Within a city, South Juanita is a little town with big heart

Tracy Shier lives in the heart of South Juanita, in an apartment just steps from a plethora of convenient businesses: a bank, coffee shop, drugstore, barber shop and a few restaurants.

Most of these businesses — and Shier's apartment complex — didn't exist a few years ago. And, some would argue, South Juanita had no heart back then.

"They're literally building a little town here," says Shier, who moved to the Chelsea Apartments two years ago. "It's becoming increasingly convenient with access to so many services outside the door."

What's risen in the past few years is Juanita Village, an 11.4-acre complex at the intersection of 98th Avenue Northeast, Northeast 116th Street and Northeast Juanita Drive, with hundreds of apartments, an array of street-level retail stores, meticulous landscaping, colorful buildings and narrow streets with wide sidewalks.

The area where Juanita Village now stands used to be a few scattered businesses, some abandoned buildings and overgrown grassy fields.

The 744-acre South Juanita neighborhood was annexed by the city of Kirkland in 1988. The neighborhood is roughly bordered by Northeast 124th Street to the north, Lake Washington to the west, 20th Avenue to the south, and Totem Lake to the east. North Juanita is a smaller neighborhood just to the north.

The majority of South Juanita is residential, with a mixture of apartment buildings, condominiums and houses nestled in the hills that ascend from the commercial center near Lake Washington.

Lee Anchan has witnessed many of South Juanita's changes. She opened The Barber Shoppe on 98th Avenue Northeast 41 years ago. After that area was transformed into Juanita Village, she and her daughter, now a co-owner, moved their business there in 2002.

"The changes here have been phenomenal," Anchan said.

In the early years, she says, South Juanita was nearly in the country, with just a few neighborhood businesses, such as Spud Fish and Chips.

"Now we're right in the midst of a European village," she said

Mike Connolly, managing broker for Windermere Real Estate at Juanita Bay, says prospective buyers are attracted to South Juanita for a growing number of reasons.

"We had a walk-in at the office the other day who said what attracted them is that it's quite walkable and has all the amenities they want when they come home," Connolly said.

Buyers also are attracted by the area's natural resources, Connolly said, including Juanita Beach Park and Juanita Bay Park.

"We're seeing smaller lots and people living closer together," Connolly said.

With large backyards becoming a thing of the past, families want to live close to areas where they can take their children to play, and South Juanita offers a number of those.

"The resources are very, very important," Connolly said.

Kirkland places a premium on those resources. In 2002, the city bought from King County the 35-acre Juanita Beach Park, which at one time was a private beach.

A short walk from Juanita Village, the park features ball fields, picnic shelters, tennis courts and a pier extending into Juanita Bay. In 1984, the city bought the land that is now the 144-acre Juanita Bay Park, with boardwalks and nature trails that wind through a haven for wild animals and birds.

South Juanita has businesses including a bank, drugstore and a dome-roofed Starbucks. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

South Juanita

This Kirkland neighborhood got its heart from Juanita Village

Population: 6,804

Schools: South Juanita is served by the Lake Washington School District.

Housing: Of 3,428 total houses, condos and apartments, 48.3 percent are owner-occupied; 46.9 percent are renter-occupied; and 4.4 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities:

Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Kirkland; Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Bellevue; Group Health Eastside Hospital, Redmond

Shopping: Juanita Village, Totem Lake Mall, Downtown Kirkland, Bellevue Square

Public facilities: Juanita Beach Park, 9703 N.E. Juanita Drive, a 30-acre property on Lake Washington with sandy beach and a quarter-mile walking pier; McAuliffe Park, 10824 N.E. 116th St., Kirkland, packed with historical landmarks dating back to the late 1800s