Thursday, January 31, 2013

Still expensive...


...but our neighborhood Shell no longer highest priced


A couple of years ago we ran a story in which we reported that the Madison Park Shell station (3100 E. Madison St.) had the most expensive gas in the city.  A reader recently asked us to check out the station's current standing, so we did a little investigating and uncovered the fact that our local entry has fallen in the rankings to runner-up status.

According to website Gasbuddy.com, the Madison Park Shell, at $3.899 per gallon, now has the second-highest regular-gas price in town, being beaten for top honors by another Shell station located in Ballard, which is charging an eye-popping $4.299. Interestingly, the Shell station that is closest to Madison Park geographically (the one on Capitol Hill at 17th and E. Madison), is currently charging $3.649 per gallon for regular unleaded. For the convenience of filling up in the neighborhood, therefore, those who pump Shell regular down here are paying a 7% premium over what they'd pay by driving 1.1 miles up the street to buy their gas:


Depending on your point of view, the Madison Park Shell is either outrageously gouging its customers or simply charging what the market will bear.  Convenience, after all, has a price.

In economic terms Madison Park as a gasoline-consuming market is probably a good example of the inelasticity of demand, where well-healed consumers are not influenced to reduce their buying simply because prices rise.

Or perhaps it's not that at all.  Maybe it's just lack of information. The fact is, if you only buy your gas at the Madison Park Shell station and never looked at gas prices elsewhere, you might think you were doing quite well. After all, when we ran our original story, the Madison Park Shell was charging $4.099 per gallon. Today's $3.899 represents a 5% decline since early 2011.

Incidentally, neighboring Montlake is not doing a whole lot better than we are when it comes to in-market gas prices.  Their Union 76 station is currently charging $3.799 per gallon, which places that outlet as tied for third worst on KING-TV's Seattle gas map.

Floating bridge closed this weekend


The regular drill during construction of the new SR 520 Eastside corridor and floating bridge includes periodic closings of the highway on weekends, a routine that will continue indefinitely.  We have another shutdown occurring this weekend, with traffic suspended on 520 from 11 pm on Friday until 5 am on Sunday.  Previously, the reopening time on Sunday was listed in some news sources as noon, but the timetable was later revised.

Work this weekend includes a shift of fiber optic lines for the highway's cameras and traffic information systems (presumably including the Good to Go regulators).  Also, there will be some work done on signage on the Eastside.

And while we're on the subject of 520, take note that there will be an open house from 4:30 to 7:30 pm on February 6 at St. Demetrios Church (2100 Boyer Avenue E.) to unveil the design for the west approach to the new floating bridge and provide information about the next phase of construction that will begin in the summer of 2014 (details here).


[Upper photo shows the bridge during a November 2012 closure.  Lower photo is an aerial view of construction on the Eastside at the end of the year.  Both photos courtesy of WSDOT.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fourth Quarter Real Estate Report 2012


Market goes gangbusters as year ends


To the delight of sellers and real estate agents alike, 2012 ended on a very high note with a total of 36 Madison Park homes changing hands in the final quarter.  To put this into perspective you need only compare it to the same period in the prior year, when only 27 homes were sold.  So fourth quarter 2012’s numbers actually represent a 33% uptick in sales activity year over year.  Not bad.

But the good news doesn’t end there, at least on the selling side.  Compared to Q4 2011, the discounts from original listing price were much lower in the fourth quarter (7.6% versus 13.0%) and the number of days on market for sold properties also declined (from 129 in 2011 to 92 in 2012) for single-family houses.

