have only been two days since March 21 that the temperature was above 55 degrees, he says. He doesn't mention the advantage of lower crime as an offset to this arctic situation, however.  The Madison Park Blogger, meanwhile, was unembarrassed (though made fun of by various passersby) yesterday for wearing both his heavy winter coat AND earmuffs while out walking the dogs.]   

Monday, April 11, 2011

Most expensive gas in town

Madison Park's one-and-only gas station apparently has the dubious honor of charging the highest price for gasoline of any station in Seattle.  This, according to KING-TV, which used the Shell station at the corner of E. Madison St. and Lake Washington Boulevard as the poster child for a recent story on higher gas prices. The cost of regular unleaded fuel today at the Madison Park Shell is $4.099.  But since you'd never be able to actually pay that 9/10ths of a cent if you bought a single gallon, we might as well just round up and say $4.10.

Not surprisingly, for those who pay attention to such things, the geographically next-closest Shell station (located at 1701 E. Madison Street, on Capitol Hill), was today charging ten cents per gallon less for the exact same fuel.  The MPB reader who pointed this story out to us said she was vexed to discover that even the stand-alone gas station in Medina (admittedly not a Shell station, so a little less of an apples-to-apples comparison) was charging only $3.95 per gallon when she drove by this morning.  Shocking!

Our reader says she believes the Madison Park Shell is doing a "disservice" to the neighborhood, since other stations always seem to have much lower prices than ours.  There seems to be an economic principle at work here, however, having to do with charging "what the market will bear" for your product. The Madison Park Shell (nee Texaco) has been around a long time, seems to know its audience, and doesn't appear to be failing to sell its product, though the gasoline there seems to be consistently more expensive than the close-at-hand alternatives (we haven't done a scientific survey, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing).

The other principal worth noting is caveat emptor (Latin for let the buyer beware).  In a legal sense, this term is usually applied to the risk of buying a product or service.  As applied to buying gasoline in Madison Park, the concept might mean this:  if you don't know you're paying more for the convenience of buying gas in your own neighborhood, you may end up paying more than you otherwise would. Madison Park Blogger readers (and KING-TV viewers), at least, now can make an informed decision when buying gas.

By the way, gas prices are quoted daily on, which today shows $3.69 per gallon as the cheapest price for unleaded in the Seattle area (at a Citgo station on the Eastside).   KING-TV has a great map of area gas prices, based on data from GasBuddy. Madison Park is a real stand out on today's map.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Local restaurants in Seattle Restaurant Week

One Madison Park restaurant, Madison Park Cafe, and four Madison Valley Restaurants (Cafe Flora, Crush, Luc and Voila! Bistrot) are participating in Seattle Restaurant Week, which begins on Sunday. The two-week celebration allows diners to sample 150 Seattle-area restaurants during the April 10-14 and April 17-21 periods and get three-course dinners at a reduced fixed price ($15 or $28, depending on the restaurant).  Madison Park Cafe, according to owner Karen Binder, will be offering $28 three-course meals with choices, and will have some "fun glass pours available that pair with the dinners."  This is Binder's 32nd year of operating the neighborhood's French bistro.

Madison Park Cafe, along with as Cafe Flora, Luc, and Voila! Bistrot, will also be participating in Dining Out for Life on April 28.  This national project, now in its 18th year, provides a fund-raising avenue for local AIDS organizations.  Seattle's Lifelong AIDS Alliance will receive a donation of 30% of each diner's tab the night of the event.

And speaking of local restaurants, Seattle Met Magazine reports on the return of Happy Hour and Cactus! in a posting today, and Madison Park Conservatory got a seriously good review from the Seattle Times yesterday.

Madison St. night construction begins in May

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) announced yesterday that the planned nighttime stormwater mitigation work on E. Madison Street through Madison Valley will begin in early May, about a month later than originally scheduled.  The reason for the delay is that some materials to be used in the construction effort will not be ready before then.  The City, as we previously reported, will be installing infrastructure improvements along E. Madison Street to drain excess stormwater on the roadway into catch basins which will feed into pipelines leading to the new stormwater storage tank in Washington Park, now under construciton.

