Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pagliacci comes to town

Pizza parlor to open Thursday

First the news for our short-attention-span readers:  we're told there will be free pizza slices (from 11 am until 4 pm) once Pagliacci gets the doors open tomorrow at its new Madison Valley location (3015 E. Madison St.).

After over three months of construction (and eleven years of planning), Pagliacci Pizza is returning to the very site where it once operated a commissary kitchen.  But there's never been a Pagliacci restaurant in the neighborhood (the closest Pagliacci is on North Capitol Hill), so this foray into Madison Valley represents a whole new opportunity for Pagliacci to introduce its particular style of pizza and service to a area of town that already has several pizza alternatives.

We got a preview of Pagliacci's plans for the new location (the company's 24th) from co-owner Matt Galvin earlier this week.  First of all, the pizza: "It's always been about hand-tossing, baking on bricks, and using local, fresh ingredients," he told us. "That's the way it's been since the very beginning of Pagliacci and we're not going to be changing it." It's also about including some seasonal pizzas in the lineup, as the opportunity presents itself, he added. "Today it's the Mushroom Prima, featuring lobster mushrooms."  [An aside here to note that 425 Magazine's November issue reports that Pagliacci Pizza, known for its "high-end, thin-crust, artisan pizzas," has been chosen one of the best in America by Bon Appetit.]

Now about the site: The just-being-completed-today building is Pagliacci's first LEED-certified structure, "green from the ground up," according to the press release.  Says Galvin, "Our customers and employees know that we're committed to being an environmentally focused business, and our newest location will allow us to put all these practices into place under one roof."

There's a lot of wood in the building design, as well as efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures, and strong use of natural lighting.  Going further, this Pagliacci location will utilize composting and FSC-certified pizza boxes, among other green measures.

The new building has been completed almost on time (the opening has only been delayed by a day or two).  It turns out the site needed more shoring up than originally assumed. There was also a fair amount of environmental clean-up that occurred during site restoration.

Among the features of the new restaurant is a children's area (with books and a chalkboard) near the "toss-table" (so that kids can get an up-close-and-personal view of the handicraft involved in pizza tossing).  There is seating for about 30 people, and there will be one of those new Coke machines where patrons can formulate their own concoction.

Pagliacci's delivery area for this location will include, in addition to Madison Park and Madison Valley, Madrona, Leschi (to south of I-90), the Central District, and part of Capitol Hill and First Hill (south of Madison St.).

Galvin says he's excited about the new location and Pagliacci's ability to deliver great pizzas to a whole new crowd of pizza lovers.  "In a way, this grand opening actually represents a homecoming for us."

Welcome back to the 'hood.

Monday, October 29, 2012

KIRO TV reports early morning Lake rescue

Man takes underwater drive

KIRO TV reported earlier today that an man was rescued from a submerged car in Lake Washington early this morning. According to KIRO, the car entered the water near the 2200 block of 43rd Avenue E. The story is available here, and there's a more detailed report on the SPD blog here.

A Twitter posting by the Seattle Police Department records the following incident: "DRIVING WHILE UNDER INFLUENCE (DUI) at 23XX BLOCK OF 43RD AVE E reported on 10/29/2012 5:37 AM."

Third Quarter Real Estate Report

From “Active” to “Sold” in Three Months

It appears that Madison Park’s very low level of real estate inventory is having a collateral benefit for at least some home sellers.  Those who price their houses in line with the market can now realistically hope for multiple bids, a “sale for list” price or even higher, and a quick “turn.”  During the third quarter no fewer than six home sellers were paid their original list price or higher at sale.  The average time on market for these particular “sold” properties was just five days.  In previous quarters there were few if any homes sold at 100% of original list price, so the last few months seem to demonstrate that the local market is entering a new phase.

And there are other good reasons for potential sellers to be optimistic.  For example, the average time on market for Madison Park houses sold during the quarter was only 67 days, down dramatically from the 136-day average of the same period last year. Meanwhile, the average discount from the original list price for these properties was just 8.9%, versus 12.5% last year—certainly a trend the right direction.

