Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's the story?

Former Tully's site languishes

It's been almost ten months since Tully's abandoned its Madison Park location in a downsizing move last October.  And it's five months since the Madison Park Blogger reported that HomeStreet Bank would be opening a branch in the space.  Yet to date, about the only thing that's happened to the building is the addition of some graffiti.

One of the most-asked questions we hear is, "What's up with that Tully's space anyway?"  So we decided to see if we could get an answer from HomeStreet.  Karen Brandvick-Baker of the Bank's corporate communications department responded as follows:  "We do not announce potential new branch locations until we have received approval to open the branch. The location has not yet gone through that process."

In the meantime, presumably the Bank is paying rent on the lease, which was rumored to have been $10,000 per month or more when Tully's held the space.  So it may be an expensive waiting game for HomeStreet, which recently announced it's buying small banks in Seattle and Yakima.  Those purchases also require regulatory approval.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

This 'n that

Fat Salmon makes landfall

The 350 swimmers participating in the 14th Fat Salmon Open Water Swim arrived on Madison Park beach yesterday morning after successfully completing a cold swim (with or without wetsuits) over a 3.2-mile course which began at the I-90 floating bridge. Participants were required to be able to swim the distance in under two hours (laggards would be pulled from the water if they didn't accomplish that mission). The first swimmer from the first wave arrived in well under 90 minutes (that's her in the wetsuit above), and as far as we know no one had to be pulled. The event is sponsored by the Green Lake Aqua Ducks, and winners in each category were awarded (eventually, since there was a delay in determining the race results) a big fat salmon.

Sewage leak in Canterbury?

On Friday we posted a link on our Facebook page to a KIRO-TV story with the provocative heading "Sewer Detectives Search Madison Park for Sewage Leak." KIRO's photo (above) shows the vehicle of a Seattle Public Utilities team at 40th and E. McGraw that was investigating which residence, precisely, is responsible for an increase in fecal coliform in the Lake. The detected increase  is not sufficient to cause an immediate health hazard, the homeowner responsible will have to pay for repairs to the residence's connection to the sewer system.

There is no increase in fecal coliform levels at Madison Park beach, which is a long way from the suspected leak area (which has, according to KIRO, been pinpointed to a two-block radius of Canterbury).  As of Monday, King County was reporting fecal coliform levels of virtually zero at the Beach.  No worries.

Madison Park eatery a 'gem'

The current issue of Seattle Magazine has a nice little review of Madison Kitchen, which is described as a place with "seductive", "unexpectedly good" and "knockout" items on the menu. In what was an overall laudatory commentary, the only negative note was a ding at the "sometimes standoffish service."  Bottom line:  "It's worth it.  The place is a gem."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rabid bat found on our beach

A sick bat was discovered in the sand at the Madison Park beach earlier this week, prompting the King County Public Health Department to issue a rabies alert this afternoon, after the bat was tested positive for the disease. Rabies is contracted through a bite, but anyone (and any pet) having had contact with the animal should be tested. Information is available on the KCPHD site here.  It is critical that testing occur quickly, according to KCPHD spokesman James Apa, since it is possible to successfully treat the disease in the early stages.  Once symptoms occur, however, the outlook is "pretty bleak" he told us.

According to the department's press release, "The bat was spotted by a beachgoer in the shade of a tree, at the south end of the beach, on Monday afternoon. A lifeguard reported it to his managers and Public Health."

Keeping up

Eaglet soars: Several blog readers reported seeing the Broadmoor eagles in flight with their offspring over the weekend (we and our camera, unfortunately, were late to the party).  But never fear, Montlake photographer and bird watcher Larry Hubbell took many excellent shots of the eaglet in flight on Saturday and posted them on his blog, Union Bay Watch, to be enjoyed by those of us who missed out.

Music in the Park:  The line up for the summer concert series has been announced. This almost-every-Thursday-evening-in-August musical experience, which has become a popular summer tradition, features the same line up as last year's: Two Scoops Combo on August 8, Jonathan Kingham on August 15, Gin Creek on August 22, and The Side Project on August 29. The music will begin promptly at 6:30 and end at about 8 pm. The concerts, which are free, take place in the grassy area of the park and are sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association.

Best Buds moving on:  The colorful neighborhood flower shop with its quaint red English phone booth out front will be abandoning its space at the end of this month. But Best Buds is not shutting down, it is simply going to begin a new life around the corner in the lower level of Cafe Parco (1807 42nd Avenue E.).

