Madison Park Scene


By Ryan Murray

After more than a month without any measurable rain, the plants in Madison Park’s Beaver Lodge Sanctuary are thirsty.

So the area’s caretakers are asking for help.

Gene Brandzel, a Madison Park resident since 2008, helped bring the former dumping ground up to community standards with his wife Liz.

Wedged between the northeast border of the Broadmoor gated community’s golf course and a residential property, the 60-foot by 200-foot tract consists of a single tree-lined trail leading to the edge of Lake Washington, where a dock faces the beaver lodge from which the property gets its name.

This spring, the Brandzels and other residents planted more than 120 new plants in the green space, including 30 trees. The estimate was those new plants would need about 1,500 gallons a week in the summer to stay alive.

But that has changed.

“Because of the way our weather has changed, there are continuous drought conditions in the summer,” Brandzel said. “We asked the ecology department if we could set up a system to draw out of the lake and they said no. We couldn’t meet our needs by asking the neighbor to help either.”

So the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary is asking for volunteers to help water some of the plants most in need. Volunteers would sign up to draw a bucket of water from Lake Washington and water one of 33 thirsty plants at least once a week.

This “bucket brigade” supplements two converted milk tanks which store more than 1,300 gallons of water on elevated concrete blocks and drip irrigate several hundred feet of the sanctuary. Bill and Mary Ann Mundy donated the tanks from their farm near Cle Elum. The Madison Valley Community Council even gave the sanctuary $1,600 in grant funding for this year and the next to help pay for water, which the Seattle Parks Department Conservation Corps sells at a discounted rate. The sanctuary foundation installed the tanks just three weeks ago and quickly found the water estimate wouldn’t cut it for drought conditions.

Fortunately, there is a finite deadline for how long the group will have to continue hand-watering plants. The trees and shrubs are young enough that they need some assistance if they are to survive the next two summers, and nearly half of the highest-need plants have already been “adopted.”

“After then, the plants will be self-sufficient,” Brandzel said.

Until then, residents can donate to the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary via PayPal or by giving a check to Home Street Bank “for the beavers.”

While the area is now a slice of nature near the Arboretum, it wasn’t always the case.

Shortly after the Brandzels moved to a condominium around the corner from the lodge on East McGilvra Street, it was just an overgrown thicket owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation and used by the public as an illegal dumping ground for unwanted furniture and trash. Invasive blackberry, ivy, knotweed and holly choked out the native plants.

Brandzel estimated they took out “11 truckloads” of invasive plants from the site on their own. As neighbors saw progress on the site, they joined in the work.

The city graveled a path, added benches and 40 volunteers formed the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary Foundation to maintain the improved area.

“It gives residents the ability to return to nature, right here in the city,” Brandzel said. “It’s really become a major outdoor destination place, more so than anywhere else in the area.”

It’s also a place of respite for some local parents.

In 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked the Himalayan nation of Nepal. More than 8,000 died, including two 19-year-olds from Seattle, former Garfield High School students. Sydney Schumacher and Bailey Meola perished in the tragedy, but they are remembered with a copse of dogwood trees in the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary adorned with Tibetan prayer flags.

Brandzel shares this story to emphasize that this sanctuary is as the name suggests, a haven of peace in a busy city.

“This place has a personal interest to people,” he said. “It’s a special piece of nature in the city.”

Syndicated from The Madison Park Times. Featured photo source: Madison Park Blogger.

By Ryan Murray

It’s been called a “blight” on the otherwise picturesque strip of commercial businesses on East Madison Street by residents and bloggers.

And now it’s for sale.

The historic 1926 building in Madison Park’s bustling retail district at 4114-4118 East Madison Street is now on the market.

Owner Constance Gillespie, whose family has owned the three-storefront property since 1937, has placed the building up for bids, with a minimum asking price of $3 million.

The building currently has one tenant, Spa Jolie. The other two storefronts are currently vacant and have fallen into disrepair, entangling Gillespie with the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.

In 2014, the property was found to violate several codes for a vacant property, including insufficient protection from the elements, damaged eaves and fascia on the exterior and a decaying roof.

One of the notes from an inspector regarding the building reflected this succinctly.

“Secure the building against the weather, including but not limited to openings in the collapsed roof and walls,” it reads.

This was exacerbated in March of 2016 when an inspector found a large portion of the roof had collapsed.

Tim Blevins, a Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections structural inspector, wrote up a building code violation report.

“Approximately 1/3 of the roof has failed and the brick façade wall at NE property line is bowed due to the loss of the roof diaphragm,” Blevins noted.

The city found additional issues in February of this year, imposing penalties against Gillespie for not complying. As recently as last year, Gillespie had said she was not interested in selling.

The current listing on reads that the location will take bids until July 21, with the seller making a decision by July 26. The $3 million quoted is Gillespie’s reserve price, meaning that’s the lowest amount to be accepted, pending seller approval.

