Sunday, July 31, 2011

Street paving begins on Madison tomorrow

Four the next four days, through sometime Thursday afternoon, road crews are scheduled to repave a section of E. Madison Street near City People's in Madison Valley. This is the area where pipes were laid under the street during the spring as part of a surface-water mitigation project unrelated to the Madison Valley Stormwater Project. As a result of this planned repaving, parking will be removed from the south side of the street in the area to the east of City People's (parking is already prohibited on the north side).  The removal of additional on-street parking further complicates the already difficult parking situation in Madison Valley, but this new deletion of parking spaces should be a temporary imposition. At the conclusion of the repaving, the City is promising the parking will be restored on that section of the street.

It is not anticipated (at least by the Seattle Department of Transportation) that traffic will be disrupted through Madison Valley during the repaving.  The purpose of eliminating parking in the area is to allow for two-way traffic to maintained on Madison Street during the construction period.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Second Quarter Real Estate Report 2011

Are we on a roll?  Pendings skyrocket

As the second quarter got underway, things looked pretty dismal for the local real estate market.  In fact, during the entire month of April there was only one house sold in Madison Park (Broadmoor and Washington Park included).  While two condos also changed hands, the combined monthly volume of three total sales was the most depressed level of activity since the two-sales-per-month suffered by the market in the first quarter of 2009.

Fortunately for sellers, the pace picked up dramatically during what passed for spring here in the Park, with a more-robust monthly total of ten sales recorded in both May and June.  Moreover, at the end of the quarter a stunningly large number of houses and condos were pending sale: 24.  As we noted in our last real estate posting, we have been averaging 11 pendings per month over the past year, with 63% of these pending sales ultimately closing.  Of the 19 houses and five condos currently pending, therefore, we should expect 15 or so to appear as sales in future months.

Even so, this year may still not shape up to be as strong as last year in terms of total volume.  Through the end of June there have been 41 sales, compared with 57 sales at the same point last year, a 28% decline.   But the number of listings is also much lower this year, just 81 properties on the market now versus 102 in June 2010.   That’s a 21% smaller universe of available homes.

Here’s where the market stood at the end of the second quarter in terms of inventory:


Listings:  62
Median List Price:  $1,550,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  3,490
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $444
Average Days on Market:  116
Percentage with Price Reductions:  42%
New Listings:  12
Pending Sales:  19


Listings:  19
Median List Price:  $550,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,025
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $537
Average Days on Market:  147
Percentage with Price Reductions:  47%
New Listings:  4
Pending Sales:  5

In June of last year the average number of days on market for sold properties was significantly lower than the current situation: 126 days for houses last year versus 172 days this year and 166 days for condos last year versus 598 days this year.  A significant outlier skews that last number, however.  One condo sold during the second quarter had been on the market for 1,572 days, the sellers finally agreeing to take a 32% discount from their original listing price of $1,700,000.

Here is how the sales played out in the market during the second quarter:


Sales:  17
Median Sale Price:  $1,160,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,501
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $416
Average Days on Market:  172
Average Discount from List Price:  12.4%


Sales:  6
Median Sale Price:  $735,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,766
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $418
Average Days on Market:  598
Average Discount from List Price: 11.2%

It is interesting to compare the median price of houses sold during the quarter with the current median list price for houses in our market, $1,160,000 versus $1,550,000, a difference of 25%.

The most expensive house sold in the quarter was a 5,780 sq. ft. residence in Broadmoor, which went for $3,367,500, a ten percent discount from the initial asking price.  The least expensive house sold was a 1914 cabin in Washington Park, one of the original houses built in the area.  With only 1,000 sq. ft., it went for $410,000, 9% above the asking price.  It will ultimately be slated for redevelopment.

Is spec-house building finally done?

And speaking of redevelopment, it seems that we overstated the case a few months ago when we reported that there were no uncompleted speculative houses under development in Madison Park.  We missed the one on 39th Avenue E. pictured above.  The house was under construction at the time of we reported that speculative building in the neighborhood was a thing of the past. It became obvious that we were wrong on that point when this house was completed and immediately listed for sale.  It sold quickly, perhaps giving hope to any speculator who's still waiting with a property ready to develop.

