Another home bites the dust in Madison Park. photo/Bryan Tagas

Another home bites the dust in Madison Park. photo/Bryan Tagas


Those doubting the vibrancy of the housing scene in Madison Park would certainly change their perspective if they stood at the intersection of McGilvra Boulevard East and East Newton Street. 

From that vantage point, they could glance in almost any direction (well, three out of four) and see an active construction project under way — or perhaps even two. Within 100 paces of this intersection, there are, in fact, five separate houses either being built from the ground up or in the process of major renovation. 

The cycles of destruction and renewal in Madison Park continue unabated.

We once speculated, incorrectly, that speculative construction in the neighborhood might be coming to a halt due to the economic downturn. While things did slow for a while, it’s been clear for many months that Madison Park continues to be an attractive place for residential developers. 

At least three of the houses under construction near this intersection appear to be speculative, including two houses being built by Chaffey on what was apparently once the site of a single residence. 

At the same time, there are at least two other projects within easy walking distance where speculative builders are also replacing a single residence with two new homes. 

On a quick recent drive through Madison Park, we counted 19 homes in some stage of construction or massive rehabilitation. Most of this activity is a “north of Madison” phenomenon, with at least 14 sites active on the north end of the neighborhood, including two in Broadmoor (though, as we know, nothing of a speculative nature is allowed in this gated community). 


Something old, something new

Not every project currently under way in the neighborhood, however, involves a complete teardown and replacement of an existing structure. In fact, of the six houses being constructed near East Newton and McGilvra Boulevard, one is a major rehab and another is only a partial teardown. 

The new owner of one of these houses e-mailed to say that while his new house will have an additional story added to it, the bones and outline of the old house will remain, and the finished home will be a traditional house designed to blend into the neighborhood, rather than being one of those new, modernistic, boxy structures that are somewhat controversial. 

Next door to this particular house, a derelict home that has been something of a neighborhood eyesore for years is about to be thoroughly reimagined. We are told that the new structure will also be in a “traditional” style when completed, though much larger than the existing brick home built in the 1940s. That’s the way of neighborhood, of course. 

The original house contains only 1,600 square feet; the new one will have at least double the space, with the existing first floor being demolished and two new stories, plus a detached garage, built on the 6,000-square-foot lot. 

Two major homes are currently under construction (or soon to begin) along Lake Washington: one along 39th Avenue East, in the area just north of “Hidden Beach” (the East Harrison St. road end), and the other just south of the East Highland Street road end. Both of these will, necessarily — given the cost of the land — be major structures. 

And speaking of which, that very noticeable construction project under way along McGilvra Boulevard — across the street and just north of the Seattle Tennis Club — is replacing a 1,300-square-foot structure with a four-level, 4,300-square-foot structure, not including the new home’s 760–square-foot garage and an equally large deck. 

This is the site of a foreclosed home, lost by a speculative builder when the money ran out. Out of loss sometimes comes opportunity: The new owners appear to be building a home for their own occupancy.


More changes coming

The relatively high level of construction activity in Madison Park can likely be sustained if macroeconomic conditions do not deteriorate. We know, for example, that there are several houses in the neighborhood that were purchased in the last few years for the purpose of future development. The timing may now be right. 

Additionally, some recent home sales and at least one currently in the works are to speculative builders. 

Although the neighborhood, especially north of Madison Street, has seen significant gentrification over the last decade, there are still plenty of smaller homes on expensive lots that will be ripe for construction or rehabilitation in the near future — either by speculative builders or by those who want to take on the job of property transformation to create their own dream home.

The modern history of Madison Park, like that of many other Seattle neighborhoods, has been one of ongoing — though sometimes sporadic — destruction and rebuilding. Whether we welcome this change or deplore it, it is definitely something we better get used to. 

BRYAN TAGAS writes the Madison Park blog (, from which this column was excerpted. To comment on this story, write to