Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Madison Market

Since we're talking about "sustainability," cooperatives, and consumption, I thought it was about time that I mentioned the Madison Market. I've only been shopping here for a little more than a year, since I moved to the neighborhood, but I sometimes wonder how I mananged without it. They specialize in local and organic food and garner my respect by combining social action into their business plan. The inspiration for this post was a sign I saw last night on the Odwalla cooler which notified customers that they no longer carry Coca Cola products (Odwalla or Glaceau Vitamin Water, etc; they never had cans of diet coke or anything) because their philosophies don't jibe. Instead, they will be carrying Columbia Gorge fruit juices, beginning in early June.

I know, it's not in the most attractive of buildings, but this time I'm not talking about the building.

In a quasi-phenomenology of the store, I'll start with the layout. It's small, probably about 20% the size of a Safeway or QFC. As you enter, there is a help desk, where you can learn more about the organization, which is typically flanked by some fresh fruit. Flowers and reusable shopping bags (I would say that 75% of customers use a form of reusable bag; the ongoing member election just proposed to start charging 10 cents per disposable bag, a la San Francisco and much of Europe, and hopefully Seattle in the near future) are for sale across from the desk. As you continue to walk, you approach the coffee/juice bar, which is foregrounded by tables that are typically occupied, and sits adjacent to the deli. A cooler also greets you with its many quick meals ranging from sushi rolls to chicken salad to hard-boiled eggs. Fresh bread, soup, a selection of cheeses comes up on your left as the checkout stands appear on the right.

As you enter the main shelving area, you might be surprised at the brands you see: Eden Organic (dried fruit), Peace Cereal, Cascade Fresh (yogurt), Hansen's (soda), R.W. Knudsen (juice), Ballard Organics (soap) and Lilly's hummus. You might also be surprised at the "origin" tag on much of the fresh produce; I know I was. The selection of frozen food is minimal and brands like Amy's, Cedar Lane, and Ethnic Gourmet are prominent. The beer section is small too but contains Deschutes, New Belgium (from Colorado, I know, but the brewery runs on wind power). There is a butcher with a selection of fresh meat and seafood, a wide selection of eggs (duck eggs?), and an extensive bulk foods section (bring your own container and weigh it at the check stands as you walk in; I'm still trying to remember to do this). A fresh peanut butter machine and coffee grinder (for all the fair-trade coffees) are available too.

Yes, it is a little more expensive to shops here than at Safeway but, I think, it is well worth it. I feel the focus is on quality rather than quantity. The size of the store and the small shopping carts make it feel more like a market (hence the name) than a wholesale warehouse. The ceiling is lower, the colors are earthy and the music is good. The magazines for sale at the checkout are Dwell, The New Yorker, Harper's, Adbusters, Bitch. Come on over, it's at 16th/Pine/Madison on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

15th and Denny vs. 12th and John (and a little philosophy)

Row 5!

Please pardon the exclamation point; I'm just excited that this new reactionary townhome "5-pack," as Hugeasscity calls them, finally has a name and a price. Row 5, from the mid-600's.

I've been watching this site since the groundbreaking and had higher hopes for what would grow out of the corner of 15th and Denny. Ah, and speaking of that intersection, if you follow the link you'll find this is also the name of the "company" that is building the units: "15th and Denny, L.L.C." I'm neither a lawyer, businessman, nor real estate professional, but I do know that LLC stands for "limited liability company." Please correct me if I'm wrong but, as I understand it, these organizations are easy to dissolve and, in the case of housing developments, often do and leave the unit owners without an entity to confront in case of shoddy construction. Not that this construction isn't top notch -- I don't know anything about it -- but it makes me wonder...

The banality of this architecture brings to mind a quote I've been saving from Lefebvre:

Surely it is the supreme illusion to defer to architects, urbanists or planners as being experts or ultimate authorities in matters relating to space. What the 'interested parties' here fail to appreciate is that they are bending their demands (from below) to suit commands (from above), and that this unforced renunciation on their part actually runs ahead of the wishes of the manipulators on consciousness.

In short, I read this as saying that often architects are forced to kowtow to developers (commanders), to surrender their creativity to design what is a proven money-maker, instead of listening to potential residents (demanders) to see what they actually want. If you've read through this site, you know that development initiated by the potential residents is what I am hoping to produce.

On the other hand, when the architects are the developers, you get results that are much more unique, a la 12th and John. Within a stone's throw of eachother, one can find the Anhalt Condominiums and Pb Elemental's 12th and John Residence. Built decades apart, both of these projects show what architects are capable of doing when freed from the reins of traditional developers.

Anhalt Condos (photo taken from seattle condo review; there are lots of bushes around the courtyard which makes it hard to photograph.)

12th and John Residence

Imagine what a group of commited residents, willing to pool their resources, could allow architects like these to design.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How about these?

First, I apologize for the lack of posts lately; I'm neck deep in a class over at UW and between that and work, the majority of my time is occupied. The good news is I'm reading lots of Neo-Marxism and much of it could be applied to what we're talking about here on this site. Don't get scared and think I'm trying to build some "red commune" or anything; though they talk lots about revolution, the main point I'm extracting is shifting the power from the "establishment" (developers, in our case) to the "people" (that would be us, the folks interested in more affordable, dense, green urban housing). Maybe that sort of talk doesn't bother Seattleites but I'm from Texas, where we believe in freedom (sarcasm intended).

Anyway, taking a cue from DanB over at Hugeasscity, I took an early morning walk past a few historic multifamily developments that I think are of particularly nice design (and, like him, I wonder why there aren't more). All are on Capitol Hill; the first is on Republican, directly east of 15th, and actually has a unit for sale if you have half a million.

This is one of Frederick Anhalt's beauties that goes by the name "Twin Gables." This view is into the communal front yard which all of the main entrances face; the brick is classy and the location is wonderful as well. There probably aren't parking spaces (I didn't go down the alley), which would, unfortunately, be impossible to do today, but there are nice back doors out on to 16th.

Keeping with the shared front yard theme, I walked down to 14th, just south of John to take a few photos of "The Tudor House." The layout is similar but it is shorter than what I envision building. Beautiful as well. That front yard would be a great place for a garden.

This idea of the shared front yard has been implemented as a backyard on another site further down 14th, at Olive (across the street from the hated, by me at least, Cite Jardin). While the front of the building is awfully plain, the backyard is actually kid-friendly (in the city!).

Another building which I've liked since I moved over here is at the corner of 16th and Harrison. It's actually an F-shape but has a wonderful open space right on the corner. There are fewer entrances than in the first two buildings so I doubt it spurs as much interaction, but I think with a low fence (and I stress low) it could be another good location for gardening or kids.

In closing, does anyone know what's up with this house? I call it the Fight Club house out of admiration. It is on 16th between Thomas and Harrison.