The night work will continue for about two weeks, according to SPU, and will begin at 8 pm.  E. Madison Street will not be detoured during construction.  Rather, a one-lane roadway will be maintained, with flaggers to control traffic flow. The street will be returned to normal two-way traffic each morning at 6 am.  Two open trenches will be dug across E. Madison Street during the construction, with drains (aka inlets) installed at the curbs in various locations.  Once this work is completed, the roadway will be repaved.

Information on the schedule for the Madison Valley Stormwater Project is available here.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Madison Park as commercial hub

As we’ve previously chronicled, Madison Park began life in the mid-1800s as a private waterfront estate, Laurel Shade, which later grew into a lakeside village. By the turn of the 20th Century, the neighborhood had been developed into a prime recreational, entertainment, and sports venue for Seattle, and it also served as a major Lake Washington transportation hub, connecting Seattle by ferry to the Eastside.

In the early 1900s, Madison Park also had at least a slight pretense to industry.  For example, there was an active coal yard in the neighborhood for many years, as shown in the photo above. The yard (which also provided wood, sand, gravel and "auto storage") was located north of E. Madison Street, probably in the block between E. Newton and E. Lynn Streets.  This is the view, circa 1915, of the coal yard from the water side:

Coal was brought into the yard by barges pulled (or in some cases, pushed) by tugboats such as the one shown below, also circa 1915.

The coal was probably sourced in Newcastle, in the Coal Creek area east of the Lake.  Coal had been mined there since it was discovered in the 1860s.  At least by the late 1800s, most of the coal from Newcastle was transported across the Lake to a receiving yard located near what is now Husky Stadium.  From there it was sent by train to bunkers on the Seattle waterfront, for later shipment by boat.   The Madison Park coal yard was almost certainly just a local distribution site, designed to provide fuel for homes and businesses in this and surrounding neighborhoods. 

Another commercial business that operated in Madison Park in the early part of the last century was the Castle Dye Works, shown in the photo below.  The company’s fanciful building was located at the corner of 42nd Avenue E. and E. Madison Street (the current site of the building that houses Bing’s and Museum Quality Framing).

Jane Powell Thomas mentions this building in her book, Madison Park Remembered. Her father, George Powell, said that back in the day, neighborhood kids called the place “Katzenjammer Castle” after a popular comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids.  The building apparently pre-dated the arrival of the commercial enterprise. The castle, whose turrets were reportedly made of metal, had originally been part of the earlier amusement park that graced the area north of the City park.

Other than coaling and dyeing, we are unaware of any other primarily non-retail commercial businesses that historically operated in Madison Park. If you are aware of others, please let us know and we will do a followup.

[Coal yard and barge tug photos courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.  Castle Dye Works photo courtesy of the Washington State Archive.  Interesting aside:  the tug boat, S.L. Dowell, shown above, sank in Lake Washington in 1922 after hitting a snag near Mercer Island.  Its remains on the bottom of the Lake were discovered and photographed by the Submerged Cultural Resources Exploration Team, SCRET.  The watery grave of the tug is shown here.]

Friday, April 1, 2011

Foreclosures not a big factor in our market (yet)

Homeowners who’ve been keeping up on the real estate market over the past few weeks can be forgiven if they appear a bit shell-shocked by what they’ve seen or heard.  For example, one prominent economist, Robert Schiller (best known as co-originator of the widely-quoted Case-Schiller Index of home prices), recently went on record stating there’s a risk of an additional 15% to 25% decline in real estate values nationally.  At the same time, there’s been commentary, led by FDIC chief Sheila Bair, of a possible “double dip” in residential property values, resulting from the alleged failure of the mortgage industry to properly handle foreclosures, resulting in a potential new wave of foreclosure actions this year.

Foreclosures, indeed, are being blamed locally as an ongoing factor in declining house values.  The Seattle Times headlined a recent story with this: “Median home price in King County drops in February, dragged down by repos.” And a recent press release by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) notes that “distressed properties” (bank-owned homes and short-sale situations) are having a downward impact on the local market, at least in the opinion of many local brokers. Windermere Real Estate president O.B. Jacobi is quoted as saying that he thinks that many sellers are reluctant to compete with the prices of distressed properties and are therefore withholding their homes from the market, driving down inventory.  Whether as a result of foreclosures or otherwise, it’s a fact that for King County as a whole, the median value of single-family homes sold in February was down 6.8% from a year earlier, according to the MLS.  Since the Puget Sound market high in July 2007, the median price of sold houses has fallen by a horrific 30%.