Here’s a quick overview of what happened in Madison Park (Washington Park and Broadmoor included) during the past quarter:


Sales:  16
Median Sale Price:  $1,086,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,495
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $387
Average Days on Market:  67
Average Discount from Initial List Price:  8.9%


Sales:  9
Median Sale Price:  $272,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  922
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $360
Average Days on Market:  93
Average Discount from Initial List Price: 7.3%

The total of 25 sales is not spectacular, given that there were 34 sales in the third quarter last year, but that number is robust when compared to the situation just two years ago when only 14 houses changed hands in the same period.  At that down point for the market there were 77 houses for sale, whereas today the number of house listings stands at only 38.

On a macro level there is much to be enthusiastic about, and all of it impacts our hyper-local market here in Madison Park.  First of all, rates remain stunningly low. reports that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are now averaging 3.5% nationally, with 15-year rates at the 2.88% level.  Assuming one can qualify, financing is super-affordable.  Closer to home, the UW’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies reports that in the second quarter (the most recent for which statistics are available) resales in Washington were up 10.4%, permits were up 22.9% and median resale prices were up 4% year-over-year for the state.

The Case-Schiller home-price index for Seattle, meanwhile, shows a one-year 3.1% uptick in Seattle home values, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) reports sales up 14.6% in Western Washington for the first nine months of the year, and pending sales of homes in the Puget Sound region are up over the previous year. According to Tim Ellis of, approximately two thirds of homes in the Seattle market are attracting multiple offers.  Finally (and most importantly), Seattle has experienced a 3% increase in its labor force during the twelve months ending August 2012, according to Washington State Employment Security—and continued rising employment in the area is expected to keep the real estate market on a positive trajectory.

615 36th Avenue E. - Sold for $2.850,000 in September

Here’s how this all played out in Madison Park during the third quarter.  Of the 25 home sales, ten were for $1 million or more, the most expensive house (a 4,300 sq. ft. Washington Park mansion located at 602 36th Avenue E.) having sold for $3,200,000. The least expensive home was a 1,300 sq. ft. spec house completed in early 2011 and originally listed at $750,000, which ultimately sold for $543,000.  We previously profiled this house and its companion house, which were both built on what had once been a single lot on 42nd Avenue E., north of Madison.  The first of the two spec houses sold quickly, but the second one languished on the market, off and on, until this August.

That house received the biggest discount at sale from its original list price (28%), with the second-place honor for the quarter going to a 5,260 sq. ft. home initially listed for $2,495,000 but sold for $1,850,000, a 26% discount.

There were five houses and nine condos that sold for under $1 million during the quarter.  The condos ranged in value from $210,000 to $785,000.  One of these sold for 100% of its list price after a full 412 days on the market.  Sometimes it pays to stick to your price, apparently.

This cottage at 1865 41st Avenue E. is listed at $710,000

As usual there is a significant disconnect between the Madison Park homes that are being sold and those that are listed for sale at any given point.

Here’s a snapshot of the market as it stands at the end of October:


Listings:  38
Median List Price:  $1,695,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,010
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $423
Average Days on Market:  148
Percentage with Price Reductions:  37%
New Listings:  5
Pending Sales:  10


Listings:  13
Median List Price:  $465,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,106
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $420
Average Days on Market:  176
Percentage with Price Reductions:  71%
New Listings:  0
Pending Sales:  5

The houses currently for sale, in particular, are much larger and more expensive than those that were sold last quarter.  The median sale price of $1,086,000 is 36% less than the $1,695,000 median list price for houses in the neighborhood.  And this is after 37% of those listed houses have already suffered a price reduction.  This does not mean, however, that the for-sale houses are out of line with current market conditions.  It’s partially the effect of having a lot of expensive houses available and the likelihood that the less-expensive listings will move to sale more quickly.  Only six of 38 houses listed for sale are priced at under $1 million (16%), while six of 16 houses sold last quarter (38%) were sold at that level.  Just to further belabor the point, the six under-$1 million houses currently available have been on the market an average of 74 days, while the 32 over-$1 million houses average 149 days.

The view from the spec house at 344 McGilvra Blvd. E., listed at $5,995,000

In a future report we will take a look at how the price per square foot of Madison Park dwellings has moved with fluctuations in the market.  For now we will end by simply stating that things have certainly been worse.

[Thanks to Laura Halliday 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. All photos courtesy of the listing agents, via Redfin, except for upper photo, showing 1878 McGilvra Blvd. E., listed at $739,500.]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Will it never end?