Before we get into the details, here’s the rundown of sales in Madison Park (Washington Park and Broadmoor included) during the quarter, as provided by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service:

Houses

Sales:  27
Median Sale Price:  $1,350,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  3,449
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $414
Average Days on Market:  92
Average Discount from List Price:  7.6%

Condos

Sales:  9
Median Sale Price:  $550,000
Average Sq. Ft.:  1,552
Average Price per Sq. Ft.:  $482
Average Days on Market:  148
Average Discount from List Price: 13.1%

Sellers clearly benefited from historically low market inventory (more on that below) and, perhaps, a confluence of other factors such as low interest rates, easier bank-mortgage underwriting, and pent up demand on the part of buyers.  Whatever the cause, however, it resulted in several cases of multiple bids and no fewer than five houses selling at their original list price or even higher.  One Madison Park home sold at list after only two days on the market.  Another home sold for a full 6.5% over list after just eight days:

Remodeling, as in this case, can improve a home's resale value

Of course this sell-for-list did not work for everyone last quarter.  The biggest discount from an original list price (34%) was taken by the owner of a Broadmoor mansion that was put on the market at $2,350,000 and sold 234 days later for $1,550,000.  The longest time on market for any sold home was 357 days. At $6,950,000, that particular Washington Park sale was by far the biggest that took place during the quarter (the next most expensive being the $2,222,500 sale of a Broadmoor house):

The view from here

The fourth quarter, with its 36 sales, was by a wide margin the best quarter last year. During the quarter the market showed a strong acceleration in activity over the usually brisker summer months, when there were just 26 sales.  It’s unlikely, however, that the acceleration can be sustained in the current quarter, the reason being the low number of homes currently for sale here.

This is how the market looked at the end of January, as reported by real estate website Redfin:

Houses

Listings:  28
Median List Price:  $1,500,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  4,200
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $357
Average Days on Market:  165
Percentage with Price Reductions:  39%
New Listings:  6
Pending Sales:  5

Condos

Listings:  13
Median List Price:  $465,000
Median Sq. Ft.:  1,041
Median Price per Sq. Ft.:  $447
Average Days on Market:  162
Percentage with Price Reductions:  43%
New Listings:  4
Pending Sales:  3

The 41 total listings appear to be a record low level.  That is just slightly more than a three-month supply of inventory, based on the fourth-quarter sales level.  Just to put that number into context, there were 102 listings at this time two years ago.  The number of new listings (last 30 days), meanwhile, is only slightly higher than the number of pending sales.  The means it’s not evident that potential home sellers are deciding to enter the market at this point.  The winter months are generally slow in this regard, so the spring listings should be a better indicator of 2013 trends.

It’s worth noting that the homes sold in Madison Park last quarter had median sales prices that were pretty much in line with the with the median listing prices for homes currently on the market.  There was a time not that long ago when the relationship between the two was less closely correlated.  In the under-heated environment of the last several years, it was strikingly evident that the more affordable houses (or at least the more affordable, given Madison Park standards) were being sold and the least affordable were languishing.  In 2010 the median list price of a Madison Park home was in the $2,000,000 range while the median sale price was in the neighborhood of $1,200,000.  Today that relationship is $1,500,000 (list) versus $1,350,000 (sell).

This listing at 489 39th Ave. E. is priced near the $1,350,000 median sale price 

Next month we will compare the Madison Park market in 2012 to that of previous years—and with regard to local real estate, at least, we will try to answer the existential question “Are we there yet?”

Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate/Madison Park for her help in compiling the sales data. Listing data courtesy of Redfin, using information from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

[Upper photo: This classic 1904 Washington Park mansion, listed at $2,995,000, is located at 627 36th Avenue E. It sits on a third of an acre and has 4,500 sq. ft. of living space. Mary Snyder is the listing agent. Photo by John McKinney, courtesy of Windermere Real Estate. Other photos courtesy of Redfin.]

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Madison Park businesses in the news


In the likely event that some of our readers are just not keeping up with other media, here's a quick survey of some local establishments that have received recent coverage:

Seattle Met's Nosh Pitt blog reported earlier this week that Cactus! just announced it's expanding to a fifth location, taking over space in Bellevue Square previously occupied by Z’Tejas.  Cactus!, began life 23 years ago at its current location in Madison Park, later adding locations in Alki, Kirkland, and South Lake Union.

