On a beach-per-acre basis, Kirkland knows how to make a splash with its Lake Washington parks. The Eastside city, with its access to swimming, boating and dining, hosts 14 waterfront oases — double Seattle’s seven across the lake.
Locals agree that this is part of the appeal of living in the city’s central Moss Bay neighborhood, where condos are king, the art is smart and coffee shops aren’t the only public places that are wired.
“Living in Moss Bay is basically living in downtown Kirkland,” explains Don Winters, the neighborhood association chairperson. He and nearly 4,100 neighbors live in a half-square-mile community that’s home to one-third of the city’s lakefront parks.
One of Kirkland’s 15 official neighborhoods, Moss Bay borders the lake before heading east along Central Way/Northeast 85th Street. It dips onto Kirkland Way/Fifth Place South on its eastern edge and circles back to the lake at about Northeast 68th Street on its south side.
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And it knows how to pack a lot of perks into a small space. The city offers free Wi-Fi connections in most parts of downtown, and in Peter Kirk and Marina parks, too.
Need to nurture your Monet and merlot side? Check out the painting studios, where guests can socialize and sip wine while creating make-it-yourself masterpieces or hosting art parties with friends.
Professional art galleries, meanwhile, have long hosted Second Friday Art Walks each month to showcase new shows and demonstrations. For 24/7 outdoor sculptures, more than a dozen whimsical and thought-provoking pieces punctuate park paths, and pop up in the heart of several city sidewalks near Moss Bay’s chic boutiques, yoga studios and bistros.
“When you live here, you can walk to stores, walk to businesses, walk to parks,” Winters says. “And a lot of the businesses downtown are more family-run, more family-oriented than you would find in a mall. For us, it’s about a half-mile — six blocks — to go out to dinner.”
Boaters and kayakers may prefer to tie up at local docks, many of them near Moss Bay’s waterfront restaurants and bars.
Like to bike? Several miles of bicycle lanes follow the lake from Juanita Beach through Moss Bay and south to Carillon Point along Lake Washington Boulevard Northeast. Other bike lanes weave east into more-residential neighborhoods.
One such trail leads to a megablock bordered by Central Way and Kirkland Avenue, where Moss Bay neighbors enjoy the Kirkland Performance Center, library, outdoor swimming pool, teen center and senior center.
The neighborhood has a rating of 81 (out of 100) from Walk Score, a Seattle-based company that provides walkability ratings, indicating that “most errands can be accomplished on foot.”
“A lot of people live here for just that reason,” Winters says.
Others are drawn to the condominium living that defines most of Moss Bay. More than 92 percent of the 3,034 housing units there are condos or apartments. Most were built in the 1990s, when Moss Bay construction outpaced that in all of Kirkland’s other neighborhoods, according to city-data.com, an online demographic-information website.
With one-way commutes to Bellevue and Seattle that typically take less than 30 minutes, Moss Bay is building on its vibe and seeing a surge in real estate sales. Compared with spring house and condo sale prices from one year ago, real estate sales in the neighborhood are up 13 percent and outperforming those in Kirkland’s nearby Kingsgate, Finn Hill and North Juanita areas, according to the online real estate database Zillow.
Not bad for a spot that Englishman Peter Kirk once hoped would become a steel megaplex before his plans failed in an 1893 financial crisis. Over the next century, his tiny town instead found success milling wool for Alaska Gold Rush prospectors, and later shuttling ferries as shipyards near Carillon Point crafted 25 ships for the U.S. Navy for World War II.
All of that adds up to something for Winters.
“Right now, we could pretty much live anywhere,” he says. “The fact that the downtown Kirkland area has some character — some historic, small-town, old-time feel — is important. That’s becoming a little bit hard to find, especially on the Eastside, which is not that historic of an area. It makes it feel special to live in a part of town that is over 100 years old.”