Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The latest in public art

It's bright, it's colorful, and we've heard rumors (unsubstantiated) that it even lights up at night. But what exactly is it and why is it there?  The new yellow and green lamp post in front of the Villa Marina building at 43rd and E. Madison seems to be a bit of a mystery.

The building's owners were not forthcoming when we quizzed them; so unfortunately all we can report, in case you've missed it, is the installation of an entirely new piece of art at a very prominent location in the neighborhood.

Judge for yourselves.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do we want to claim another bank?

Madison Valley touts arrival of new bank office

Madison Park, which is already the home to an ever-expanding banking sector, could soon make the claim (assuming we wanted the notoriety) that we are home to six separate banking operations. Sound Community Bank earlier this month opened a loan production office at 3101 E. Madison St. That's technically within the boundaries of Madison Park, as defined by the Madison Park Community Council and our local business association, which draw the border between us and Madison Valley at Lake Washington Boulevard. The new Sound Community location (across from Pagliacci Pizza) is just inside that line.

We note, however, that Madison Valley's recently revamped website takes the credit for having the new banking operation as part of its community---and we suspect that many Madison Parkers are perfectly willing to let Madison Valley have it.  When Key Bank arrived in our neighborhood in 2011 the move was more than a bit controversial, and the presumed arrival of HomeStreet Bank later this year means Madison Park will soon have five full-service bank branches to choose from. Sound Community's operation will be not be on that scale, however: just a couple of loan officers and no teller windows. But there will ultimately be an ATM, according to Sound Community's president, who we happened to meet at a recent banking event.  (The Bank, by the way, believes it has located its new office in Madison Park, according to its website.)

In other news of Madison Valley we note that that neighborhood's longtime home-decor and accessories store, Vertiables, closed up shop and consolidated its operations into its Bellevue location this month. Veritables had been a Madison Valley mainstay for over 20 years.  Meanwhile, Functional Health Chiropractic & Massage, has been revamped, renamed and relocated up the street to Capitol Hill (2014 E. Madison St.). As Vida Integrated Health it is offering many more services in a much bigger space.

We don't know what might ultimately fill these two empty Madison Street storefronts. But we do know that the space Bill the Butcher vacated last year (2911 E. Madison St.) is about to become a new home furnishings store called Koselig KD3.  No details and no anticipated arrival date are known (at least to us) at this time.

No, no, THIS is the weekend 520 will close

For some reason, WSDOT decided not to close 520 last weekend as had been scheduled for many many weeks. That decision made liars out of those of us in "The Media" who faithfully reported that the bridge would be shut down for construction. WSDOT had confirmed that fact up until about 10 hours before the closure was scheduled to take place.  The ostensible reason given for the reversal was "expected inclement weather."  We wonder what they had originally been assuming about the weather in the Puget Sound in March (or for that matter what they think is going to be different this weekend). After all, these are not out-of-state contractors (or out-of-state bureaucrats, for that matter).

Anyway, the bridge is supposed to be closed this weekend, 11 pm Friday until 5 am Monday.  We'll see.

[Above, a WSDOT-supplied photo of a likely March day on Lake Washington.]

Thursday, March 14, 2013

February Police Blotter

Another quiet month in the neighborhood

For reasons unknown (and in order not to jinx the situation we won't speculate) criminal activity--at least as reported to the police--was virtually non-exist during the month of February.  Here's the rundown:  one house break-in, one car prowl, two incidents of credit card fraud or theft, and one threatening situation.

The lone reported house break-in occurred on February 4 on the 1900 block of Parkside Drive in Broadmoor.  The homeowner reported to police that during the previous night, while she and her family were at home, someone had apparently entered the house and removed her wallet from her purse, which she had left in the kitchen. She admitted that she may have left the kitchen door open, and police found no evidence of a forced entry.

The red exclamation-point icon on the map above designates the location of the threat incident that occurred at the Madison Park Chase branch on February 21. According to the police report, that morning a customer had became irate when he learned that his sibling, with whom he had a joint bank account at Chase, had transferred money out of the account.  The customer reportedly threatened the bank employee who had given him this news, stating that he planned to return to the branch with a gun. The customer did not, in fact, follow through on this threat, which Chase reported to police seven hours later just to put the incident on record.

SR 520 closed this weekend

It's a regular ritual: periodically closing 520 so that construction to widen the roadway on the Eastside can proceed unencumbered.  This weekend the contractor will be shifting the eastbound lanes between Evergreen Point Road and 92nd Avenue NE, opening up space between the eastbound and westbound lanes for construction.

The route will be closed from 11 pm on Friday until 5 am on Monday.  Details are available here.

[Photo courtesy of WSDOT.]

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The 2012 real estate market in context

Home sales were up, but prices were down slightly

At about this time last year we declared that Madison Park's real estate market was "beyond stabilized." In the previous year, 2011, prices of sold homes were on the increase and the total number of sales in the neighborhood represented a significant improvement over the immediately prior years. But while home sales continued to increase in 2012, there was not a corresponding uptick in sale prices.

Though the sale of single-family residences was flat in 2012 (78 sales in both years), the condo market heated up last year (36 sales in 2012 versus 23 the previous year). Overall, home sales in Madison Park (Washington Park and Broadmoor included) totaled 113 in 2012, a 12% improvement over the 101 homes sold in 2011.