Cafe Parco was chosen by readers of website Seattle Eater as one of 18 Best "Under the Radar" Brunches. The honor is slightly tarnished, perhaps, by the website's commentary that the list highlights destinations where "where the food is good, day drunkeness is welcome, and long lines are not." Cafe Parco was singled out for a "decadent brunch, French press and cocktails."

Canopy Blue was one of two Madison Park stores to be included on Seattle Magazine's "Best Shops in Seattle 2012" list, published in the December issue.  Judged "Best Women's Boutique" by the magazine, Canopy Blue was cited as "a must-stop for women hankering for casual yet elegant attire" and new owner  Danielle Ackerley was credited with bringing a "new joie de vivre" to the shop since taking over last summer.

The other local business on Seattle Magazine's list was the once-pop-up-but-now-apparently-permanent Guesthouse, which won the designation as "Best Housewares Shop."  Owner Kate Sehulster was singled out for her "eclectic finds" and the store was described as having been "wildly popular" in its initial carnation as a "pop up" last summer.

Meanwhile, down the road in Madison Valley, La Cote Creperie was the subject of a "heavenly" review posted yesterday on Seattle Weekly's Greasy Swoon blog. Describing the tiny French cafe as "uptown for the ladies who brunch Seattle style" (and not a particularly good place for the hungover), the reviewer notes that while quiche, pate, and salads are on the menu, excellent crepes are the thing.  We knew that.

[Cactus! is located at 4220 E. Madison St., Cafe Parco is located at 1807 42nd Avenue E., Canopy Blue is located at 3121 E. Madison St., Guesthouse is located at 4110 E. Madison St., and La Cote is located at 2811 E. Madison Street. The photo above was blatantly lifted from the Cactus! website.]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Arboretum rehab plan revealed


New path will replace freeway ramps


Though it's been known for almost two years that the new SR 520 project would ultimately mean the loss of the freeway's Arboretum ramps, it was only at a press conference today that  plans were revealed for what will replace them.  The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Arboretum & Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC) have reached an agreement under which $7.8 million will be spent to make Park improvements and to remove the infamous "ramps to nowhere" which were originally designed to connect with the never-built R. H. Thompson Expressway.

As a result of the agreement, a one-mile multi-use trail will be constructed in the area of the existing ramps, and several improvements will be made to Azalea Way Pond, parts of Arboretum Creek, and Foster Island.  Detailed planning for the new trail will begin this year, with construction slated for the summer of 2014---assuming that 520 construction proceeds according to schedule. The West Approach Bridge North will have to be funded and constructed before the on/off ramps to 520 can be removed and the area cleared for trail construction and the other planned Arboretum modifications.

Gonzo
This news should be particularly exciting for cyclists who currently transit the Arboretum using Lake Washington Boulevard.  According to the press release from today's announcement, "The multi-use trail is a major component of the Arboretum Master Plan, adopted in 2001. It will provide an important bicycle and pedestrian corridor connecting East Madison Street to the Montlake and University of Washington neighborhoods. Casual bicyclists will no longer have to face the hazards of car traffic on Lake Washington Boulevard to ride through the Arboretum. The new trail will also eventually link to Arboretum Drive East, forming a 2.0-mile interior bicycle-and-pedestrian “loop” in the Arboretum—a tremendous asset to Arboretum users and visitors."

Details of the new plan, which will be implemented by Seattle Parks & Recreation, are available here.

[Click on graphics to enlarge.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weekend hit and run leads to arrest


19-year-old Broadmoor woman taken into custody


A woman claiming that she had been the victim of a hit-and-run car accident was arrested by Seattle Police on Saturday after it became evident that her story didn't quite check out.  Investigating officers determined that the supposed victim was, instead, the likely perpetrator of an early-morning hit and run involving three parked vehicles at 42nd and E. Madison (two of which are shown in the photo above).

