Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Destruction and renewal in Madison Park

Those doubting the vibrancy of the housing scene in Madison Park would certainly change their perspective if they stood at the intersection of McGilvra Boulevard E. and E. Newton Street.  From that vantage point, they could glance in almost any direction (well, three out of four) and see an active construction project underway-- or perhaps even two.  Within 100 paces of this intersection, there are in fact five separate houses either being built from the ground up or in the process of major renovation.  The cycles of destruction and renewal in Madison Park continue unabated.

We once speculated, incorrectly, that speculative construction in the neighborhood might be coming to a halt due to the economic downturn.  While things did slow for a while, it’s been clear for many months that Madison Park continues to be an attractive place for residential developers.  At least three of the houses under construction near this intersection appear to be speculative, including two houses being built by Chaffey on what was apparently once the site of a single residence.   At the same time, there are at least two other projects within easy walking distance where speculative builders are also replacing a single residence with two new homes.

This is one of two Chaffey-built homes under construction at E. Newton St.

On a quick recent drive through Madison Park we counted 19 homes in some stage of construction or massive rehabilitation.  Most of this activity is a “North of Madison” phenomenon, with at least 14 sites active on the north end of the neighborhood, including two in Broadmoor (though, as we know, nothing of a speculative nature is allowed in this gated community).

Not every project currently underway in the neighborhood, however, involves a complete teardown and replacement of an existing structure.  In fact, of the six houses being constructed near E. Newton and McGilvra, one is a major rehab and another is only a partial teardown.  The new owner of one of these houses emailed us to say that while his new house will have an additional story added to it, the bones and outline of the old house will remain--and the finished home will be a traditional house designed to blend into the neighborhood rather than being one of those new, modernistic boxy structures that are somewhat controversial.

These neighboring houses are both being more than just rehabilitated

Next door to this particular house, a derelict home that has been something of a neighborhood eyesore for years is about to be thoroughly reimagined.  We are told that the new structure will also be in a “traditional” style when completed, though much larger than the existing brick home built in the 1940s.  That’s the way of neighborhood, of course.  The original house contains only 1,600 sq. ft.  The new one will have at least double the space, with the existing first floor being demolished and two new stories plus a detached garage built on the 6,000 sq. ft. lot.

Two major homes are currently under construction (or soon to begin) along Lake Washington, one along 39th Avenue E., in the area just north of “Hidden Beach” (the E. Harrison St. road end), and the other just south of the E. Highland St. road end.  Both of these will, necessarily (given the cost of the land) be major structures.  And speaking of which, that very noticeable construction project underway along McGilvra Boulevard, across the street and just north of the Seattle Tennis Club, is replacing a 1,300 sq. ft. structure with a four-level 4,300 sq. ft. structure, not including the new home’s 760 sq. ft. garage and an equally large deck.  This is the site of a foreclosed home, lost by a speculative builder when the money ran out.  Out of loss, sometime comes opportunity. The new owners appear to be building a home for their own occupancy.

A megahome replaces a cottage at 1115 McGilvra Boulevard E.

The relatively high level of construction activity in Madison Park can likely be sustained if macroeconomic conditions do not deteriorate.  We know, for example, that there are several houses in the neighborhood that were purchased in the last few years for the purpose of future development.  The timing may now be right.  Additionally, some recent home sales and at least one currently in the works are to speculative builders. Although the neighborhood---especially north of Madison Street---has seen significant gentrification over the past decade, there are still plenty of smaller homes on expensive lots that will be ripe for demolition or rehabilitation in the near future, either by speculative builders or by those who want to transform the property and create their own dream home.

The modern history of Madison Park, like that of many other Seattle neighborhoods, has been one of ongoing—though sometimes sporadic---destruction and rebuilding. Whether we welcome this change or deplore it, it is definitely something we better get used to.

[Upper photo by Lisa V. Taylor shows demolition last month of a 1940's duplex on the 2300 block of McGilvra Boulevard E.  Photo of 1115 McGilvra Boulevard E. construction from King County Assessor's Office.]


  1. Does anyone else hope that the landscapers plant brown-trunked stick trees with green balls on the top, so the one house (4025) will precisely resemble a drawing by a kindergartener?

    I bought a pre-fab shed kid with more design imagination than that one.


    1. Trees??? There will there be no space for trees. Wait until they shoehorn the shotgun house in next door - there will not even be room for a shade loving shrub. Gotta love the 5 foot set back law that allows you to intimately know your neighbors whether you want to or not. That 4025 house looks to be about 4000 sq/ft - on a 4000 sq/ft lot - charming.

  2. What are the regulations about the larger footprint of these homes? The "boxes" seem to go sidewalk to alley...too big....terrible landscaping.

    1. It is sad that people have to attack the regulations rather than hold the folks that do this accountable. Not so many years back we had Blueline Construction being vilified for their remodels. They bought properties outright, shaved off the roof, added a second story and sold them. It is much sadder when it is our own neighbors who choose to exploit the regulations and build these behemoths for their own profits. Madison Park has changed so much....

    2. Yes Blueline It seemed each and every -every home they mauled-and only after the house was sold,inneviatably about 3 mo.s later the backhoe was called in having to replace the water and sewer lines. Really bad business-I started counting the botched houses and wondered if the buyers knew that they had been cheated?



    ~ "Overflowing Your Lot in Life" ~

    1. Statistics say Americans are getting chubbier<<>>so I suppose this explains the expanding homes<<>each one cutting off another little corner of blue sky. Let them eat cake, cake, and more cake.


    "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors"

  5. Just drove past today for the first are these homes even legal? Chaffey Homes should be run out of the neighborhood on a rail and never allowed back in. Why are peple not more incenced?

  6. Chaffey Homes, Inc.

    --"Casting Shadows Across a Street Near You!"--


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