On the other hand, there are currently at least three spec houses for sale in the neighborhood, two of which have been awaiting buyers for several years.  One of these is this 5,800 sq. ft. Washington Park mansion, built in 2008 and recently re-listed at $3,495,000:

At this point it may really be true that there is no speculative housing under development in Madison Park, but we will only know for sure when several existing construction projects are completed (we're watching one major development on 39th Avenue E. very closely). There's still a fair amount of residential construction underway in the neighborhood, a subject we will explore in detail in our next monthly Real Estate Report.

[Thanks to Wendy Skerritt 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. Lower photo of house at 819 33rd Avenue E. courtesy of Windermere Real Estate via Redfin.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

August happenings

Blue Angels encore

Assuming that the weather cooperates (a by-no-means certain proposition), the U.S Navy's Blue Angels will be doing their regular Seafair thing this year, which means practice sessions and performances over the Lake and, not incidentally, very-low-flying jets above Madison Park.  For those of you who need some advance warning so you can brace yourselves (and your pets) for these noisy forays, here's the Blue Angels' flying schedule while they're in Seattle:
  • Thursday, Aug. 4: 9:45 am - noon/1:15 - 2:30 pm (Practice)
  • Friday, Aug. 5:  12:45 pm - 2:40 pm (Practice)
  • Saturday, Aug. 6: 12:45 pm - 2:40 pm (Full show)
  • Sunday, Aug. 7: 12:45 pm - 2:40 pm (Full show)
Note also that if you are planning to use I-90 during any of these times you can think again.  The bridge will be closed to traffic (including that of pedestrians and cyclists) while the Blue Angels practice and perform. Pedestrians and cyclists will actually have to be off the bridge 30 minutes earlier than the starting times posted above.

Of course we love those Blue Angels, loud as they may be.  They always put on a spectacular show, one that brings a lot of people to Madison Park to watch from many vantage points, including the waterfront road ends.  Expect traffic flow and parking to be impacted on the days of the shows.

Swim for Life

The Puget Sound Blood Center's Swim for Life Across Lake Washington will arrive at Madison Park Beach on Wednesday, August 17, with literally hundreds of swimmers (and escorting kayakers) scheduled to participate.  Last year there were 80 teams involved, each with a maximum of four swimmers plus one kayaker.  More than $50,000 was raised for the PSBC through their fund-raising efforts.

Though registration is still open for this year's event, there are only 30 swimming spots left; so you better move fast if you want to get in on the swimming or kayaking side of this charitable endeavor (more information is available here).  And if you still need a reason for swimming, kayaking, or contributing money to the cause, a good synopsis of why this is a worthy event is provided by a two-time Swim for Life participant here.

The 2.2 mile Swim begins at Medina Beach at 7:30 am and should begin arriving at Madison Park Beach about an hour later.  Since it's a staggered-start affair, teams will be arriving here throughout the early morning.

As was true last year, this year's event specifically benefits the national Be the Match bone-marrow donor program.

Music in the Park returns

It's now a tradition that in August there is a weekly musical celebration in the Park, open and free to all.   This year is no exception, with a different group performing on each Thursday evening during the month, beginning at 6:30 pm.  Three of the four groups slated as part of the Music in the Park series are popular performers from the past, and one (The Ben E Band, shown above) will be presenting their music here for the first time.

This is the weekly lineup:
The Music in the Park series is presented by the Madison Park Business Association.  The concerts are held on the grass in the area by the tennis courts on east side of the City park (42nd Avenue E. and E. Howe Street).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An excellent day for Fat Salmon!

The weather really cooperated with the 12th Anniversary Fat Salmon Open Water Swim yesterday, which culminated at Madison Park beach.  Last year's event was cold cold cold, but substantially better conditions prevaled on the course this year. Here's the commentary from one of the swimmers, Kirk, concerning conditions on the course: "Perfect day for a race! Temps probably in the low 60s at race time. The water was a little choppier than I would have thought, but not bad. The cold water made competitors choose the wetsuit division by about a 3:1 ratio. I toughed it out and went without. Honestly, the water was cold, but it wasn't that bad. I did wear a neoprene cap and that probably helped somewhat."