It was at approximately 1:30 am on the morning of January 20 that an unknown vehicle smashed into the three cars parked in front of Madison House Real Estate (4227 E. Madison St.). The owner of one of the cars later happened upon the scene and began his own investigation, noticing that there were car parts on the street that did not appear to have come from any of the damaged vehicles.  After using his cell phone to check part numbers against an online database, according to the police report, the victim determined that the suspect must have been driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was now missing a front bumper.

A friend of the victim agreed to drive around the neighborhood to see if he could find a car matching that description and later called the victim to state either that he had seen the car entering Broadmoor through the gate on E. Madison or he had noticed the car parked on the street inside Broadmoor (the police report is unclear). The victim's friend was reportedly told by the gate guard that he was not allowed to enter Broadmoor.  The friend also reported that the guard told him that he had not witnessed any damaged vehicles entering Broadmoor through the front gate.

Meanwhile, the police had been called to a residence in Broadmoor to investigate a report from a female resident that her car had been hit by an unknown "lady" as she was driving somewhere in the vicinity of Leschi.  The officer investigating the 42nd and Madison accident, learning that his fellow officer was investigating a hit and run involving a Jeep Grand Cherokee in Broadmoor, made the trip down the street to the gated community. He took with him the suspect bumper found at the accident site.  As it happened, the bumper fit the Jeep Grand Cherokee that had been driven by the supposed Broadmoor hit-and-run victim. This, in spite of the fact that the woman reportedly claimed to the officers that she had not collided with any cars in Madison Park.

The police report states that when the gate guard was interviewed by police he admitted that he had seen a damaged car enter Broadmoor that morning, stating that it was a "known vehicle" and that he would recognize the driver on sight. He also stated, according to the police report, that he smelled alcohol on the breath of the female driver. He volunteered to officers that he had video footage of the car returning to Broadmoor following the accident.

After further investigation, the officers placed the woman under arrest for hit and run (causing an accident and leaving the scene) and took her to the station, where she was booked.

[Photo by anonymous blog reader.]

Update to Original Posting:  The owner of the silver car in the above photo has since contacted MPB and revealed that his friend, in fact, was able to enter Broadmoor on the morning in question, for the purposes of turning his vehicle around and exiting the area (rather than having to back out from the gated entrance).  While making his u-turn, his friend, the victim states, was able to take this photo of the suspect's vehicle which had been abandoned just inside the gate area of Broadmoor.



As is obvious from the photo, the car was virtually un-driveable, which is certainly why it was abandoned by its driver at that point.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day One for Madison Kitchen


Much-anticipated eatery debuts


Passersby who were paying attention today as they ambled through the business district had the opportunity to experience the newest thing in Madison Park: Madison Kitchen.  The new coffee shop/deli/take-out place (we're undecided on the appropriate category) did a quiet "soft opening" this morning. The lucky ones were those curious enough to come in and check out the space.  For their efforts, they were rewarded with free coffee and a nice selection of complimentary fresh-baked goods (we arrived after there had been quite a run):


Proprietor/Baker/Cook Jim Goodall (that's him below) tells us that he expects Madison Kitchen to be fully functional by next Tuesday. Over the course of the next week he will gradually be introducing the full range of menu items that will ultimately be available to MK's patrons. He hopes to have soups first available, for example, this Wednesday.


Since the announcement of the new eatery was made almost three months ago, many Madison Parkers have been speculating on what the menu would include (we know they have, because a lot of them asked us about it).  So here's the answer: in addition to the baked-on-site-daily goods and the Illy Coffee (previously disclosed),  Madison Kitchen's menu will feature items such as Roasted Beets and Crispy Panko Chicken Breast, Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey Meatloaf,  (all a la carte), as well as made-to-order sandwiches (special takes on Pork Loin, Roasted Eggplant, and BLTTA, among others) and salads (one good example among many: Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild & Brown Rice, Locinato Kale, & Walnuts with Balsamic Maple Vinaigrette).  

