NW Neighborhood: West Hill in Kent
The West Hill area of Kent features affordable, newer homes and in some parts, residential streets designed to keep traffic flowing, but slowly.
Special to The Seattle Times
West Hill (Kent)Population: Approximately 9,000
Distance to downtown Seattle: About 18.5 miles.
Schools: West Hill is served by the Federal Way and Kent school districts.
Recreation: West Fenwick Park, 3824 S. Reith Road; West Hill Skate Park, 42nd Avenue South and South Reith Road. Amenities include: picnic areas, walking/running trails, playfield, public art, play equipment, tennis and handball courts. The West Hill Skate Park, has three bowls of varying degrees of difficulty, as well as rails, ramps and public art.
— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf
Kent's West Hill neighborhood, which overlooks the Green River Valley, has a lot of new homes, but a feeling that can take one back in time.
"Our neighborhood has an old-school feel," said resident Cynthia Tanis. "On any given day with decent weather, you'll see kids playing outside, riding bikes and scooters, shooting hoops, playing four square or soccer in the street, throwing a Frisbee or decorating the street and sidewalk with chalk. You name it," Tanis explained.
"They all know the drill. When a car appears, someone yells "Car!" and all of the kids scatter to the side of the street to let the car pass."
Another resident, Kelly Beckley, agreed: "There's a wonderful feeling of camaraderie within our neighborhood. Neighbors help each other and keep an eye out for everyone."
Sandwiched between Des Moines and downtown Kent, the West Hill neighborhood offers views, convenience and affordable prices. (A four-bedroom house recently sold for $155,500 while an upscale 4,646-square-foot house sold for $589,000.)
Just off the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 corridors, the well-manicured area is also conveniently located between Seattle and Tacoma and only minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and such major employers as Boeing and REI.
These are some of the factors that drew Kelly and Dana Beckley to buy their two-story, four-bedroom home in The Heights development in 2003.
"I love that we're 20 minutes from everywhere — Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma — without the traffic and parking hassles," Kelly Beckley said. "And there's a wonderful mix of people."
Tanis, president of the local homeowner's association, lives down the street from the Beckleys with her husband and two children.
"When we were house hunting in the Kent area, we were excited to be close to the airport, Southcenter, Ikea, not that far from Seattle, and yet within 10 minutes, there are also fields with horses, pumpkin patches and a dog park," Tanis said.
In addition to The Heights, there are many developments in the Riverview area of Kent's West Hill, offering a mix of modern, two-story single-family houses and condos in developments with names like The Terrace and River Ridge, plus gated communities like The Pointe and The Meadows.
Well-maintained playgrounds, neighborhood parks and wetlands dot the area, creating a safe, suburban feeling. The roads are narrow and most developments are self-enclosed, not providing through streets to adjacent neighborhoods.
While inconvenient, this provides some safety to residents because speed limits are 10 to 15 mph and the streets aren't long enough for anyone to drive much faster than the posted limits.
A typical address in West Hill, however, is considered "car-dependent" and one got a rating of 31 (out of 100) by Walk Score, a Seattle-based company that provides automated walkability ratings.
But the West Hill area is within easy walking distance to a number of popular parks for family activities, picnicking, bird watching, hiking and bicycling.
And many of the common areas in West Hill developments are professionally maintained and, despite the number of developments within Riverview, they all carry a consistent look throughout.
The median value of all single-family houses in Kent, not just houses that have recently sold, was $210,600 in May, down 4.9 percent year-over-year, and up 1.1 percent month-over-month, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.
The median value of condos in Kent was $124,200 in May, while the median rent for single-family houses in Kent was $1,556, according to Seattle-based Zillow.
Overall, residents say that West Hill has a lot going for it, inside and outside the neighborhood.
"We enjoy hanging out at Kent Station, going for bike rides along the Green River Trail and attending family events throughout the city," Tanis said. "There are lots of great restaurants and places to hang out — both as a family or girls' night out."
And it always seems like there is someone to talk to or a group of moms gathered in the neighborhood, Tanis said.
During the Kent School District's spring break, her kids were gone for the week, so Tanis had planned to spend Thursday evening cleaning the game room.
She saw her next-door neighbors sitting on the porch enjoying the sun, so she chatted with them instead.
Then Tanis' dog got excited because his "doggie girlfriend" was outside, so she took her dog over to visit. Shortly after that, another neighbor texted her to join her for a glass of wine outside.
"I never did get any cleaning done," Tanis said.