Fat Salmon is actually two races, a 1.2-mile swim from Denny Blaine Park and a 3.2-mile swim from the area North of the I-90 Bridge.  We missed the Swim itself, but everyone seemed to be having a good time when we arrived for the awards ceremony featuring, naturally, several fat salmons.  This is Haleigh Werner, winner of the long-course wetsuit event, receiving hers:

[Photos by Barbara Nelson, courtesy of Kirk Nelson on Flickr.]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Road-end death remains a mystery

Since the body of Michael Michel was discovered in a parked vehicle at the Lee Street road end earlier this month, his friends and family have been left to wonder how and why.  So far, the Medical Examiner has only been able to confirm that his death doesn't appear to have been a homicide, though the results of toxicology tests will not be known until September.  Perhaps then there will be some closure for those who knew Mike and for those in the neighborhood who have been affected by his death.

In the meantime, several people have made pilgrimages to the spot near the Lake where Mike died, leaving flower bouquets and, earlier this week, a toy fire engine. It seems that Mike Michel was a fireman (the picture above is taken from the union website of the Woodinville Fire Department) and had graduated from Mariner High School in Everett, where he apparently served as student body president in 1987. Many who knew him have left remembrances in a guest book affiliated with the Everett Herald's website.

Mike's mother, Sharon Sievers, made an appeal on this blog last week for information concerning her son's death, asking anyone who knew something to contact her ( But to date, no one has come forward.  "Michael was the absolutely wonderful son and I cannot say how I or his family feels except we are devastated," she wrote us in an email.  "My thinking is that he was there [in Madison Park] because he loved the beauty of the neighborhood, the area, the lake, and all that it surrounded.  He loved nature and all that it possessed."

She remains mystified by his death, noting that "according to [the Medical Examiner] it does not look like a suicide, but maybe an unfortunate accident."   When anything definitive is known about the cause, we will of course report it.  A memorial service has been scheduled for 3 pm on July 28 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2301 Hoyt Avenue, Everett.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anyone missing a parakeet?

This colorful parakeet arrived this morning in the backyard of neighborhood raconteur and Madison Park Times columnist Dick Lehman and his wife, Karen. The bird is currently hanging out in a mock orange plant at the Lehmans', but Dick and Karen are planning to get a cage and, hopefully, capture this little stray.

If it's yours, please contact us and we'll try to arrange a reunion.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Police Blotter 7/15/11

Car break-ins on the increase

There were at least ten car prowls in the neighborhood in the three weeks since our last Police Blotter, though this number probably understates the true extent of the problem since many people do not bother to report these incidents to the police.  The thinking of the non-reporters, apparently, is that once the break-in has happened there is little likelihood that the police will be able to do anything about it.  That might be an accurate assessment, but the failure to report this kind of petty (though often costly) crime results in an understatement of the overall crime figures for our neighborhood and--potentially--less in the way of police coverage relative to other areas within this police beat.

Here is some first-person reporting, from an MPB reader, concerning one of the car break-ins that recently occurred:

"My husband and I live on McGilvra Blvd. E near Newton. At around 2:10 [on the night of July 13], we were awakened by the sound of our car alarm going off.  My husband went outside and saw that the back, street-side window of his car had been broken and his briefcase had been stolen. Nothing else was taken. There were no items of value in the briefcase, just a work file. 

As he observed the scene, he heard the sound of shattering glass and a car alarm coming from a little over a block down on McGilvra, on the other side of Newton and closer to Starbucks/Madison, in front of the another home.  Apparently it took the thieves (three  of them)  longer to break into [that homeowner's] car, so the family had time to get a description of the guys and call 911 right then and there. Apparently the SPD caught the three perps and [the car's owner] got his stolen items back, although we haven't heard about whether the police have ours as well. At 8:30 this am there was a cop driving around looking to see if any other cars had been hit."

These are the other eight other car-prowl incidents reported:

On the 1500 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on 6/26
At the intersection of 43rd Avenue E. and E. Howe St. on 6/27
On the 1500 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on 6/27
On the 3300 block of E. Ford Place on 6/29
On the 2000 block of 42nd Avenue E. on 6/30
On the 1100 block of 38th Avenue E. on 7/1
On the 600 block of Lake Washington Boulevard E. on 7/9
On the 800 block of 31st Avenue E. on 7/13.