All of that and more is available for lunch.  The breakfast menu ranges from oatmeal and granola to an egg sandwich and a daily quiche (MK's full menu is available here).

We hung around the place this afternoon long enough to get a good feel for the neighborhood's reaction. There were a lot of smiles (especially after would-be patrons discovered that everything was free on Day One), and typical was this comment (which we copied down verbatim): "We're so excited to have this in the neighborhood.  We really needed it!."

It was a two-way love fest, with Goodall telling us that just about everyone he met today seemed enthusiastic. "I came here for a reason," he said. "Madison Park is where I wanted to be and so far, everyone has been engaged and welcoming."  Hopefully, this is a good sign of things to come.

Not by way of an aside, we note that the space has been significantly upgraded from what it was in the days of Park Place Deli.  So there's much more new and improved here than just the menu. 

Come on down!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's happening



Madison Park

Madison Kitchen is virtually a reality.  When we wandered by the place on Friday we noted that construction had reached the finishing-touch stage and it was apparent that that the doors would be opening on the neighborhood’s newest eatery very very soon (like Tuesday). The new website is not quite up and running yet, but once the soft opening occurs we’ll clue you in on the specifics of the menu.

Belle Epicurean is featuring an “apr├Ęs-ski menu” in its Provisions Market during January.  The menu will include “an assortment of cheeses and brie bakers, mulling and cider spices, and Belle's own chocolate sauces and cocoa mix for warm drinks to take off the winter chill. Gift packages available in an assortment of price ranges.”  In February, the patisserie will again be hosting a complimentary wine and food tasting event every Saturday from 12 pm until 2 pm in the Provisions Market section.  There will be a special Valentine’s Day event on February 9.

By the way, Belle Epicurean changed its hours at the end of last year and is now open from 6 am until 6:30 seven days a week.

BRIGHT! Preschool has upcoming open houses (January 17, from 6:30 until 8:00 pm, and January 19, from 10 am until noon) for parents and kids to learn about the School and meet the teachers.  BRIGHT! offers a customized curriculum and Kindergarten readiness preparation for children as young as two and a half years old.

Early next month (February 1, in fact) Mad Pizza will be introducing its Winter Special Pizza, which is described as “truly out of this world” by the firm’s Creative Director. Here’s what’s on it:  a garlic olive oil base, Boat Street Pickles fig compote, goat cheese, shaved delicata squash marinated in Garlic Oil, and gorgonzola crumbles.  All of this is topped with Prosciutto when the pizza comes out of the oven.   Note also that there’s also a new “signature sandwich” on the menu: Trebbi’s Meatball.


Madison Valley


Thrive Art School, which offers art classes for kids in Madison Valley and Ravenna, is in the final stages of launching an online video program to provide children (ages 6-12) with art lessons, parent coaching videos, and online participant art portfolios, among other features.  The idea is to bring art education and activities to children who are not fortunate enough to be able to access in-classroom art programs where they live. Thrive’s founder, Theresa Harris, raised over $30,000 through a Kickstarter Project, which was backed by 236 individuals who effectively paid for the production costs of the series through their pre-orders.  Harris expects to have the videos online in February.

Vian Hunter is offering multiple design and sewing workshops beginning this month for those with a wide range of skills and interests: Sewing 101 (for beginners), Pencil Skirt Workshop (for designing and sewing the “perfect skirt”), Design and Patternmaking Workshop (for creating basic design blocks for a wide range of garments), and Young Designer Workshop (for aspiring fashion designers).

Seattle Salads last week announced that they will now deliver their full menu to addresses within a two-mile radius of their Madison Valley shop.  The hours are Monday-Friday, 11 am until 2 pm. Orders for delivery or in-store pickup can now be made at netwaiter.com. (The minimum order is $20)

Kate’s Day Spa reports that it has a Winter/Valentine’s Day special: the Rejuvenating Masque Wrap, which begins in the steam room and ends with a moisturizing massage. (Did we mention the part about the “full body application”?  Sounds intriguing.)