In the new location the shop will be more about cut flowers and less about plants for the garden, so we're told.  This move is apparently a win-win-win situation for Best Buds (which is happy to be vacating its current space), Cafe Parco (which was not making good use of its lower level), and restaurant-building owner Karen Binder (who gains another paying tenant).  Perhaps it's not a win for the red-phone-booth owner, however, since the soon-to-be vacant location is just too tiny to accommodate another bank.

Italian cooking comes to Madison Valley:  They're working away diligently on renovating the interior space of what for many years was La Cote (2811 E. Madison St.).  As we reported in June, the French bistro is being replaced by Bar Cantinetta, which is an offshoot of the very-well-received Wallingford-based Cantinetta. We've been told that the Madison Valley incarnation will be a more intimate affair (there's not much space, after all) and will feature small plates. The signs in the windows say the new place will be open in August. To this point the owner has been less than forthcoming about his plans, but perhaps as we get closer to the opening...

Bing's shakes things up:  There's a revamped website, new menu items, a seven-days-a week Happy Hour (3-6 pm), a Kid's Happy Hour (50% off all kids' items, M-F, 3-5 pm), gluten-free items on the menu, Bottomless Mimosas during brunch on weekends, and a new price point for many offerings, including the $8 Signature Burger during Happy Hour, that are all part of the new Bing's experience, says owner George Marshall. Details are available on the website and on Bing's Facebook page here.

Restaurant Bea closes:  Owner Kate Perry announced on the restaurant's Facebook page yesterday that Restaurant Bea is no more. This is the third well-received and highly-rated (but ultimately unsuccessful) restaurant to occupy the same Madrona space (1423 34th Avenue E.).  Cremant was first in the series, followed shortly thereafter by June. This three-strikes development is sad for foodies, for Madrona, and for the people who tried hard to make their dreams come alive.  We were fans.

[Eagle photo by Larry Hubbell.]

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A perfect day for a little fun

For those not content to just sit on the beach and enjoy the fabulous day, there were multiple opportunities yesterday (and each within walking distance) to share the spirit of the summer with other like-minded revelers.

Madison Valley staged a very successful second incarnation of its Bastille Bash, celebrating the French holiday with food, drink, song, and (at least for some) a certain esprit.

Organizers would certainly have preferred to have blocked off E. Madison Street for the afternoon, given the size of the crowds.

But no one seemed to be particularly constrained by this impossibility, and the drivers who may have been mildly inconvenienced by the event seemed to take things in stride.

In addition to the food and wine, there were cooking and gardening demonstrations, street performers, and, of course entertainment on the main stage.

Vin Voleur performs

Vive la France!

Further down the street, earlier in the afternoon, dad, mom and the kids (not to mention a few grandparents and dogs) enjoyed a sunny, slow stroll down Madison behind a fire truck. The occasion was, of course, the traditional and popular Children's Parade.

The destination is always the same for these parades, but no one ever complains about it.  The fire truck safely delivered everyone to the park...

where, after completing their not-too-challenging trek, parade-goers enjoyed a complementary chow-down.

All in all, it was a pretty great day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

June Police Blotter

Before we get into an overview of June's criminal activity, here's something we think readers may be interested in.  It comes from Madison Park resident Beth Gold:

"On July 1, my Toyota land cruiser was hit by a White Jetta on the corner of 41st and E. Mcgilvra Blvd. and it was a hit and run.  Amazingly, despite the significant damage to my land cruiser, the Jetta was able to drive away. According to several witnesses, they saw a young blonde female driver drive onto the roundabout on 41st, then on the sidewalk, endangering pedestrians for a ways, and then left.  Unfortunately, none of the witnesses managed to get any part of a license plate.  The police were called and came to my house and they said that a few cars were sent out to look for her, to no avail.

My neighbor has a video camera and I have the video of the accident but it is impossible to see the tag. I called the police and told them there is a clear shot of the tag on the car, but the photo needs to be enlarged and cleared up to be able to see it.  The police told me that if I could do that, it would be great and I should feel free to send that information to them to add to the file!!  I told him that I thought the police were supposed to do that and he chuckled and said 'no.'  Oops, my mistake, I thought the police cared about solving crimes….."

Beth asked us to talk to the police about this, which we did.  According to the SPD information officer, a no-injury hit and run without a substantial amount of property damage would probably not warrant a major investigation by the department since there are insufficient personnel resources.  Not knowing the details of the case, he suggested that Beth again raise the video issue with the original investigating officer just to be sure about what was communicated.  He also suggested that Beth contact her insurance company and have it take over investigating the case since it would have a financial incentive to do so. We hope Beth will let us know if any of this works!