In addition, autos were stolen from the 200 block of E. Galer St. on 7/3, from the 2500 block of Canterbury Lane E. on 7/6, and from the 3900 block of E. Garfield St. on 7/7.

There were also two burglaries reported during the period, including one on the 4th of July in which a significant amount of valuable jewelry was taken from a Washington Park home by a thief apparently knowledgeable of the house's interior.  The homeowners had left their residence at about 12:30 pm, and two SPD officers responded to an alarm at the house which occurred at about 5:30.  As reported by one of the officers, "Upon our arrival we found that the front door was open. We checked the inside of the house and were unable to find any signs of a break in.  [We] cleared the call as a false alarm."  Although the homeowners checked the house when they returned at 10:00 pm from an Independence Day celebration, nothing appeared to be amiss.  The next morning, however, they discovered they had suffered a major loss.

Quoting again from the police report: "It appears that an unknown suspect first tried to break a window on the west side of the house to gain entry.  The suspect then gained entry through the garage door. Once inside the garage, the suspect kicked a locked entry door to gain entry into the main part of the house.  When he kicked open the door it set off the alarm.  We arrived 15 minutes later to find the house empty.  It appears the suspect had a working knowledge of the jewelry location...and was able to search for the jewelry, obtain the jewelry, store the jewelry and leave before our arrival to the scene, all in 15 minutes.  I did a search for fingerprints and found no useable prints.  I believe the suspect cut his hand while trying to break out the window on the westside of the house.  I located drops of blood from the suspect on the bathroom counter.  I recovered a blood-stained mattress skirt from the bed and placed it into evidence."

According to a later report to neighbors by the homeowner, the police apparently were able to obtain DNA evidence from the blood left at the scene.  Two neighbors reportedly saw the suspect as he left the house by the front door, describing him as a black male in his 20s. According to the victim, however, the police told her that the perpetrator was "too savvy to be that young."

The second burglary took place on the 3200 block of E. Mercer St. on July 11.  In that incident, the victim returned home to discover that the back door was open and that a window to her bedroom had been pushed open.  The suspect had apparently used a bucket to stand on and then gain entry through the window.  "A few items were stolen," according to the police report.

[Solid cars on crime map above represent auto thefts and un-solid cars represent car prowls.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hey, what's with all these goats?

You would've smelled 'em before you could've seen 'em, but if you'd halted and looked in the right place last weekend, you would have encountered a Washington Park hillside covered in goats.  Our informant (Lisa Loban, owner of Ropa Bella) discovered the goat herd as she was "fast walking" north on McGilvra Boulevard E., just north of its intersection with Lake Washington Boulevard E.  The property on which the goats were comfortably munching away is located between McGilvra and 39th Avenue E.  When we say comfortably, we mean those goats seemed plenty darn relaxed (note, in particular, the goat that has taken up residence on the bench).

Their purpose in being there is not known for certain; but as Lisa noted, it was probably an example of the rent-a-goat phenomenon, an exotic method for getting rid of the weeds and cutting down the grass.

If so, the goats appeared to be doing a fine job of it.  We thought of knocking on the homeowner's door and asking the obvious question, "Why all the goats?" But we concluded that trespassing on the property to make such an inquiry might not have been appreciated:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Body identified, autopsy inconclusive

The man who was discovered dead in his truck at a Madison Park road end yesterday has been identified as Michael Westlake Michel. He was 42 years old and apparently lived in Everett.  It is not known why he was in Madison Park or how he came to die in the back seat of his vehicle, parked on E. Lee Street near Lake Washington.  Although the King County Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on the body late this morning, the official word is that "the manner of death" and the "cause of death" are each "pending" at this time.

We followed up with the Medical Examiner's Office to determine exactly what that means.  We were told that tissues and blood samples will have to be analyzed, a testing process that is expected to take from eight to ten weeks.  The Seattle Police Department, to which we were referred, gave us this statement: "It is a death investigation and that's all we can say at this time."

[Photo, showing the police preparing to have the deceased's truck towed, by J. Waltz.]