Stormwater project takes on a life of its own

The Madison Valley Stormwater Project was supposed to have been completed in the autumn of 2011. Yet to the consternation of both Madison Valley merchants and drivers inconvenienced by delays along Madison Street, it's obvious that as autumn 2012 begins to wind down, the Stormwater Project has yet to make it over the finish line. What's the story?

According to Grace Manzano, the Seattle Public Utilities project manager, the City's failure to meet the original timetable is the result of unanticipated conditions, bad luck, and at least one mis-step that occurred during construction. It's true that the principal objectives of the project (the building of an underground stormwater pipeline to connect with a newly constructed storage tank in Washington Park) were accomplished last November.  Additionally, a project to improve surface-water drainage along E. Madison Street through Madison Valley was also completed on time.

But what didn't happen on schedule was the landscaping of the stormwater tank area in Washington Park.  Because of inclement weather at the end of last year and a desire by the City not to negatively impact the parking situation in Madison Valley during the holiday shopping season, says Manzano, completion of the landscaping was delayed until the anticipated "better weather" of spring 2012.  Work on the project was re-initiated in May.

Landscaping around the cistern is more than slightly behind schedule

However, several problems immediately impeded construction, according to Manzano. First of all, a 100-year-old water main which passes through the Park coincidentally failed and had to be repaired. There was also the problem of weather during the spring which, as some may recall, was extremely wet. The biggest source of project delay, however, was the realization that the original landscaping plan made assumptions about soil conditions in the Park that were not true. "Slope stabilization" immediately became a problem once work began, says Manzano, because the "specifications were not consistent with actual site conditions."  In other words, the existing soil was insufficient to hold in place the slope which connects E. Madison St. to the lower area surrounding the storage tank.

As a result of this discovery, it became necessary for the CIty to remove and replace the existing soil and rebuild the slope. The landscaping design was also significantly revised, Manzano reports, so that there was a significant increase in the number of trees planted to further stabilize the slope. What was originally a 130-tree plan became a 200-tree plan.

Parking continues to be impacted along E. Madison Street

Each of these factors led to both the project delay and to the higher-than-anticipated level of construction disruption along E. Madison Street during the summer and early fall. Additionally, 28th Avenue E. at the intersection with Madison was closed to traffic for the first two weeks of this month because of an earlier construction error.  Manzano reports that when the area was dug up to remove boulders encountered during the underground boring operation, the area was not properly resealed. As a result, stormwater entered at least two buildings (including the one housing restaurant Luc). This problem had to be corrected by installation of some new drainage infrastructure in the area, a job that was completed last week.

So are we done yet?  Manzano says the City hopes to complete the project in the month and a half.  We shall see.

The Washington Park playfield is also being resurfaced

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What next for the Tully’s space?

Madison Park Blogger descends into rumormongering

Someone started the rumor last week that the now-vacant Tully’s space is soon to be taken over by a bank—specifically, US Bank, the Madison Park Blogger’s former employer.  This perverse idea began making the rounds within a day or two of the announcement that Tully’s was abandoning its Madison Park location.  As the week progressed, it became clear that many people had heard the story, including the managers of some of the neighborhood’s bank branches. So we, of course, had to investigate.  Unfortunately, in doing so, we ended up asking a lot of people about the possibility of another bank invading the ‘hood, thereby further spreading a story that may have no basis in fact.  How irresponsible of us.

Just to be clear, there is no evidence that US Bank—or any other of the few remaining major banks not already represented in Madison Park—is planning to open a branch in the hallowed space that had for almost two decades served as the neighborhood’s anti-Starbucks.  At the time the shocking bank rumor got started, the “we regret we’re closing” notices had just been posted on the building’s entry doors and the brown-paper coverings had just been applied to the windows. Lack of information breeds speculation, and given the outsized reaction of some Madison Parkers to the introduction of Key Bank into the neighborhood (and the more recent dust up about the Wells Fargo signage), what more provocative rumor could be invented than the introduction of a fifth bank branch into Madison Park?

The wood-frame building at 4026 E. Madison St. that for almost two decades had housed Tully’s was originally built in 1900 and has had many incarnations, including, apparently, hosting a mini-mart.  The property covers 4000 sq. ft., of which the one-story building comprises just over half the total space, 2,080 sq. ft.  It could therefore easily accommodate two shops or one larger tenant, such as a bank.  Interesting enough, the tax-assessed value of this prime commercial property in the heart of Madison Park is only $401,000 and has been held by the assessor at this level, with virtually no variation, since 2001.