The building is 2,787 square feet on a 4,900 square foot lot, or .11 acres. It is zoned NC1P-30, which according to listing agent Cameron Jones, means a buyer could build it up to 30-feet high with the option for a rooftop greenhouse if supplying a restaurant below.

“One might also consider restoring/maintaining the street side façade to maintain Madison Park charm,” Jones wrote.

Syndicated from the Madison Park Times. Photo credit: Ryan Murray.

By Melissa Stoker, Save Madison Valley

For a while now, those of us working with Save Madison Valley have warned that if the proposed development for the City People’s site is allowed to proceed as currently planned it could turn Madison into quite a mess.  You might recall that an independent traffic consultant found that the developer’s traffic study had left some gaps: they hadn’t counted the current number of trips at the location, hadn’t identified current back-up patterns, hadn’t counted truck deliveries at a comparable PCC, and hadn’t addressed the impact of losing street parking, to name just some of the shortcomings.

The developer’s traffic engineers countered that they had done everything that is required of them.  And this is true.  They pulled trip estimates from a handbook of national averages and plugged numbers into a formula and — voila! — the 30 second increase in traffic delays we heard about.

So we asked a transportation planner to actually go out and count some cars and trucks.  Here’s what he found: After counting cars over three days it appears that the developer’s estimates for current peak traffic at the site are double the actual number.  What does this mean?  Well, the increase in traffic they’ve suggested the development will bring sounds minor because they’ve estimated a heftier quantity of traffic now than we actually have.   (It’s nice when hard data line up with common sense:  Do any of us doubt that a nursery open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. generates a lot less traffic than a supermarket open from 6 a.m. to midnight?  And who stops shopping and eating when the weather turns bad because they don’t want to get wet and muddy?)

Counting deliveries at a comparable PCC the consultant found there were 25 to 35 truck deliveries in a day — many of which happened simultaneously, curbside (or any old place drivers can find sometimes — even a neighboring business’s parking lot in a pinch).  It quickly becomes apparent (if it weren’t already) that we’re talking about a lot of traffic and a lot of deliveries.

One solution on the table is to put the apartment residents’ entrance on the backside of the building on Dewey Place (full disclosure: my home backs onto Dewey).  Too bad for those folks, but it’s just one street — and a traffic disaster would be avoided.

Except it won’t be. While the residents’ traffic would have a significant impact on Dewey and the surrounding neighborhood, it is a minor piece of the issues that plague Madison.  Dewey is a small drop in the traffic bucket.

The challenges inherent in trying to build a destination supermarket on a relatively narrow stretch of Madison without a second entrance (as most supermarkets have) are major.  Maybe there’s a solution.  I don’t know; I’m not an engineer.  But I have a strong suspicion that the developer and the developer’s traffic engineers don’t yet know either, because they haven’t yet taken an honest look at the situation and searched for a serious answer.  It looks like a case of starting with what the result needs to be and then backing up from there; no room for any data that deviate from the desired end result.

Instead they’ve floated the idea that they can split the traffic – commercial on Madison; residential on Dewey.  This is a red herring, a diversion from addressing the true problem.  It falsely reassures worried commuters that a solution has been found; it allows the city of Seattle to avoid confronting the developer; but it won’t take care of the mess that will be Madison.

Syndicated from the

By Daniel Nash

The Madison Park office of Windermere Real Estate is coming out with a commercial tour map of the neighborhood.

The isometric map was created by cartoonist and illustrator Dan Schmieding and will feature restaurants, retailers and services on Madison Park’s East Madison Street corridor. The map will be uploaded to the real estate office’s website and distributed in print throughout the neighborhood.

“We think Madison Park is special, and that it deserves its own tour map,” said Cheryl Jones, the real estate broker who organized the project. “People call it a village, and sometimes people don’t realize how much is here.”

Schmieding specializes in stylized — a more proper word might be “cartoonified” — maps of small cities and neighborhoods. He describes his style on his website,, as “a nice step backwards from computer generated maps.”

The maps typically highlight walking trails, marathon routes or, in the case of the Windermere maps, the locations of local merchants. He sweetens the maps’ utilitarian purpose by orienting his subjects in an exaggerated, isometric view framed by visually engaging details. These fine touches are reminiscent of those found in illustrator Stephen Biesty’s 1990s-era “Incredible Cross-Sections” series for DK Publishing.

Indeed, looking through Schmieding’s portfolio, one gets the sense it’s possible to gauge a place’s joie de vivre by whether he can tease out details that can symbolize an area’s amenities. (On a map of one Oregon suburb, for example, the only illustrative flair beyond the natural topography is the distant Portland skyline).

Schmieding’s Madison Park project features miniature beachgoers on the shores of Madison Park beach, a seaplane landing in distant South Lake Union, and a leaping Orca that dwarfs the Space Needle.

“We wanted him to show how close we are to downtown Seattle and the lake,” Jones said.

The release of the map is set to precede Madison Park Days, which takes place on Saturday, July 15.

Syndicated from, illustration credit to Dan Schmieding.