Monday, July 11, 2011

Body discovered in truck parked at road end

Shortly before noon today multiple police and fire units descended on the E. Lee Street road end to investigate a report that there was a man lying in the back seat of a black Chevy Silverado truck, apparently deceased.  The discovery was a shock to many of us living in the area, who had been passing by the vehicle for days without investigating.  The truck was parked almost at the very end of E. Lee Street, just past 42nd Avenue E. and directly south of the Reed Estate.

Neighbors believe that the truck had been sitting there since at least July 1, prior to the Independence Day weekend.  For this reason, the body could not have been in very good condition when discovered, reportedly by a cable technician who had parked his truck near the deceased's vehicle.

Seattle Police confirmed to us that a body had been discovered and that the King County Medical Examiner would be undertaking a autopsy.  It does not appear that there was any foul play involved.  A neighbor who spoke to police officers at the scene learned from them that the body was apparently that of the truck owner, a young man in his 30s who lived somewhere outside of Seattle.  It is believed that he had not been reported missing.

The passenger-side window of the vehicle was partially open, as shown in the upper photo.  In defense of the neighbors who had not noticed anything amiss, however, it should be noted that the truck was parked directly next to a major sewer pumping station, which can at times be somewhat odiferous (it's located downstairs behind the white iron fence in the photo above).  Additionally, the body was not upright in the back seat but lying prone, as if the man had been sleeping there and simply never woke up.

The Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed that an autopsy will be performed on Tuesday morning, with the results available later in the day.

[Lower photo by J. Waltz.  Middle photo of the E. Lee Street road end from GoogleEarth. The upper photo of the vehicle, by an anonymous neighbor, was taken days before the body was discovered.]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The 520 bridge-replacement project moves forward: with us or without us

The Washington State Department of Transportation released photos this week showing workers in Aberdeen pouring concrete for the "casting basin" in which 33 pontoons will be produced for the new floating bridge.  As the photos aptly demonstrate, the State is charging ahead with its plans for SR-520 whether the money is there to complete the project or not. And, as we all know, it's not.

The question for opponents is whether anything can be done at this stage to stop or even influence the State's "Preferred Alternative" for the Madison Park/Laurelhurst/Montlake corridor--the western end of SR-520 and its approaches (in other words, the unfunded part of the project).  The opponents certainly think that something can be done, and they continue to educate the public on the implications for Seattle of the State's plan.  The Coalition for a Sustainable 520 made its case again at a meeting last week at the Museum of History & Industry.

The Seattle City Council, meanwhile, has come out in favor of the "Preferred Alternative," and if you are interested in knowing why, you can hear directly from Council President Richard Conlin on Monday, July 11. At his request, the Madison Park Community Council has invited him to speak to our community and explain what, exactly, the City Council is thinking.  The meeting will happen at the Bath House at Madison Park Beach (1900 43rd Avenue E.) at 7:00 pm.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great day for a parade

If you’re ever inclined to take a leisurely stroll down the middle of E. Madison Street on a sunny summer day, there’s no finer way to do it than by following a big red fire truck down the boulevard while surrounded by a hoard of kids and pets.  That’s the drill each year for the Madison Park Days Children’s Parade, and it always seems to work nicely for participants and parade watchers alike.

Of course if you’re not a kid yourself, you should definitely bring a kid with you if you’re planning to “march” in this annual “spectacle.” As always, there were plenty of parents and grandparents in attendance this year, perhaps using the parade as an excuse to have a bit of fun themselves.

The parade got off right on time at noon, though at ten minutes till noon it was still looking a bit dicey, according to parade organizer (and Bert’s employee) Terry Short, who told us he was seriously concerned that they’d called a parade for which no one was in the mood.  The faces were eager, but the crowd was meager.

Fortunately, however, many parents have apparently learned over the years that standing around waiting for the parade to start is not the goal; so in the last minutes before parade time, parents and kids descended from all directions--and the parade rolled out right on cue.

Of course, it's a short route (just down the street to the Park entrance), and the whole affair only lasted about eight minutes.  But it was fun for a lot of kids (and perhaps a few lucky pets)...

...and it ended well, many parade participants and observers staying around to queue up in the Park for the complimentary food and drinks provided by ten neighborhood retailers (the event is organized and sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association).