King County records list Wallace Properties of Bellevue as the property’s “taxpayer.” Tully’s founder Tom O’Keefe, in a recent email exchange we were copied on, stated his belief that the building is actually owned by a family trust.  And indeed, when we called Wallace regarding the current disposition of the lease, we were told that the company only serves as the leasing agent for the property.  Although we left a message with the listing agent at Wallace, we did not receive a return phone call following up on our request for comment. 

So we decided to go directly to US Bank to see if the bank is indeed in the hunt for space in our neighborhood.   We were aware that in past years the bank had been interested in the potential of Madison Park, so the idea did not seem farfetched.  Unfortunately, US Bank was only slightly more forthcoming than Wallace Properties in providing an answer.  At least we did get a call back, though all Chris Heman, the bank’s regional Retail Banking manager, was willing to give us was an official “no comment.”  Now you might think that if the story were absolutely untrue the bank would be willing to deny it.  But that’s not how things work in the corporate world, so we probably should not make any assumptions. 

Except perhaps one.  Late last week Wallace Properties slapped some “For Lease” signs in the windows of the building. So, whatever the status of any behind-the-scenes negotiations for tenant space, at this point we may assume there’s no done deal.  And with regard to the idea of another bank coming into Madison Park, is that concept really crazy?  This is, after all, where the money is.  And, as one of the neighborhood’s bank managers pointed out to us last week, the Magnolia neighborhood already hosts five or six bank branches.  So why not Madison Park?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

This and that

Trick or treat at Madison Park merchants Wednesday, October 31:  For those who may have missed the flyers in the windows of many neighborhood shops this week, we note that the annual business district tricking and treating event will occur on Halloween this year, from 3 until 6 pm at participating businesses. As usual, there will be a photo booth set up at McNae Park (aka "Triangle Park") in front of Bing's so that those so inclined can memorialize the occasion.

McGilvra Fifth Graders' Holiday Fundraiser:  It's the time of year again to start thinking about "holiday" trees, wreaths, and poinsettias--and perhaps even to consider ordering them for later delivery. If you are of a mind to do so, McGilvra Elementary School's fifth grade class will meet that need. Its annual sale to support the class's graduation and camp is underway, with orders for Noble firs, Douglas firs, red and white poinsettias, and fir-branch wreaths with cones being due by October 31. Click on the graphic at right to get a copy of the order sheet. You may drop your order off (with a check or cash) at the McGilvra’s school office through the end of the month. Or you can mail the order form (with a check or cash) to McGilvra Elementary School, 1617 – 38th Avenue East, Seattle WA 98112, Attention: McGilvra PTA.  Pickup will be on December 1 (though for a small $10 fee holiday trees will be delivered to any address within two miles of McGilvra).

Martha E. Harris Flowers & Gifts begins a new chapter:  The question of what will happen to the neighborhood's iconic flower shop, given Martha Harris's untimely passing earlier this month, was publicly answered late last week on the business's Facebook page, with this announcement:

Dear Friends and Patrons,
We are all feeling the loss from Martha’s passing. Her talent, her courage, her sense of community, her charity, her spirit, her laugh, and her fierce passion for life are qualities that we all cherished. With her passing, there have been many questions about the future of her life work and true passion, her store. I want to formally announce that Martha has passed her business, Martha E. Harris Flowers and Gifts, to me. I look forward to continuing her legacy by honoring her creativity, quality, and commitment to her community. Thank you very much for all of your support and well wishes during this incredibly difficult time.

We are all better having known her.

Bruce A. Chester

In honor of Martha Harris, Cactus! will be running a Martharita in Martha’s Memory on the restaurant's feature menu for the next month or so and donating a dollar to her memorial at Swedish hospital for each order. Owner Bret Chatalis tells us that Cactus! is hoping to raise between $500 and  $1000 for the Martha Memorial Fund. The Martharita:  "Blanco tequila, lime, agave and Alize Passion Fruit Liqueur—served up with Martha style."

Remember, 520 is closed again this weekend: Yes, it's the usual drill, with a bit of a reprieve in recognition of Seattle Sounders game traffic on Sunday. At 11 pm on Friday night  the floating bridge will close, but Sr 520 will reopen earlier than usual, at noon on Sunday.  During the closure, crews will be setting 34 massive concrete girders over the highway for the 84th Avenue NE overpass, shift eastbound lanes near Evergreen Point Road to the north, and "complete other time-sensitive work."

