The city of Kirkland, Washington holds the distinction of being the only city whose downtown is located on the banks of Lake Washington. Visitors, shoppers, residents, and those employed downtown can stroll to Marina Park for a quick lunch break, or watch the boats come and go from the windows or deck of a waterfront eatery.
Just to the north of Marina Park is the 10-acre Heritage Park, with trees, gardens, tennis courts, walking trails, an abundance of benches, and open spaces to take the family dog for a run. It’s the perfect place to take the family on an outing without ever leaving the city.
Those truly enamored of the water can even purchase a home or condo, or rent a luxury apartment on the waterfront.
Kirkland is also unique in that it provides free wireless connection to much of the downtown area, including Marina Park and Peter Kirk Park. For a map of the covered area and instructions for connecting, visit the City of Kirkland Official Site. (Link to: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/Information_Technology/About_Information_Technology/Kirkland_Free_Wireless.htm)
Real estate prices in Kirkland are on the high side, as are the rental rates. In mid-2015 the median home value in Kirkland was just under $500,000, which is an increase of 8.4% over the previous 12 months.
The overall cost of living is 47% greater than the national average. However, the income per capita is 82% greater than the national average and the median household income is 63% greater.
A well-educated populace…
Not surprisingly, the education level of Kirkland residents is also high. In fact, about twice as many of the city’s approximately 85,700 residents hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree or a Doctorate as does the average American citizen.
Due in part to annexation and in part to the unique blend of urban style and casual living that draws top talent to the jobs available in Kirkland, the city has been growing at an astonishing rate. Population has increased by 69% in just the past 5 years, making Kirkland the 12th largest city in Washington State. The city’s area now stands at 17.83 square miles.
A bit of history…
The first non-Native American settlers to the Kirkland area began arriving in the late 1860’s, bringing their families and building homesteads at some distance from each other. By the end of the 1880’s there were several logging, farming, and boat-building communities in the general area.
Then iron ore deposits were discovered in the Cascade mountain range. In 1886, Peter Kirk, whose family owned the Moss Bay steel production company, heard of the discovery and decided to move to Washington and expand the family’s business.
He knew that that the limestone needed for steel smelting and the coal required for fuel were already being mined in the area and that plans were underway to build the Lake Washington Ship Canal and that rail service was planned. Kirk had visions of creating a “Pittsburg of the West” under his stewardship.
He knew that a town built near the water would become a freshwater port to the sea and would benefit his steel mill. However, because he was not a U.S. citizen, he couldn’t purchase any land. (How things have changed!)
Kirk partnered with Leigh S.J. Hunt, owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and formed the Kirkland Land and Development Company. Together they purchased thousands of acres of land, including what is now Kirkland’s downtown. The Moss Bay Iron and Steel Company of America soon began construction of the new steel mill.
The city of Kirkland was officially founded and named in 1888. With visions of things to come, the partners also began construction on a number of brick homes and business blocks intended to house and serve the steel mill employees.
So why is there no steel mill in Kirkland today?
Trouble started when the Northern Pacific railroad refused to build a rail line to the lake. Kirk was already running out of investors and Hunt was deeply in debt from the purchase of the land.
However, construction continued and the mill was completed in late 1892 on a site approximately 2 miles from the lakeshore.
Then, adding to their financial woes, came the Panic of 1893. The mill closed without ever producing a single ingot of steel. In 1906 two other entrepreneurs attempted to construct a steel mill in the area, but both of their attempts failed.
Kirk, however, didn’t give up on “his” town
The city was incorporated in 1905 with a population of approximately 532 residents. Since then it has grown to approximately 12 times its original geographic boundaries. It has also added approximately 85,000 residents.
Businesses that made the city grow
In the early 1900’s wool milling and warship building became the major industries in Kirkland.
Built in 1892, Kirkland’s woolen mill was the primary supplier of woolen clothing and blankets for the Alaska Gold Rush prospectors and for the U.S. military during World War I.
After completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1917, ship building also became a major business. In addition to ships built for other military and civillian purposes, The Lake Washington Shipyard constructed 29 warships for the U.S. Navy during World War II and repaired nearly 500 vessels.
The workforce grew from about 300 men in 1939 to approximately 9,000 men and women in 1943. This was the era of “Rosie the Riveter.”
In 1945 the shipyard was sold to Alaska Terminal and Stevedoring and was used as a fresh water winter tie-up for freighters and passenger liners belonging to the Alaska Steamship Company. Today the old shipyards are the site of the Carillon Point business park.
The economy today
Kirkland’s economy is thriving, due in no small part to the more than 4,800 registered businesses based here. A good percentage of these businesses are centered in software development and other areas of technology. However, Kirkland’s largest employer is Evergreen Health.
Kirkland’s community hospital is one of the region’s top medical centers, renowned for neo-natal care, cancer treatment, orthopedics, and neurosciences.