All in all, both those in costume and those without felt it was a really nice way to spend part of a sunny day in Madison Park.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seen or heard in the ‘hood

Guns in the lake, scammers at the door

We received this surprising report last week from an MPB reader regarding an episode she witnessed at the E. Prospect St. road end:

“[My husband] and I were out with the girls yesterday morning and witnessed something fairly upsetting.  We came down the stairs adjacent to the north side of the Seattle Tennis Club and walked down to the public beach access (that has been the center of so much criminal activity). As we were getting to the driveway access there, two police cars pulled up. There was already a black SUV parked there, and the owner of it came out of his car and greeted the officers. I asked one officer if we should avoid going down to the water and he said no, that it was fine for us to go. We followed the officers and man down to the waterfront and saw that one officer had an evidence bag in his hand. They walked over to the shore nearest the overgrowth and pulled something out of the water that was covered by some leaves. We were both surprised to see that when the officer pulled the overgrowth off of it, it was a handgun.  
We didn't stay much longer but were very sad to see that a handgun had either been left or thrown there, where so many kids, families and the general public frequent it.”

Meanwhile, this arrived the following day from another reader:

“Saturday night I was home alone and a man posing as an employee of Scoop du Jour knocked on my door and gave me a very convincing story about how he had locked himself out of the store, and was short money for the locksmith. He had a sense of urgency and kept telling me how he was afraid he was going to be fired, and kept saying "I'm just a poor gay black man" and "I promise I'll bring you back the money" and "It's good karma, you won't be sorry," and on and on. The man even offered to leave his valuables with me. Stupid me, I fell for the story and gave him $10 in cash, which of course I never saw again.

I am normally very suspicious and he really was convincing. Obviously, he's done it before. Quite the scam. I informed the owners of Scoop du Jour that someone was posing as their employee. Lesson learned for sure (although I feel like quite an idiot for having opened my door in the first place).

The guy was African American, probably late-30s to mid-40s, fairly thin and about 5' 9".”

Listen to your dog

A couple summers ago we posted a story about a Washington Park family that one night thought their two dogs were barking at raccoons, told them to be quiet, but didn’t investigate further.  The next morning they discovered that during the night thieves had cleaned out their first floor.  Last week, our neighbor Wendy Skerritt shared the following barking-dog story with us, further enforcing the notion that sometimes it pays to investigate the causes of dog alerts.

In the early evening last week, Wendy’s dog Sammy began barking a weird kind of bark that Wendy said she had never heard before. Though Sammy was clearly agitated, Wendy told her to shut up and behave herself.  About a half an hour later Wendy and her family heard the approach of sirens, an SFD aid unit soon arriving directly in front of their house, lights flashing.  Rushing out to see what was going on, the Skerritts found that an elderly man had fallen onto their parking strip and had been discovered by a passerby, who called 911. The man, named Chuck, was disoriented and had apparently suffered some kind of seizure, though seemed otherwise unhurt.  Wendy says she apologized to Sammy for not taking her alert seriously and promised to pay attention next time.

Rest your weary bones

The construction crews finished up their work last week and the re-engineered Bank of America parking lot triangle was inaugurated without any apparent fanfare (well, if there was a ceremony, we certainly weren't invited).  The new stonework base and benches, coupled with some improved landscaping, make for a pleasant stopping point for passers-by on those rare sunny days we have.

People were busily checking out the new seating arrangements over the weekend, though we shooed them off to take this shot (so less cluttered don't you think?).

Clearing up some more rumors

There was a story going around about a stabbing that allegedly occurred at an apartment building just north of E. Madison St. a couple weeks ago.  As the story went, a young male was attacked by his girlfriend, who fled the scene after the stabbing.  Supposedly the police set up a stake out in a neighborhood parking lot on the following day, just in case the woman should return to the scene of her crime. We checked out this tale with the Seattle Police's public information officer, who told us that there was no record of such an incident in the neighborhood.  Sound like something that might have happened on Capitol Hill?

There was another story that perhaps there had been a big drug bust in a vacant house in the neighborhood.  The cops figured out that a pot-growing operation was underway as a result of a huge increase in the home's electricity bill, according to the story.  This too appears not to be something that happened around here, according to one of the cops that covers our Charlie 3 beat.  Sound like something that might have happened in Madison Valley?