[Graphic above by Pedro Ferreira on]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The deli to get a makeover

Madison Kitchen will arrive near yearend

Because our readers like to be in the know, we barged our way into what had been Park Place Deli today to demand an interview with the new tenant, Jim Goodall, who we discovered on site and working with a restaurant designer on a new concept for the space. Happily for us, Goodall was gracious enough to divulge a bit about himself and to give us a sneak preview of his plans, though he declined to be ambush-photographed while in a not-photo-ready condition. We satisfied ourselves with taking a picture of the disrupted space instead. As you can see, there's a lot of work to do---especially if the space is going to be significantly transformed, as Goodall reports it will be.

For those who like short posts and want us to get quickly to the bottom line:  Goodall says that his new eatery, Madison Kitchen, will be a deli and more.  It will be open longer hours (perhaps 8 am until 6 pm); will be comfortable, bright and inviting; and will offer high-quality coffee (Illy Espresso) and well-prepared, quality-ingredient food: soup, salads, and sandwiches primarily, as well as "a light, limited" breakfast. There will also be a solid number of take-out items in the deli case that "busy moms can appease their picky kids with," among other likely patrons.

Now, a bit about Goodall (as self described): He was once a Vermont farm boy, but he has lived much of his life on the West Coast (Monterey, Santa Monica and--off and on--Seattle). He is a resident of Madison Valley. His most recent stint was as the GM (that's general manager) for Vios Cafe at Third Place Books (Ravenna).  He went to culinary school right out of high school, has worked in various restaurants, and for many years he operated a successful boutique catering business. Although he has a masters degree in Social Work and is a licensed clinical psychologist, he says he loves the food business. And he really likes to bake. Although he says he definitely will not be trying to compete with the Madison Park Bakery, there will definitely be baked goods on the menu at Madison Kitchen (scones included).

Need to know more?  Well "a lot is still up in the air," Goodall tells us. Just think "wholesome and healthy--I am conscientious about my ingredients."  But don't expect this to be a quick transformation from the old to the new.  Goodall (who promises to keep us in the loop) is expecting the opening to be at the end of this year at the earliest.

Stay tuned.

[Madison Kitchen will be located at 4122 E. Madison St.]

September Police Blotter

Pretty quiet in the neighborhood last month

September was a relatively calm period crime-wise, with "only" three reported home break-ins and a just single car prowl in Madison Park proper during the month.

The car break-in occurred on the 2200 block of 40th Avenue E. on September 11. There was also a car theft on the 3100 block of E. Madison St. on September 16.

The first house break-in occurred on around 5:30 am on September 12 at a residence on the 1200 block of 41st Avenue E.  The "non-forced" burglary apparently happened while the residents were asleep.  Upon awakening they discovered that four pieces of silver were missing from the living room area and that a computer bag from the house was sitting next to an exterior patio door. Though a bag of costume jewelry had been left behind by the intruder(s), the computer bag had been rifled and the multi-carat yellow diamond that it for some reason had contained was missing. The bag's other contents, business papers, a checkbook, and pens were, however left behind.  The burglar(s) apparently entered the house through an unlocked door.

Another break-in took place during the night of September 17 on the 2000 block of Parkside Drive E. in Broadmoor. That incident also apparently resulted from an unlocked door.  While the family slept someone entered the home and removed a laptop, scanner, iPad, iPhone, gift cards and an ID badge.  A backpack was also taken, apparently used to carry the stolen items.

There was also a burglary on the 1600 block of 39th Avenue E. on September 20.  From the police report: "Victim stated she and [a friend] were sitting on the front porch when someone climbed up onto the second floor balcony, entered the kitchen through open French doors, and stole the victim's purse."  In addition to the missing cash, the victim lost her car keys, drivers license, and credit cards.

The red fist icon on the map above marks the site (4200 block of E. Madison St.) where on September 5 there was an assault that resulted in a police response. Boiling the police report down to its essentials: an apparently intoxicated 40ish man poured a glass of water over the head of a female patron of the Red Onion.  Another man intervened, an altercation took place, and police were called. On arrival they arrested the suspect, discovering that he had a gun in his possession. Though he had a valid concealed-weapon permit, guns are not allowed in bars. The man was later charged with the gun violation.