The median sales price of houses, however, actually declined slightly, from $1,252,000 in 2011 to $1,228,000 in 2012. And the average price per square foot of the houses that sold in 2012 showed a marginal decline to $402.10:

The average price of condos sold in 2012 was $535,301, down from $564,725 in 2011, but the size of the average sold condo was also smaller year over year. Nevertheless, the average price per square foot declined to $410.83 in 2012 from $421.17 in 2011.

As always, there were differences in how the three sections of Madison Park performed in 2012. Interestingly, the least exclusive area of the neighborhood (that would be everything other than Broadmoor and Washington Park) showed a strong increase in both sales activity and the median-value of houses sold:

Broadmoor, meanwhile, experienced a both a decrease in total sales (12 versus 19 the previous year) and a slight decline in the median value of those sales:

And Washington Park was also off in both categories:

This, however, is where we always add a cautionary note. These values are based on the houses that actually sold during the year and may (or may not) be representative of the change in value for other homes in the neighborhood (both those currently on the market and those not for sale).  For a neighborhood this small and diverse, it is much harder to extrapolate values from sales data than is true for other markets such as Capitol Hill, for example. Just ask an appraiser.

Here's some information that many will find more comforting. It comes from Zillow, which provides a monthly analysis of neighborhood home values based on sales data. This is what Madison Park's trend line looks like as of the end of February 2013 (unfortunately, Broadmoor is not included in our neighborhood for Zillow's purposes):

Click to enlarge

The Zillow Home Value Index, shows that between March 2012 and now, the median value of a house here was up 9.4%. If Zillow's methodology is to be believed, this neighborhood is actually doing quite well.

[Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate--Madison Park for her help in compiling the 2012 sales statistics.]

Monday, March 4, 2013

Red Onion's Longtime Owner Dies

Several readers contacted us to report that two weeks ago Lyle Johnson, who for almost 40 years owned and operated the Red Onion Tavern, passed away.  He was 82.

Services will be held tomorrow at the Grace Lutheran Church (Bellevue) at 1 pm.  The Red Onion, which is still in the family, will be holding a remembrance of Lyle Johnson's life from 1 until 5 pm on Saturday, March 9.

The Seattle Times obituary, which provides some additional background, is available here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What's new (or upcoming)

New coffeehouse enters the scene (but in Madison Valley)

Those missing the old neighborhood Tully's and wishing to find a replacement might do well to check out the Harbour Pointe Coffeehouse, which opened its doors a couple weeks ago in a location (2818 E. Madison St.) where several other coffee shops had earlier failed. Proprietor Zander Natallanni describes his venture as a "European-style coffeehouse that has enough food to fall between the restaurant/bistro category, yet specializes in coffee and select loose-leaf teas."

Zander with employee and patron

The menu includes house-made pizza and eight varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches (including build your own), as well as soups and salads. There's also breakfast, pastries, and a gluten-free menu.

Natallanni tells us that he's planning to have an open-mic night every Wednesday, offer board games for patrons on Thursdays, and---"for a small fee"---provide baby-sitting services (up to 2 1/2 hours) for parents wanting a date night at another area restaurant "preselected by us."  Upcoming: a delivery service to homes and businesses in the general area.

This is Harbor Pointe's second location (the original is at Harbor Pointe in Mukilteo). The mission statement for both is to serve quality food and drinks while providing "an atmosphere at fosters community development," according to Natallanni. "We are community driven and therefore our business model isn't based on how much money we make but how much we plug into the community and give back or bring to it."

Clearly, though, making some money wouldn't be a bad thing for Madison Valley's Harbor Point Coffeehouse, given the history of this particular space.

Planning a party?  Brooke can help!

Madison Park's Brooke Westlund, who has been enjoying a good measure of success as a local artist, is adding another talent to her resume: professional host. She and friend Tanja Nyeholt recently started a business--swah:rey--designed to remove the burdens on a party's actual host by taking on the "little things," tasks such as greeting guests at the door, taking peoples' coats, getting the drinks, serving food, and cleaning up afterwards.

swah:rey is willing to do much more than that, however, including planning the whole event. If the need is deciding the menu, organizing the catering, renting party accessories, setting up a bar, or developing custom cocktails, Brooke and Tanja are ready to fill the breach. "Pretty simple," says Brooke, "it's basically custom high-end service."


The Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum opened today with a Shinto Blessing and a First Viewing.  Next Sunday, March 10, visitors to the Japanese Garden will have the opportunity to see Autumn Impressions, a juried show of 13 photographers' views of the Garden as captured in the October 2012 Photography Workshop.  The event begins at 1 pm and the photographers represented will be present (admission is free).

Inner Renewal and the Healthy Path, located in Arboretum Court, will be presenting a concert of vibrational healing with traditional Nepalese singing bowls at 7 pm on March 10.

Cafe Parco has an upcoming Washington Wine event on March 22, featuring Guy Harris of Cru Selections (Woodinville).  By the way, the restaurant recently got some favorable coverage for its brunch menu from a Seattle food blogger.

[Japanese Garden photo by matunos on Flickr.]