Another business turns out the lights

A couple of readers pointed out that though we had covered the story of Bella Dolce shutting its doors last week, we had missed the fact that another longtime Madison Valley retailer, Gentlemen's Consignment, had done the same.  Although the shop had been in business since 1989 and had weathered many economic ups and downs over that period, the current environment was apparently the final straw.  Gentlemen's Consignment, located at 2809 E. Madison St., had specialized in upper-end men's designer clothes, not more than two years old.

Seen on a bumper sticker at Madison Park Beach:

Straight is the new gay! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Floating bridge closed (again) this weekend

Apparently the installation of a fish-passage culvert under the 520 floating bridge is more than a one-weekend operation.  When the bridge was closed for a weekend in June, that was one of the reasons given.  It's one of the reasons for this weekend's closure as well.  That and the need for inspection and repairs "to the aging SR 520 floating bridge to make sure it will continue to carry traffic safely through winter weather," in the words of the WSDOT press release.

The upcoming closure, which will begin at 11 pm on Friday night and end at 5 am on Monday morning, will involve traffic in both directions of SR 520, with all ramps between Montlake Boulevard and I-405 closed.  SR 520 will remain open between Montlake Boulevard and I-5. The Montlake Boulevard exit ramp from SR 520 will remain open during the highway closure, and anyone still driving on SR 520 at that point will just have to exit the highway.

And this ain't the end of it.  Here's the official word from WSDOT: "We are planning several more complete weekend closures of SR 520 in 2011 to demolish overcrossings, set girders, install more fish passage culverts, and complete other work."  

Don't say we didn't warn you.

[Photo by PG Svensk on Flickr. Details on WSDOT's SR-520 closure plans are available here.]

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bella Dolce closes

New York Cupcakes expands to the Valley

Though the demise of any business makes for somber news, the end of the run is an even sadder story for those of us who really appreciate a place before it's suddenly gone from the scene.  We’re doubly sorry, therefore, to report that Madison Valley’s highly rated Bella Dolce has called it quits, closing its doors on June 30.  Owner Joanne Corsi made no bones about the fact that the last year has been a struggle for the cafe, especially given the seemingly-never-ending construction along E. Madison Street through the Valley.  In the end, it appears that the economic downturn coupled with the disruption to Madison Valley proved too much for this neighborhood eatery.

Corsi is reportedly headed to Florida, and the space her Euro-style cafe occupied for many years will soon be taken over by a specialty baker arriving from the Eastside. Bella Dolce (meaning beautiful cake in Italian) was known for its red velvet and coconut cupcakes, among other pastries, so it’s [choose one: ironic? poignant? fitting?] that its replacement will be a cupcake establishment.

Sometime in late August or early September New York Cupcakes will make its presence known in Madison Valley.  The grand opening will follow a bit of remodeling to the existing space, says owner Lisa Waxman Johnson.

New York Cupcakes, which currently has one location in Bellevue Crossroads, comes to town with a successful three-year track record and the reputation for a quality product (voted second place in the Best Dessert category last year in KING-TV's Best of Western Washington contest, among other awards).  Waxman Johnson, who is the principal recipe creator, describes her cupcakes as having a lighter cake texture and lighter frosting than some other competitors in the market.  We can all judge that for ourselves when New York Cupcakes invades our locale later this summer: free cupcakes, she confirms, will be part of the grand opening celebration.  We'll let you know, of course, when that's going to happen.


What's the story on Belle Epicurean?  

We reported in March that another patisserie would soon be arriving to take the space recently vacated by Island Video (3109 E. Madison St.).  The anticipated opening date was sometime in June.  That obviously didn’t happen, so we called Belle Epicurean to ask 'What’s the deal?'  Not surprisingly, delays in remodeling the interior space have pushed back the starting date, we’re told.  It now looks like Belle Epicurean will make its appearance in the neighborhood slightly ahead of the time that New York Cupcakes lands here, perhaps late this month or early August.

[New York Cupcakes will be located at 2711 E. Madison Street. Upper photo by Joe Dyer, Seattle WeeklyLower photo courtesy of New York Cupcakes.]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth !!!

Whether it was God, The Fates, Mother Nature, or just the mechanistic forces of global warming in action, we were finally able to string together a sunny holiday weekend, followed by an absolutely beautiful Fourth of July.  How unusual!   From the generally deserted feel of the neighborhood, however, it seems that most Madison Parkers were taking their chances elsewhere for the holiday (side streets were mostly vacant and you could actually find parking on Madison St. in area of The Village during most of the weekend!).