Here's the rundown of what happened in Madison Park in June on the crime front:

There were a couple of house break-ins, one occurring in the early morning of June 4 on the 1500 block of Shenandoah Drive E. in Broadmoor. In that incident someone entered a home through an open garage door and lifted a laptop and some camera equipment from an office. The suspect, however, made enough noise to awake the homeowner, who saw the intruder run down the hallway and escape through the front door.  She called the police, who set up a containment perimeter and put a K-9 on the trail of the suspect, unfortunately without result.  No prints were found at the scene.

In the second break-in incident, which happened June 22,  a victim reported to police that his wallet and checkbook had been stolen from his office on the 4200 block of E. Madison St. A later call to his bank elicited the information that his credit card had been used for multiple purchases. He was unsure of whether the back door to the business had been left open or not, though customers, he told police, are not allowed in that area.

There were several acts of theft that occurred during the month.  Narcotics were taken from the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital sometime around June 15 in what was apparently an inside job.  A former employee may have been responsible and a detective has been assigned to this case, formally classified as "embezzlement."  On June 15 a baby stroller was stolen from the carport of a house on the 1800 block of Broadmoor Drive E., and on June 4 there was a rather strange report of a cell phone theft, which is indicated on the map above as occurring on the 2400 block of 41st Avenue E.  However, the actual theft (if there was one) happened in the Arboretum.  A police officer on regular patrol noticed a man sitting and crying on a speed bump in the Edgewater Apartment complex.  The officer immediately recognized the man as someone that had been released earlier in the day from the precinct station after his earlier arrest in the Arboretum for an unspecified offense.  The officer asked the man why he was sitting on the speed bump crying and learned that when the victim had been taken into custody he was so upset that he had left his cellphone behind.  When he went to look for it after he was released, the phone was gone.  The officer wrote up a report and provided a case number to the victim.

There was one vehicle theft during the month, which occurred on the 600 block of 32nd Avenue E. on June 4, and two vehicle break-ins, one on the 2300 block of 43rd Avenue E. on June 18 and one near the Shell station on June 22.  The yellow icon with the "x" marked bottle on the map above shows the location (the 900 block of McGilvra Boulevard E.) of a "liquor law violation" occurring on June 21.

Remember, bridge closed again this weekend

SR-520 and parts of I-405 will be off limits

There's been a lot of media hype about upcoming shut down ("It's the big one!").  Not only will the floating bridge be closed from 10 pm on Friday until 5 am on Monday, but the portion of 405 between S.E. Eighth in Bellevue and 520 will also be shut down during that period.  Work this weekend includes installation of another fish culvert, regular maintenance on the floating bridge, and the replacement of 900 "failing" concrete panels on 405.

[WSDOT photo.]

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More summer fun ahead

Bastille Bash returns to Madison Valley, July 13

Leveraging last year's successful introduction of a new tradition for the neighborhood, Madison Valley will again this year be celebrating France's La FĂȘte Nationale, better known as Bastille Day.  Although the official French holiday is July 14, Madison valley will get a head start with its Bastille Bash taking place on Saturday, July 13, from 3 until 8 pm.  Entertainment this year will include French (and not so French) music, burlesque dancers, troubadours, mimes and "street actors."  And, of course, French (and not-exactly-French) food and wine will be a highlight of the event, with "live chef demos" and wine tastings happening throughout the afternoon and evening.

This year event organizers promise a new and improved ticketing system for food and wine. Tickets will be sold online in advance (tickets are $2.50 each, sold in $10 increments, with food priced at $2.50, $5 or $7.50 per bite).  Approximately twenty food purveyors and a like number of retailers will be participating in this year's Bastille Bash, as well as 15 or so wineries, distillers, and breweries.  The full lineup is available here.  Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets here.  The Madison Valley Merchants Association is the sponsor of Bastille Bash, as well as some corporate sponsors.  Proceeds benefit the Children's Response Center.

Madison Park Days Parade and Picnic, July 13

Before you head down to the Bastille Bash you can enjoy a (hopefully) sunny outing closer to home.  Madison Park's traditional Kid's Parade, followed by a picnic in the park, will take place earlier in the afternoon of July 13.  The line-up will begin in front of the Wells Fargo branch on E. Madison St. at 11:45 am, with the parade starting sometime around noon (depending on the arrival of the fire truck, which traditionally leads the procession). The Madison Park Business Association is the sponsor of this popular event, with the local merchants contributing the food and beverages at parade's end.

