Monday, January 27, 2014

Waterfront buildings to be sold

More retail space is one possible outcome

The Villa Marina building, located at 1928 43rd Avenue E., and its neighbor directly to the north were both listed for sale last week. Villa Marina is an almost-unique Madison Park property, with its mix of retail, office and residential units. In addition to the five or six apartment residents, the 1921 building is home to Park Bench Gifts, Tazo Salon and an architectural firm, Shoesmith-Cox Architects. There is also one open retail space, recently vacated by the Aegis Living sales office. The two-level, 9,300 sq. ft. wood-frame structure is listed for $4.5 million.

The property is managed by Lakeside Capital Management, whose principal, Dennis Daugs, had this explanation for selling the building at this time: "The Villa Marina property has been thoroughly and carefully upgraded over the past decade.  The property is jointly owned by a number of investors who are all getting older and have different financial goals.  My role is simply as manager of the fund and co-investor. Selling to a long-term owner who wishes to acquire this trophy asset at appraised value would be a win for all."  Daugs also notes that his building contrasts with others in Madison Park, some of which are "poorly cared for" and have "absentee owners."

Also now for sale is the building in which Lakeside has its offices (1938 43rd Avenue E.) and whose lower floor is home to IndieFlix.

This 1941 wood-frame structure contains 5,700 sq. ft. and boasts a mightly fine view from its upper-level deck:

Daugs reports that it's his intention to have Lakeside lease back the space from the new building owner. The listing agent, Kidder Matthews, notes in the listing information for the property, however, that it is "suitable for street-front retail use" and that Lakeside would be willing to vacate the space for the new owner. That raises the intriguing possibility of having another retail shop or two, or even a restaurant, in this location. The building is listed at $3 million.

The property is zoned for multi-family residential, so a new owner could choose to replace the building and go that direction.

Interestingly, Villa Marina was not the only Madison Park apartment building to go on the market last week.  A five-unit building at 633 33rd Avenue E. was also listed, with an offering price of $1,700,000.

[Middle photos courtesy of Kidder Matthews.]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Whither our empty storefronts?

Neighborhood's retail vibrancy takes some hits

Those who care about the longterm health of Madison Park's business district no doubt shudder when contemplating the possibility that any more retail spaces might go the sad way of our community's notorious Black Hole---that tumble-down, two-out-of-three-shops-empty building at the very heart of what old-timers here term "The Village:"

The departure of Tully's, Best Buds, and Mad Pizza have each resulted in unfilled spaces that are definite detractors to neighborhood ambiance. Meanwhile, the recent exit of the Aegis sales office in the Villa Marina building on 43rd creates another retail space that could (but we understand won't) go begging.

As previously reported, a HomeStreet Bank branch will ultimately be replacing Tully's; and however one might feel about Madison Park as a banking hub, having another bank inserted into our midst at least gives us the advantage of swapping a boarded-up, hangdog building  for a newly refurbished one.

But the former Mad Pizza location (shown at the top) and original Best Buds site (above) are certainly looking a bit forlorn these days (or even perhaps vandalized, in the case of the latter).  The Mad Pizza space is in the building that also houses Marshall's Cleaners, whose owners, we understand, are also the landlords.  If the newly empty space is being marketed, however, it is not evidenced by any "for lease" signs; and the former fast-food store's interior is something less than market ready.  Our attempts to get a comment from the building's owners was not met with immediate success.

Down the street, Best Buds moved out of its one-time-travel-office location on E. Blaine and into the basement of Cafe Parco last summer. Though several parties have apparently expressed interest in the old space, no deal has apparently been struck. The most recent rumor we heard involved a taco stand.  (Cafe Parco, incidentally, reclaimed its downstairs space for use as a dining room when Best Buds closed shop last month.)

That leaves us with the former Aegis office space, where we can report some good news. We've learned that coming soon to this location will be an infrared sauna and deep massage therapy center (or something along those lines).  More on this later.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ice-melt deluge to inundate Madison Park

Only parts of Washington Park expected to remain

Madison Park will definitely be underwater, for the most part, if global warming takes the ultimate toll on this fragile earth, causing all of the world's ice sheets to melt. That, at least, is one of the interesting conclusions of UW Planner Jeffrey Linn, who has created an intriguing map of Seattle showing the effects of a 240-foot rise in the level of the world's oceans. By expert consensus, apparently, the additional volume of liquid H20 created by the ultimate ice melt would have that mega-impact. We are indebted to our friends at the neighboring Capitol Hill Seattle blog for pointing us to this eye-opening conclusion. They, of course, presented their story in more of a celebratory manner than we can muster, since Capitol Hill will survive the flood while most of us in Madison Park will be like the polar bears, swimming about futilely.

The denizens of the upper portions of Washington Park, some of whom may already feel themselves among the elect, will simply be reinforced in this opinion by Linn's conclusion that much of Washington Park is simply too exalted to be wiped out by the grand deluge.  More than 240-feet above the current sea level and you become an island.  Below that, you are simply part of a great new inland waterway (Lake Washington itself having been subsumed).