As the press spokesman for the Seattle Police noted when relating this incident to us, "It's probably not a good idea to attract the attention of the police while you're violating the law."

[Star-burst icons on the map above are the sites of house break-ins, solid cars are car thefts, unsolid cars are car prowls, dollar bills are cases of theft or found property, and black masks are disturbances. The one such disturbance shown on the map turned out to be a minor incident once the police investigated.]

Monday, October 15, 2012

New to the neighborhood

Aegis Living, a developer and manager of "senior living" housing, has opened a sales office in Madison Park in the space vacated this summer by Ropa Bella (1928 43rd Avenue E.).  The office doesn't officially open until December, but there was a "soft opening" a couple weeks ago and we took advantage by dropping in and touring the space. Aegis is using the office to market its newest property, Aegis on Madison, a planned six-story building currently under construction on the north side of E. Madison Street at 22nd Avenue (just across the street from what was once the Chester Dorsey Auto Salon).

Described by Aegis as "inspired by European grand hotels," the new facility will consist of about 100 one-bedroom and studio apartments, but will also include at least some retail spaces and a Horticultural Therapy Garden. Assisted living, transitional care, and "memory care" will each provided in the building. Aegis's Madison Park sales office has a mock up of a couple of the planned lounges, as well as an interactive system that can show prospective buyers exactly what the view will be from every room (they used a crane to get the pictures). It's expected that the office will be  in place for about a year (presumably in anticipation that all the units will have been sold soon after the building's completion).

Also new to the neighborhood is ATAC, Inc. (Associates in Tutoring and Academic Consultation), which moved this summer from the University District to office space at 3141 E. Madison St.  ATAC serves gifted and mainstream students, as well as students with ADHD or other learning disabilities.

And new to the neighborhood in November will be Emily Wang, a State Farm insurance agent who is opening an office at 4227 E. Madison St. (just above The Independent Pizzeria).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

From cupcakes to salads

Madison Valley gets a healthier alternative

We categorically state that there is nothing like it on the local scene:  a custom-made-salad shop. New York Cupcakes, which called it quits in August, was replaced in its former Madison Valley location yesterday by Seattle Salads, which has a much different vibe from its predecessor. Out is the red-velvet cupcake and in is the quinoa/walnut/goat cheese salad.

Founder and salad developer Desirae Rabe says she's been perfecting her product for the past 18 months or so, working street fairs---such as Queen Anne's---and getting great feedback from a growing fan base.

Now she's ready to put down some roots, and she's chosen Madison Valley for her first store.  She says that custom-salads are very much a big deal in other parts of the country and it's about time for Seattle (and our area of town in particular) to get in line with this "healthy, quick and fun" lunch option.

While there are some pre-made salads for those quickly on the go, most of the salads available will be made-to-order, either with the customer choosing the greens, toppings, and dressing, or from a select list of tried-and-true combinations (such as lime/peanut, strawberry/mint, or mandarine/sesame).  Soups are also going to be on the menu.

One of the best pieces of news for those busy salad lovers who don't have time or the inclination to make the trek to Madison Valley is the fact that you can get your salad delivered!  Seattle Salads already does delivery throughout Seattle.

You can check out all Seattle Salads' details on their website here.  Note that the shop's hours are Monday-Friday, 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm (and not as currently listed on the webage).

The gang's on site and ready to serve you.  And, as you can see, it's a fun group (that's Desirae in the middle):

[Seattle Salads is located at 2711 E. Madison St. Lower photo courtesy of Seattle Salads.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tully's to close Monday

In bankruptcy, Tully's will shut "unprofitable" location here

As we reported on our Facebook page this afternoon, Tully's Chapter 11 bankruptcy, announced earlier today, has implications for coffee drinkers in Madison Park.  Sunday will be the last operating day for our neighborhood Tully's.  It is one of eight Seattle-area stores that the company will be closing, according a story in the online edition the Puget Sound Business Journal.  Tully's has been struggling financially for many years (indeed, its ultimate demise has been assumed in some quarters for much of the company's twenty-year history).  Tully's Chapter 11 filing does not mean that the company is going under, however, since a reorganization plan will be developed while the company is in bankruptcy. If the plan is acceptable to the creditors and the court, Tully's will likely emerge in a somewhat slimmed down form. But Madison Park will clearly not be part of Tully's future, whatever that might be.