Inner Space Studio (Inspiring Movement for Practical Change) will again be offering its Ember Hours program in February. Here’s a brief overview of what the retreats are all about:  “Ember Hours has been offered since 2007 to help turn ideas into reality. Facilitator Margaret Sutro shakes up your beliefs about how people are ‘supposed to’ set goals.  You will learn a refreshingly fun and practical system to not just clarify and fulfill your intentions but to maintain your passion and energy along the way.”   Who wouldn't benefit from that?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

November/December Police Blotter

Criminal Activity in November


Relatively quiet (except from the victims' perspective)


The year ended on a pretty typical note crime-wise, with the number of incidents reported to the police in November and December significantly lower than the levels Madison Park generally experiences during the summer months. 

But that doesn't mean that cars were not stolen, houses were not broken into or that the kinds of weird and stupid criminal behavior that often occurs in Madison Park took a holiday as last year ended.  Here's the rundown:


Dine and Dash:  A not-too-bright scofflaw ordered, ate and then proceeded not to pay for the most expensive item on the lunch menu at Cafe Parco one afternoon in late December. The well-fed diner told the waiter that he didn't have to pay because God had told him the meal was free. The police took a dim view of the situation when they arrived on the scene. A quick background check on the suspect disclosed the fact that he was wanted under three separate felony warrants (one for escape from custody) as well as one misdemeanor warrant. The unrepentant diner was swiftly transported to the precinct station.

Harassments:  A couple of days later, a patron of The Attic, described as a large black male wearing a red Santa hat, reportedly threatened to shoot the bartender.  The police had no trouble locating the suspect at 41st Avenue E. and E. Madison St., but the clearly inebriated man resisted arrest and ultimately had to be physically restrained.  He was positively identified by the bartender (just in case there was a separate red-Santa-hat-wearing guy running around the neighborhood threatening people) and taken off to jail.

There were also a couple of harassment incidents in November, one involving telephone threats to a dental office and one involving an altercation between condo owners which resulted in threats.

Burglaries:  There were four house break-ins reported in the two-month period, a couple of them involving rather brazen behavior on the part of the perpetrators.

Sometime before November 25, a home on the 4000 block of E. Newton St. was broken into while the owners were on vacation. Upon their return that day they discovered their patio door ajar and after entering the house beheld a scene of “disarray,” according to the police report. Each room had been ransacked. A knife and “pry tool” were found in the house that did not belong to the victims, and there was evidence on an exterior door of an attempted entry .

On November 26, a home on the 2100 block of 38th Avenue E. was the subject of a forced-entry burglary sometime between 7 am and 6 pm, when the victim arrived back home and found that the back sliding door’s locking mechanism had been broken and the house quite obviously had been searched. Missing were an expensive watch, a .45” pistol, miscellaneous jewelry, a Bose stereo system, and the victim’s passport.

On November 29, at a home on the 500 block of 36th Avenue E., the owner came downstairs to go for a run at 6 am and noticed that an interior door leading to the garage was unlocked.  Investigating, she discovered that the garage door was partially opened. It was later discovered that her husband’s wallet and her purse had been stolen from the house.  Earlier that morning, at around 4 am, the homeowners had heard their dogs barking and had investigated without noticing anything amiss. Apparently the suspect left the house at that point since there was no evidence that there had been any incursion past the kitchen, where the dogs had been sleeping.  Unfortunately, both the wallet and purse had been left in the kitchen area.

On December 13 at about 4:30 am, several police cars were dispatched to the Washington Park neighborhood to investigate a report that there was a “suspicious two-door” car parked next to a vacant house in the 3400 block of E. Valley St.  The caller had told the police dispatcher of having seen two men exit the car and proceed to walk about the area (presumably, the men were as “suspicious” as their car.) The police, however, did not discover any cars or people in the area who seemed suspicious.