Which isn't to say, of course, that the Park was exactly devoid of people:

By evening, the neighborhood began to return to normal; and as dusk fell, many headed down to the Seattle Tennis Club or to various lakeside venues to watch the fireworks:

All in all, a pretty spectacular way to celebrate the nation's 235th Anniversary.

Happy Independence Day !!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Finding a life after grief

Kathleen O'Connor, a Madison Park activist, author, journalist and blogger, has just published a very personal memoir of a tragic time in her life and the path she chose in order to recover from her loss. Having suffered the worst experience a parent can endure, the death of a child, O'Connor eventually learned to cope with her grief and to find ways to help others through the tragedies of their lives.

The story of her "before" and "after" lives are chronicled in her latest book, Embracing Two Lives: A Journey of Love, Loss and Healing, which is also a celebration of the life of her son, Remi Miles.  It includes some of her own poignant poetry and that of her son. The story of the book and how it came about is the subject of a front-page article in this month's edition of the Madison Park Times, on the streets today and available on line here.  The book is available at Madison Park Hardware and here at Amazon.

[Photo by Sean Beighton, courtesy of the Madison Park Times.]

Friday, July 1, 2011

July happenings

Let's have a parade

Madison Park Days returns next week, beginning with the three-day Sidewalk Sale on Thursday, July 7 and ending with the Children's Parade and Picnic in the Park on Saturday, July 9.  The parade will get underway at noon, with the line-up starting at 11:45 in front of the Wells Fargo Bank branch parking lot.  As those who've attended in past years well know, you better be there on time because the route is short and the march---straight down Madison to the Park---is over quickly.

Children of all ages are encouraged to participate (in costume if so inclined) and to bring along their bikes, pets, and any older relatives who may still be young at heart.  The Picnic which immediately follows the Parade features pizza, hotdogs, beverages, and treats.  Madison Park Days is, as always, sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association.

Fat Salmon is back!

This is the 13th Anniversary year for the Fat Salmon Open Water Swim, a double race along the Lake Washington shoreline, ending at Madison Park Beach.  The straight-line races, to be held this year on Saturday, July 23, will be on a 3.2-mile course initiating at the Day Street Boat Ramp (by the I-90 bridge) and on a 1.2-mile course initiating at Denny-Blaine Park.  Registration for the event closes on July 19.

Although the earliest race begins at 8:30 am, swimmers will be at Madison Park for a pre-race meeting at 7:30 and then be transported to the two starting points.  Although swimmers are encouraged to car pool, there will inevitably be a lot of participants and organizers parking in the neighborhood on the morning of the event.  The races should be over by about 10:30 and will be followed by the ceremonial presentation of fat salmons to the various race winners.  Fat Salmon is hosted by the Green Lake Aqua Ducks Masters' Swim Team.

Calling all artists

Though the event itself is not scheduled until September, the deadline to submit entries to be considered for this year's Madison Park Art Walk is July 31.  Last year's event featured 30 local artists, and hundreds of art aficionados visited the neighborhood's restaurants and shops along E. Madison Street to view the art.  This year the show will open September 9, with a reception at Starbucks, and be on display through September 30.  Madison Park Art Walk invites all artists who live in the "greater Madison Park area" to consider entering their work. Interested artists may contact Barbara Clark ( for a copy of the prospectus and an entry form.

Other happenings

Spa del Lagowhich had its "soft opening" in June, officially relaunches in July with a "Grand Re-Opening" during Madison Park Days.  On Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, SdL will provide free samples, offer discounts on products, orchestrate a raffle drawing for spa prizes, and give returning and new patrons both complimentary mini-facials and cosmetic applications.  New co-owner Michael Huynh reports that the place has been remodeled, the kinks and computer glitches have been worked out, and the staff is ready for business. Spa del Lago is located a 1929 43rd Avenue E.

Glow Natural Health Center (2917 E. Madison St.) is sponsoring several events during July, information available here; as is Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy (4130 E. Madison St.), information available here.

[Fat Salmon 2010 photo by Jon Rosen.]