Though it might have been journalistically correct to enter Tully's this evening to interview the staff and patrons about their reactions to the bankruptcy, we decided that would be gauche.  It's hard, however, not to think about the employees now losing their jobs, as well as those Tully's aficionados who will in future have no coffee-house alternative to Starbucks in the neighborhood. 

Columnist Knute Berger once claimed to see Madison Park as a neighborhood divided along a Starbucks vs. Tully's fault line:

"Starbucks and Tully's are locally founded chains...One is much like the other. But the difference in feel between these two cafes is marked...Tully's embodies some kind of older, village version of Madison Park. Starbucks seems to bustle like a cross between a busy ski lodge and a place where people in office-casual dress take meetings. The Starbucks and its customers seem a little more groomed, more LA, more SUV. Tully's is a bit more neighborly, relaxed. It's old tennis shoes versus the tennis club."

With Tully's gone, how are we going to differentiate ourselves now?

[Tully's is located at 4036 E. Madison Street.]

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thinking about buying local

Commentary by Bryan Tagas

For literally years after the demise of our local bookstore, Madison Park Books, hardly a month went by without someone bemoaning the loss of this neighborhood treasure. "How could it be allowed happen?" people asked.  "Can't something be done?"  Even now, there is a group dedicated to finding a way to bring back a bookstore to Madison Park, though even those involved recognize that the economics just don't work. The bookstore closed because too few people were interested in buying their books locally when such convenient alternatives presented themselves:  the big-box stores such as Barnes & Noble and, perhaps more to the point, Amazon.  Independent book sellers can only survive in this new world by having a substantial and loyal audience willing to buck the tide.  It can happen (witness Elliott Bay Books, now on Capital Hill), but it didn't happen here. There were just not enough customers left for Madison Park Books to remain viable in the face of competition and rising rents.

Though some Madison Parkers feel that local landlords should effectively subsidize marginal neighborhood businesses with below-market rents, this is not the way the free enterprise system works.  Businesses must compete successfully or they will fail.  For Madison Park shop owners, this means having a loyal local client base, since each year Madison Park seems to be less of a destination shopping neighborhood.  I've previously quoted Lola McKee, the community's longtime doyenne, as saying that the way things are going down here, Madison Park will be soon known only as a place where you can get a good meal, have your hair done, or cash a check.  It could come to that.

For those of us who care about preserving the elements that make Madison Park great, however, let's remember that the our local shops are part of the ambiance, vitality, and convenience of the neighborhood.  Without them, something irretrievable will be lost, and Madison Park will be a lesser place.  My purpose here is simply to point out that fact, since it can be easily overlooked.

My personal ephiphany came in a kind of pleasantly jarring way while I was standing in line at Madison Park Hardware one day a couple summers ago. I may have been holding a  lightbulb in my hand (or perhaps it was a container of slug bait) when one of my mouthy neighbors suddenly yelled across the store from some back aisle: "Gee, Bryan, if all you're going to do is come down here to buy your emergency items, this place is never going to make it!"  Though hardly a cross-in-the-sky moment, the jesting words of my neighbor got me thinking: if we  want neighborhood shops in Madison Park for their convenience, we better make sure to patronize them every time we can. Or they may end up going the way of Madison Park Books.

As a banker I am not protectionist, believing that people should have the ability to make free choices about what they buy and where they buy it.  Sometimes convenience means ordering on the internet, and sometimes getting the best price means buying from one of those box stores.  But if what you want is available here in the Park and you choose to get it elsewhere, just remember that there are implications to your decision. The continued existence of many area businesses depends on people choosing to "buy local" and promote the economic health of our community.

Something to think about.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Martha Harris loses long struggle with cancer

Columnist Patti Payne reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal online this evening that Martha E. Harris, owner of Madison Park's Martha E. Harris Flowers and Gifts, has died.  Harris, who founded her eponymous business in her garage 30 years ago, later opened a shop in the University Village, moving it to Madison Park in the following decade.  She has been an important business leader, advocate for animal rights and pet adoption, and--for the last nine years--a courageous fighter against cancer.  She was honored this summer with an event at the Sunset Club, which raised $185,000 in her name for the Swedish Medical Center.

Patti Payne's story can be found here.  She reports that there will be a memorial service for Martha Harris next Friday at 1 pm at the Seattle Children's Theatre.

Saturday Update:  There is a complete obituary of Martha Harris on the Seattle Times' website here.