Probably not coincidentally, at 7:15 that morning, a report was received that a house just two blocks away from the E. Valley St. location (on the 1000 block of 37th Avenue E.) had been broken into earlier.  A patio door had apparently been drilled into just above the lock and the door opened without the homeowner hearing a sound.  The hole may have been used to slip some wire over the deadbolt, allowing entry.  Laptops, iPads, and cellphones were lifted from the inside area just a few feet from the patio door.  The victim later reported to neighbors that a purse was also stolen and the thief or thieves were sophisticated (since the GPS locators on both the iPads and the cellphones were apparently disabled after their removal from the premises).

On December 29 the dry cleaners at 3100 E. Madison St. reported that their front door had been shattered during the previous night and the store's cash box had been removed (although there had been no money in it).

Criminal Activity in December

Car prowls: Incidents occurred on the 2400 block of 41st Avenue E. on November 17, the 500 block of Hillside Drive E. on December 3, the 3800 block of E. Blaine St. on December 5, the 1600 block of 42nd Avenue E. on December 10, the 3100 block of E. Madison St. on December 21.

Car thefts:  Cars were stolen from the 3200 block of E. Madison St. on November 6, and from the intersection of 43rd Avenue E. and E. Madison St. on November 9.

Incidentally, on the map above that weird black-on-blue icon with the bolt of lightening on it (or whatever it is) represents a "reckless burning" incident which took place in the Arboretum on the day after Christmas (maybe someone disposing of Christmas wrapping paper?).

[Starburst icons show location of burglaries, car icons show incidents of car break-ins (or in the case of solid cars, a theft) and the red icons with the exclamation points show incidents of harassment.]

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The year in review: 2012


Madison Park as oasis within the urban jungle


Commentary by Bryan Tagas

You know you must be living in a pretty tame neighborhood when the biggest controversies affecting your community over the course of a year are whether an unsightly park fence should be removed and whether an out-of-scale business sign should be downsized.  Yet those were the things that got us (or rather some tiny fraction of us) agitated in 2012. Proving once again---if further proof were needed---that our little end-of-the-road enclave down here is, well, comfortably isolated.  We like it like that.

No Blood in the Water:  To the consternation of the local establishment (if our community council can legitimately be so called) and of some local condo owners, Swingset Park during the summer lost its view-blocking, blackberry-bush entwined, chain-link fence. This momentous teardown occurred only after much teeth-nashing on both sides, with the "Save Our Grandchildren" old folks ultimately losing out to the "Give Us Our Water Access" inlanders. Everyone seems to be okay with the situation now---and no kids, as far as we know, have yet been maimed on the jagged rocks the fence was supposedly protecting them from. Nevertheless, the neighborhood's reputation for civility surely took a hit (at least with certain City employees who were on the receiving end of a few inappropriately chosen brickbats). The the whole imbroglio, however, did serve a useful purpose in proving that, yes, we Madison Parkers are able to generate genuine indignation about something that is truly important to us: property values.


Sign of the Times:  Though the community council was unable to have its way on the fence issue, it did manage to score when it asked Wells Fargo to do something about the supposedly loud and obnoxious sign it had installed this summer at its branch. Our civic leaders (as well as some of the in-line-of-sight neighbors of the branch) were torqued by the bank's non-conformance with community sign standards. The large, lighted, red, orange and black sign was just not in keeping with the character of the "village" we're promoting down here.  After weeks of hesitation Wells caved and replaced the offensive sign with a much more subdued and tasteful version. Now if only the council could work its will as easily on getting Constance Gillespie's "Black Hole of Madison Park" fixed up. Talk about not conforming to community standards!