Linn, who disclaims on his website that his efforts have anything to do with his role as a planner at the University, reports that he got the idea of looking at what the ice melt would do to Seattle by reading the blog of someone in San Francisco who had performed the same exercise for that city.  Most of the folks down there, we suspect, have something more immediate to brood about than what might happen to them when the waters rise.

Anyway, in case you are wondering about whether to sell up and move to Capitol Hill in anticipation of The Ultimate Flood (or are perhaps just worried about the impact on your house's value due to unwarranted public disclosure of its future underwater prospects), rest easy. Linn says that his on-line research suggests that we've still got about 5,000 years. Plenty of time for us to damn up the Ship Canal.

[Check out the complete Seattle deluge map here.]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Waterfront project riles some neighbors

Shoreline permit application under review 

The owners of the only Madison Park house that actually sits in Lake Washington have filed an application to build a three-story, six-unit apartment building on the dry-land portion of their property at 2346 43rd Avenue E., north of Swing Set Park. Their 2,600 sq. ft. single-family home, built in 1947, sits over water on pilings near the shoreline and is connected to land by a narrow wood walkway.

The lot covers 16,053 sq. ft., only about a quarter of which is dry land, and is 38 feet wide.  Owners Amanda and Matt Rosauer propose keeping the house as is and demolishing their carport, which fronts the sidewalk on 43rd, to accommodate the new multi-family structure.  Below-grade parking is planned for the six new residential units.

The new building, designed by E. Cobb Architects, Inc., will be a LEED-certified, modernistic, concrete/stained- wood/coated-metal structure rising as high as 40 feet above the street level on one side, including the roof enclosure with its stair/elevator access and rooftop planters. The proposed apartments will range in size from 615 to 1050 sq. ft. The final design of the building will ultimately depend on which of three proposed footprints the City approves for the project, ranging from 1,753 sq. ft. to 2,247 sq. ft., depending on the size of required setbacks. Setbacks are the spaces between the property lines and the structure. Two of the three design alternatives require setback “adjustments” (meaning exceptions to City code) on either the south side, or on both sides of the property.

The Rosauers’ application for a Shoreline Substantial Development permit was submitted in early December, prompting several neighboring property owners to register objections. The height of the building, the potential impact on neighborhood parking patterns, and the size and density of the project relative to views are the neighbors’ principal objections.

“This street/area is already overcrowded with multiple dwellings [and] finding a parking spot is difficult,” says one neighboring homeowner in a letter to the City. “This proposed project will block and destroy the view and ruin the ambience in the neighborhood. The house currently on the property…is a non-conforming use. This proposal is an outrageous insult to the neighborhood.”

Another neighboring homeowner echoed concerns about the view, writing, “The applicant’s proposed three-storey apartment building will negatively impact our unit by blocking the afternoon sun which we so enjoy.”

Lawyers for the homeowners of Lakeshore West condominiums (which sits just north of the subject property) commented that the proposed development is on a property that is nonconforming, meaning that it violates current rules for shoreline development. They argue that the City “should require removal of the nonconforming, overwater residence as a condition to the consideration of any new development of the property.”  On behalf of the condo owners, they further objected to requested setback changes and the fact that there are only six on-site parking spaces being provided for the seven residential units (including the existing house).

The lot is zoned for a multi-family structure. In fact, the property is unusual for buildings along 43rd Avenue E. in that it is the only one with a single-family residence on it. The two lots immediately to the south contain a duplex and two single-family residences respectively.  The Lakeshore West building to the north is an overwater complex consisting of over 50 units.  Almost all of the waterside multi-family structures on this stretch of 43rd Avenue E. are nonconforming overwater developments. Due to shoreline management rules currently in play, none of them could be built today. The new apartment project, however, is being proposed for a property where the new structure could conform to current standards. One of the ironies of this story is that some homeowners in non-conforming buildings are opposed to the creation of a new conforming building on the street.

In their filings with the City’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD), the architects for the project state, “The proposed building incorporates and utilizes the positive architectural characteristics of the neighborhood while also mitigating between the drastic and inconsistent difference in scale and character of the two immediate adjacent neighboring buildings.”  One of the objectives they list for this project is: “Develop the site to increase density and provide residential opportunities that reinforce the positive aspects of the current neighborhood, street, and shoreline.”

Of the three alternative schematics provided by the architects to the DPD, the building that requires no "adjustments" is the one that almost certainly would be the least attractive from the street side.

Based on comments from DPD in the public record, it appears that the City is less likely to approve a setback "adjustment" that negatively impacts the residential property to the south, but DPD may be more open to granting a variance on the north side of the property, which borders the Lakeshore West parking lot.  If this "adjustment" were approved, the structure would be similar to the “preferred alternative,” with living spaces in the building opening onto 43rd Avenue E.

While there is a fair amount of negative commentary on the record from immediate or nearby neighbors, the developer himself has been circumspect to this point, adding little to what was submitted to DPD.  When we asked for some input for this article, owner Matt Rosauer responded this way in an email: “The property is zoned to allow additional development and while we respect the right of neighbors to comment, the proposal meets zoning and shoreline requirements and represents a quality design.”