[Photo by Patti Payne, PSBJ.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

City’s new small-lot rules not relevant here

Acting in response to citizen complaints about out-sized houses being built on tiny residential lots, the City Council recently passed “emergency” legislation that puts a moratorium on certain kinds of property development until the Council studies the problem and comes up with a new set of permanent regulations.  It doesn’t appear, however, that the either the temporary rules now in place for small lots or the new ordinance, when it’s eventually passed, will have much if any impact on the course of residential development here in Madison Park.

What the Council’s action does is establish a short-term height limit of 22 feet for single-family residences newly built on small residential lots.  To qualify to construct a house of this height (equating to two stories), the lot must contain at least 2,500 sq. ft. That’s about half the lot size of most residential properties in Madison Park.  Lots that are smaller than 2,500 sq. ft. will not qualify for construction of a multi-story residence at this time—with one huge exception.  If there’s already a house on the property, the owner may renovate or add space to the property or even build a second dwelling unit (a “backyard cottage”) on it, so long as other code requirements (such as set-back, height-restriction and lot coverage rules) are met.  The height restriction in Madison Park is generally 30 feet (three stories).

It doesn’t appear that Madison Park has any tiny unbuilt-on properties that fit into the grandfathered “legal nonconforming lot” category that the city council in now trying to better control. It’s difficult to identify such properties, since they are primarily lots that are not platted or specifically designated in property records, even though they exist as separate tax parcels on the city’s rolls.  Certain developers have been scouring public records in order to identify, buy, and develop these “off the grid” properties in a way that “creates housing that is not compatible with neighboring single family houses,” in the words of Councilmember Richard Conlin.

Other Seattle neighborhoods---including Queen Anne, Greenwood, Wallingford and even Laurelhurst---have been seeing this kind of development over the past few years; and it has provoked outrage by many surrounding property owners who suddenly discover that what had always been a neighbor’s side yard or backyard is now the construction site of a new three-story house.  Conlin cites an example of such a house being built on a lot of only 1,050 sq. ft.  A website,, initiated earlier this year to chronicle this kind of development, shows 61 examples of houses supposedly built on legal nonconforming lots.  The list is entitled “Homes that are driving Seattle neighborhoods nuts.”

This house in Ravenna was "wedged" into a sideyard

The Seattle Weekly, which covered this topic in July, may have provided a catalyst for the city council to take its action.  Focusing principally on the efforts of Dan Duffus and his Soliel Development company, the Weekly came down squarely against the developer’s “rampant exploitation of an obscure zoning loophole.”  Various neighbors of Duffus’s developments cried foul in the article, stating that the character of their neighborhoods was being changed by this unwelcome, nonconforming style of squeezed-in housing.  Duffus, who claimed he was adding the City’s housing stock by building energy efficient houses on legal lots, was unapologetic for doing so.  But the council in September officially took a dimmer view of his actions.  A new ordinance dealing with these small lots will be researched, written and proposed to the council sometime next Spring.

This is a sideyard development in Fremont

Madison Park has a mix of residential zoning, including three kinds of low-rise multi-family family housing areas, along with both SF 5000 and SF 7200 residential development areas.  These single-family designations mean that the standard lot size for these areas will be either 5,000 or 7,200 sq. ft.  In fact, many if not most Madison Park lots are much smaller than zoning would now require.  That’s because the neighborhood—like most in Seattle—was developed before the principal zoning laws came into effect in 1957.   There are multiple tiny lots in the neighborhood, though it appears that all of these already have residential structures on them and would therefore not fall under the prohibitions of the new small-lot ordinance.  But we can’t know for sure.  Somewhere, a separate tax parcel may be hiding out there just waiting for development.

As we have discussed in past columns, many Madison Parkers are upset with the kind of development that is taking place in the neighborhood. Large, boxy modern structures are replacing quaint cottages and in their opinion the idealized “village” character of Madison Park is slowly being destroyed.  But looking at most of the small-lot examples of houses that are supposedly driving other Seattle neighborhoods “nuts”, it seems that for the most part the construction elsewhere is not that different from much of the much of the construction underway here.

In Madison Park, at least in terms of the size and style of new housing, “nonconforming” and “incompatible” are more the norm than the exception.  New small-lot rules will certainly not change that reality.

[Photos of houses in other neighborhoods courtesy of  Photo of 2032 41st Avenue E., courtesy of Redfin.]