While they don’t individually employ as many people as Evergreen Health, the presence of the technology companies and several large corporations with headquarters and/or engineering sites in Kirkland make a huge impact on the local economy.
Among the large corporations are Kenworth, which manufactures large trucks, and Lancs Industries, which provides products for entities such as Naval shipyards, nuclear power plants, and Department of Energy lab facilities.
Kirkland-based LTC Financial Partners is one of the largest long term care insurance agencies in the U.S. In addition to long term care benefits, annuities, and life insurance, the company offers reverse mortgages.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates also headquarters his third endeavor in Kirkland. The company, bgC3tech, is said to be a cross between a think-tank, an incubator, and a venture capital firm. The name, by the way, is an acronym for “Bill Gates Catalyst 3.” The think-tank is focused on scientific and technological services, industrial analysis and research, and design and development of computer hardware and software to combat poverty.
Although now relocated, Costco had its beginnings in Kirkland. Thus the name of the store branded Kirkland merchandise.
Approximately two thirds of those working in Kirkland hold positions requiring advanced education.
Things to do and see
Peter Kirk would be gratified to know that in spite of his failure to turn Kirkland into a steel milling town, the building he constructed in 1889 as the centerpiece of his planned steel producing city still stands and is designated as a historical landmark. It was rescued from demolition in the 1960’s and is now the
Kirkland Arts Center. The Peter Kirk Building, which is the oldest commercial building on the east side of Lake Washington, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Kirkland Arts Center provides community-oriented gallery space along with classes and workshops.
In nearby Peter Kirk Park, the Kirkland Teen Union Building offers two music stages, a record studio, a darkroom, and year round activities and programs for youth.
Those who prefer performing arts will find it at the Kirkland Performance Center, which offers concerts, lectures, dance performances, and even classic children’s plays. The Kirkland Choral Society offers a series of concerts featuring the works of Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, and Leonard Bernstein. This is the largest choral group in the eastside area.
Community events include the Kirkland Summerfest, the Kirkland Classic Car Show, the Holiday Tree Lighting & Music Festival, and Celebrate Kirkland.
For a complete list of community events, including organizational and governmental meetings and workshops, visit Kirkland Calendar. (link to http://www.kirklandcalendar.com/#/?i=3)
Parks and more parks
Kirkland residents love the outdoors, and Kirkland offers the parks and activities to satisfy their desires.
More than 40 parks offer everything from basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts; baseball diamonds, swimming beaches and pools; children’s playground equipment; swim beaches and boat launches; benches and picnic tables; and open spaces to run and play; to parks with bridle paths for equestrians and off-leash areas for canine exercise.
This site (link to: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/parks/Parks_and_Open_Spaces/Online_Parks_Guide.htm) offers an overview and chart of amenities available at each of Kirkland’s parks.
The Totem Lake Mall is a 26 acre retail hub with both large stores and small boutiques offering unique regional items. The mall also offers a selection of eateries and a children’s play area.
In April 2015 Totem Lake Mall was purchased by Village at Totem Lake LLC and plans are underway to redevelop the 40-year old center, add a theatre, and give it a village-style atmosphere.
For now, Downtown Kirkland offers the widest shopping choices, with everything from high-end boutiques to stylish furniture shops, decorative art and novelty stores, sporting goods stores, toy shops, wineries, jewelers, and florists.
Kirkland is home to a multitude of full-service restaurants. From simple fare at neighborhood cafes to 4-star cuisine prepared by nationally acclaimed chefs, there’s something for every taste.
Restaurants serving seafood, steak, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and traditional American fare abound, and are joined by those offering Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, and French cuisines.
Coffee shops, bakeries, and ice cream shops also do a thriving business.
The night life
According to KirklandLive.com, Kirkland has the most active nightlife on the Eastside. With a variety of bars, pubs, and clubs, whether you want a quiet dinner with drinks or prefer to dance through an exciting night on the town, Kirkland has what you seek.
Among other things, Kirkland is home to the Seattle area’s top comedy club: the Laugh’s Comedy Spot. Here you can laugh along as nationally recognized comedians serve up their hilarious routines and zinging one-liners.
Getting to work
A survey of Kirkland residents show that 75% drive their own cars to work, while 12.5% either carpool or take the bus. The majority report a time span between 10 and 35 minutes to get to work. The other 12.5% either walk to work or work from home.
Want to know more?
For a myriad of facts and charts covering everything from demographics to the names of Kirkland’s fast food outlets, to local government expenditures, plus photos of the city, visit City Data. (Link to: http://www.city-data.com/city/Kirkland-Washington.html)
If Kirkland sounds like the right city for you…
Call me! I’ll be glad to answer your questions about the real estate market and show you the homes currently listed for sale. For a preview, click here (link to search function) to see the on-line listings.