Rosauer is certainly familiar with the City’s process for approving developments, as least as they apply to commercial properties.  He is a principal at a downtown development company which was the developer of several high-profile Seattle projects. Rosauer and his wife purchased their Madison Park in-lake property in 2009.

As part of the review process for shoreline development permits of this kind, DPD may decide to hold a public hearing; but according to Tami Garret, DPD’s planner for this project, the process will just have to take its course.  For a timeline, she referred us to the DPD website, which indicates that a design review period of five to six months is typical for shoreline permits, with six to ten months being the norm for “complex/controversial” permits, though this application may not fall into that category.

Public comments on this project are being accepted by the City until February 7.

[Architectural renderings courtesy of E. Cobb Architects, Inc. Aerial photo from the public record relative to the permit application process.  Lower photo from King County Assessor Records.]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

December Police Blotter

A plethora of burglaries as the year ends

After several months during which there were few break-ins reported in the neighborhood, Madison Park, for reasons not entirely clear, experienced a veritable rash of such incidents in the final month of 2013: nine separate incidents.

The first break-in occurred at Bert's Red Apple on the first day of the month, when during the night two suspects approached front door on the store but were apparently scared off when a car drove by.  As captured on Bert's security camera, the suspects soon returned with a third person, all of them with towels or shirts over their faces. One of them then broke a glass panel in one of the doors; but for reasons unknown the suspects suddenly left the area, never to return (or at least not to this point). Technically this was a break-in attempt, since the store was not entered.

On December 3, an expensive bike was stolen from a secured-parking garage on the 2300 block of 43rd Avenue E.  On December 9 on the 1600 block of 43rd Avenue E., someone gained entry to an apartment building and entered an apartment through a door which had been left ajar.  The victim had left her apartment to walk her dog and realizing that she had forgotten her keys called a close-by friend with a key to her apartment and asked the friend to go over an unlock the door so that she would be able to get in upon her return.  The suspect, however, got there before her.

On December 18 there was another smash-glass situation at a multi-family structure on the 1900 block of 42nd Avenue E.  The suspect(s) apparently gained access by trying to pry open a basement window, which shattered.  However, upon entering the basement the suspect(s) triggered the motion-detector system and were apparently scared off, leaving the premises with nothing stolen.  On December 19 at a multi-unit building on the 2000 block of 43rd Avenue E. resident noticed that the knob was broken off the front entrance door. Although the police were called and investigated, it was not evident that any interior storage lockers or mailboxes had been rifled.

On the day after Christmas, a house on the 1100 block of 38th Avenue E. was entered by suspects who kicked in the back door and "sacked" several rooms.  Among the items stolen were two hard drives, a camera tripod, and a Nikon camera.  The victims were apparently the house guests of the homeowners (who were away at the time), and the suspects mercifully did not steal the visitors' passports.  While in the house, the suspects attempted to pry open an upstairs safe with a crowbar; but when they couldn't get it open they rolled the safe down the stairs, causing "significant damage."  There were two other burglaries reported in the neighborhood in December, though the details were not immediately available to us.

During the month there was also one car theft (from the 2500 block on Canterbury Lane E. on December 28), and four car prowls (two on December 11 on the 2300 and 2000 blocks of 43rd Avenue E., one at 43rd Avenue E. and E. Howe St. on December 5, and one of the 2000 block of E. McGilvra Boulevard E. on December 28.)

[Map Key:  Starburst icons represent building/house break-ins, solid-car icons represent vehicle thefts, non-solid car icons represent car break-ins, and dollar-sign icons represent fraud, usually credit card or identity theft or both.]

Friday, January 10, 2014

No bubble for the Tennis Club

Hearing examiner upholds decision

The City of Seattle's Hearing Examiner has denied the appeal by the Seattle Tennis Club of an earlier decision denying the the private club's proposal to add coverings (perhaps along the lines of the graphic above) to two tennis courts at the facility.  The coverings would have provided "seasonal weather protection" for the courts during the bad months each year.   Some neighbors whose views might have been impacted by the erection of a 'tennis bubble' at the Club (922 McGivlra Boulevard E.) were concerned that the Hearing Examiner might rule in the STC's favor.  That didn't happen.

The decision affirms the original conclusion of the Department of Planning & Development that because the Club is located in an Urban Residential Shoreline Environment (where clubs are prohibited), as well as in an area zoned for Single Family housing (where clubs are also prohibited), STC must go through a shoreline variance application to add a building to its already nonconforming site. It is unlikely that the STC will be undertaking that arduous process, though there was no comment from Club management today.

The Madison Park Times broke the original story concerning the Club's request to add the bubble.  The story was later picked up by KIRO-TV (to see that story, click here.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

We're back on the beat

While we were away...

Since our last posting in 2013, the Christmas Ships came and went, we had a bit of snow, construction got underway on the new HomeStreet Bank branch (formerly Tully's), and neighborhood flower shop, Best Buds, shut its doors.  The community, meanwhile, has been assailed by the sound of pile driving (520-related), a rash of hit-and-run events (all involving parked cars, fortunately), and a mini-controversy over the Seattle Tennis Club's attempt to get approval to install a seasonal tennis court "bubble" on its property.

Now we're all caught up.