Source: Kitsap Sun
By: Josh Farley
Posted: Mar 05, 2017
BREMERTON — Jireh Soriano wanted to live in the place in Kitsap “where everything’s gonna be.”
The Illahee resident would gladly shed his car for a walkable commute. He wants to live near the restaurants where he dines, the stores he shops, the pubs where he meets friends.
On Friday, the 33-year-old and his girlfriend, Gem Masikat, signed a lease to live on the first floor of the recently opened Spyglass Hill Apartments, a five-story apartment complex at the 220-foot crest of downtown Bremerton.
“We know it’s going to be a very busy city in less than 10 years,” he said. “It’s a ferry ride from Seattle, but the cost of living is lower here. And you can’t beat the view.”
Spyglass, a $15 million project conceived by local development company Sound West Group, was a bullish bet placed by managing partners Wes Larson and Mike Brown. Larson can only guess as to how many lenders passed on his pitch.
“Nobody could believe,” said Larson, a Bremerton native who grew up not far from Spyglass.
Unfazed even by the recession, he collected investors from around the globe. Older homes were razed to make room for the 73-unit tower and seven town homes that abut Highland Avenue. Construction, delayed due to labor shortages in a red-hot Puget Sound economy, took more than two years but has nearly wrapped up.
Before the doors opened to the first tenants Wednesday, half of the units already were taken, according to property manager Victoria Luke. She does not expect the other half to last long. The only other large apartment complex to open in the downtown area in recent years — the 606 on Burwell Street — also booked up quickly.
Spyglass Hill, named for the tallest point in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” is advertised as luxury apartment living in downtown Bremerton, with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Rents average $1,500 a month, with a lower floor studio at $1,200 and a two-bedroom penthouse and multiple balconies going for $2,500.
So far, tenants vary — shipyard workers, Seattle commuters, retired couples looking for a car-less life — and ages range from 20 to 70.
Skyrocketing rent in Seattle first drove Ellen Blaise to Bainbridge Island, but it escalated there. So the chaplain, who works in a Seattle hospital, took a look at Bremerton, while Spyglass was under construction. She liked what she saw.
“I was sold from the beginning,” she said.
Luke once lived and worked in Seattle, helping establish upscale developments in places once viewed as risky — Renton, Belltown, Bellevue. As the recession hit, Luke moved west, bought a home and some rentals in Bremerton and weathered the financial storm. Hired by Sound West Group last summer, she sees parallels between Bremerton and the previous locations where she worked. Drawing on the phrase “transit-oriented development,” used in Seattle, Luke likes to modify it for Bremerton: “Ferry-oriented development,” she said.
“Downtown is hungry for this,” she said of the residents Spyglass will bring to the area.