Gone But Not Forgotten:  The biggest story of the year was undoubtedly the demise of the neighborhood Tully's, which was shuttered (well, temporarily papered over) after the company declared bankruptcy in November.  It seems that the Madison Park location was just not economically viable.  The reasons for this aren't entirely clear, though high rent has been raised as a possibility.  We wonder if perhaps many of Tully's regulars might have spent a lot more time on the premises than they did money (but that's just idle speculation).  And no, we don't know what's next for the currently vacant Tully's space, though we're asked about it almost daily.



Also calling it quits last year were women's clothing store Ropa Bella, Park Place Deli, and Spa del Lago.  New to the neighborhood in 2012, however, were NW Sports Rehab, Aegis Living, and Guesthouse.




Madison Park as Crime Scene:  Every month, in order to write the blog's Police Blotter, I call up the public information officers at the Seattle police department and quiz them about various criminal incidents that took place in the neighborhood over the past month. The officers and I are often amused about what generally passes for crime in this little cul-de-sac of ours.  Yes, compared to say, Laurelhurst, our incident level is modestly high, with a fair number of car and house break-ins each month, plus a a car theft or two. But compared to the surrounding neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and the Central District, we can consider ourselves relatively crime free in Madison Park.  We experience very few of what the SPD terms "crimes against persons."  These include homicides, robberies, and assaults.

Which is not to say that we didn't have our criminal moments in the past year, usually weird ones.  Take, for example, the case of the guy who caused an altercation in the neighborhood bar, asked to have the police called, and then was promptly arrested for possession of a gun. Then there was that other strange gun incident where the students of Bush School spied a jogger running with a gun, supposedly for protection. That was the same month when someone used a beer bottle as a weapon in street brawl along E. Madison. A couple months later a suspicious man was caught carrying an illegal knife, though he had apparently didn't have time to make any use of it in our neighborhood. Not caught by police, however, was the Peeping Tom who, at least briefly this summer, made life uncomfortable for some at The Edgewater.

Also on the creepy side was the strange case of the man with a log (though that incident actually look place in the Arboretum, which was also the scene this summer of the vandalism of the Gateway to Chile plantings). And speaking of wanton distruction, a couple of  neighborhood buildings experienced serial vandalism during the year, with the Wells Fargo branch being hit numerous times by rock throwers and graffiti artists, and Constance Gillespie's building experiencing a similar fate (minus the graffiti).

Also this summer, some of us got to share in the excitement of an actual police chase, as multiple squad cars descended on the neighborhood to catch some adolescent car thieves (who when caught were promptly released to their mommies). There was also an attempted car jacking reported during the year. And then, of course, there was that other shocking crime: the theft of the parade clown's unicycle (never recovered, as far as we know).

This crime summary is not for the purpose of minimizing the impact of crime on those victims in Madison Park who experienced the theft or damage of their property (or even the terror of confrontation) during the past year. During 2012 we often reminded readers to be vigilant and take anti-crime precautions. Judging by the circumstances of some of the break-ins that occurred, however, it is clear that not everyone listened.




And the other news:  The biggest Madison Park story for nature lovers last year was the return of Eddie the Bald Eagle's mate to the nest high above Broadmoor Golf Course. It's a story first reported on this blog (thanks to that prefers-to-remain-anonymous neighbor and loyal reader who provided the first pictorial evidence).  The news was later picked up by the major media when Montlake's Larry Hubbell got some great shots  (that's his photo above) of the new couple and, later, the fledglings (who ultimately flew away--as they were fated to do).

Another big story in 2012 was the giant tree in the Washington Park enclave which bit the dust (well, the concrete) during a non-stormy evening this summer. For days, the downed tree provided quite a show for the looky-loos.

On the tragic side last year was the death, due to cancer, of longtime Madison Park businesswoman and civic booster, Martha E. Harris.

I end this review with what was probably the most impactful set of events for Madison Park that took place in 2012: the defeat of the anti-520 forces and the beginning of construction of the new floating bridge.  As Madison Park Blogger readers know (because they are well and truly informed), the new bridge will be much wider, a lot taller, and signficantly more romantic than the old one:


And that's the way it was.