But are foreclosures influencing the behavior of the Madison Park market?  We decided to find out.  Information, admittedly, is a bit sketchy on the subject.  Real estate website Redfin reports that there were no foreclosures in Madison Park during 2008 and 2009.  In 2010, however, it appears there were three.  Redfin currently lists only one Madison Park home that was foreclosed upon and is still bank owned: a 2,000 sq. ft. house, built in 1981 and located near McGilvra School. The owner had purchased the property for $1,350,000 at the very height of the neighborhood’s real estate market, summer 2007. The home was auctioned in October last year for $1.1 million.

The King County Assessor, meanwhile, lists two homes in our market as having changed hands in 2010 as a result of a “financial institution resale.”  While this kind of transaction can result from a foreclosure, it can also occur when a bank takes a home back from a homeowner through a voluntary repossession (the infamous repo).  One of the two bank repos last year was of a 1,660 sq. ft. home on 41st Ave E.  Built in 1926 and extensively remodeled in 1975, the house sold for $774,000 in November.  It had been listed at $998,000 when originally offered for sale in May 2009.

The other local home offloaded by a bank in 2010 was an unsold spec house, built in 2007 and located in Washington Park on the border with Madison Valley.  That home (shown above), totaling 4,800 sq. ft., was sold in September for $1,180,000, having originally been offered for $2,750,000 when placed on the market in early 2008.  It was still being listed at $1,300,000 last summer.

First American CoreLogic, a real estate data service, reports there are two bank-owned properties in Madison Park, neither of which is listed for sale.  No fewer than ten Madison Park properties, however, are the subject of upcoming Trustee’s Sales.  A Trustee Sale is part of the foreclosure process, and it generally results in the lender owning the property, unless someone else bids more than the amount of the mortgage at the time of the auction.  An upcoming Trustee Sale in April will auction “the only vacant lot in Broadmoor,” a piece of land that was listed for sale at $2,750,000 in early 2009 but was most recently listed at only $1,295,000.  Still, no takers.  The original mortgage amount was $1,968,000.   Among the other properties soon facing auction in the neighborhood are an unsold spec house in Washington Park, a condo in Canterbury Shores, and two side-by-side houses above McGilvra Boulevard E., overlooking Lake Washington. Virtually all of these properties, once the Trustee’s Sales have taken place, will become additions to the list of bank-owned properties in the market.

These two properties, located on McGilvra Boulevard E. near the Seattle Tennis Club, are scheduled to be auctioned in Trustee's Sales later this spring, according to First American CoreLogic.

Another category impacting house values is short sales (sales that must be approved by the lender because the sale prices are less than the mortgage amounts). Redfin currently identifies five such situations in Madison Park.  Two of these are small condos in Canterbury Shores, each priced at under $300,000; but the other three are houses listed at over $1 million apiece.  The largest of these is a classic 6,580 sq. ft. 1929 brick mansion, located strategically on the ninth fairway of the Broadmoor Golf Course.  Originally listed last year at $2,665,000, it is now priced at $2,350,000.

In the context of the overall Madison Park real estate market, these short-sale properties, along with the properties which are bank-owned or soon-to-be-foreclosed, appear to be a relatively small factor. There are currently 81 properties listed for sale in Madison Park, of which five are potential short sales and none is bank owned.  These distressed properties, therefore, represent only 6.3% of the total real estate inventory in Madison Park, though the possible addition of ten new bank-owned properties in the next few months may push the number of listed distressed situations a bit higher.

This is now the level of distressed properties in Madison Park compares to the bigger real estate environment in which our inventory competes:

So, comparatively, Madison Park is at the moment in pretty good shape.   Nevertheless, the bottom line is that whenever there are motivated sellers, such as banks, there is downward pressure on prices.  The greater the number of bank-owned properties for sale, the greater the potential impact on the market.  Foreclosures are certainly increasing in Madison Park, as in the rest of the region., a real estate blog, reports that in King County foreclosures were up 27% in February, compared to the same month a year ago.  Clearly the trend is yet to play out.

[Thanks to Redfin for providing statistical information used in this report. Madison Park statistics include Washington Park and Broadmoor.]