Epiphany's Friday Night Concert Series in July

Madrona's Epiphany Episcopal Church (1805 38th Avenue E.) will be utilizing its campus for a Courtyard Concert Series of free music events every Friday in July.  The series begins on July 5 with the Brass Band Northwest (pictured) and continues with Jovino Santos Neto on July 12, World Jazz Trio on July 19 and The Carless Lovers on July 26.  The organizers encourage you to bring a picnic, blanket, lawn chair and any music lovers you might happen to know and come on over.  (The concerts will move indoors in the case of rain.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The good real estate news just keeps coming

Home values here continue to climb

You may have seen the recent headlines about U.S. home prices: up 12.1% year-over-year through the end of April, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index.  Seattle, meanwhile, enjoyed an almost equally robust 11.37% increase over the same period, a full 2.65% increase in April alone, according to Case-Shiller. The national and regional markets are definitely continuing their upward spiral after years of decline and stagnation.  The surge in home prices, indeed, has been so dramatic in some regions (22% in San Francisco and 21% in both Boston and Las Vegas, for example) that several analysts are already warning of a new national housing “bubble.”  Given our region’s less-robust recovery, however, no one is warning of “irrational exuberance” here—at least not that we’ve noticed.

Comparatively, Seattle is still just warming up, not overheating. Our region did not experience the market highs of many other U.S. cities, and our decline from the high was delayed relative to that of the national market. Between January 2000 and the market-high in July 2006, the 20 largest American cities as a group experienced a 106.52% increase in house values.  By contrast, Seattle (which had its market high in July 2007) saw an increase of 92.30% for the period since January 2000.  Right now, according to Case-Shiller, the 20-City Composite Home Price Index stands at 148.65 and the Seattle Index comes in at 149.05 (through the end of April, the most recent data as we "go to press").  In other words, Seattle is up 49.05% in home values during this century, slightly less than the 52.37% increase of the Top-20.  Things have generally equaled out.

But what about Madison Park?  Are we hot or are we not?  It’s bit hard to tell from the recorded home sales since the transaction numbers are too few and the homes sold each month are too different (different from each other, different from the homes sold in previous periods, and different from the overall stock of homes in the neighborhood) for any worthwhile statistic to be derived from such a small base.  But there is a third-party evaluation that does provide some insight. That comes in the form of the Zillow Home Value Index.  Though it has its detractors, the Index takes into account recent home sales in a particular geographic area and interpolates that data to create a median home value.

The Zillow Home Value Index for Madison Park currently stands at $883,500, representing a 15.6% increase year over year.  The low point for the Madison Park Index was in October 2010, when the median home value stood at $725,000.  According to Zillow, Madison Park’s market is currently rising more quickly than Laurelhurst (7.1% year over year), Madrona (13.3%), Wallingford (10.9%) and Windermere (10.7%) but less rapidly than Magnolia (17.2%), Madison Valley (18.8%), and Downtown (20.4%), just to name a few Seattle neighborhoods.

The annualized growth of Madison Park’s median-value house, according to Zillow, is 4% annualized for the past ten-year period.  That’s one of the best rates for any Seattle neighborhood (18th of 86 neighborhoods).  Of nearby neighborhoods Madrona (at 4.7%), Madison Valley (at 4.3%), the Central Area (at 4.2%) had better performance, while Capitol Hill (2.7%) and Montlake (3.4%) did worse than Madison Park in terms ten-year performance.  Leschi and Mt. Baker, each at 4%, equaled Madison Park’s growth rate.

Madison Park homeowners can take additional comfort from one of the statistics underlying the Zillow market evaluation: the median value per sq. ft. of Madison Park residences is $472, second only to Downtown ($515).

Whether or not you accept Zillow’s methodology, it’s clear that there’s an upward trend to the local market; and based on recent sales statistics there’s no good reason to suppose that this trend is about to come to an abrupt stop.  It’s a bit early for the second-quarter numbers to be evaluated, but in the month of May alone there were 20 home sales in Madison Park.  Given that there are only 39 homes currently available for sale in the neighborhood, recent sales activity implies there’s less than a two-month supply of inventory.  And the stock of for-sale housing, for the most part, is churning quickly. Of the 14 single-family residences that changed hands in May, six were sold within one week and two others within two weeks.  Five of the six condo sales in May occurred within two weeks of their initial listing.

This is a dynamic market.

[Thanks to Laura Halliday of Windermere Real Estate for providing the market statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.]