Federal Way neighborhood flourishes on Sound perch

Decorated pets, bikes and unicycles, and maybe the Federal Way High School marching band help mark the beginning of spring — and the opening of the Marine Hills Swim and Tennis Club.

Marine Hills neighborhood residents watch — or at least hear — the parade troop from Nautilus Elementary School to the club every spring.

"The pool is a big hub of the neighborhood," said Angela Turley, a resident and the secretary of the pool's board of directors. "I think it really brings the neighborhood together."

During summers, neighbors take their children to the pool and tennis courts for lessons, 6:30 a.m. swim-team practices, parties and barbecues. That means that when residents walk their dogs or get their mail, they tend to get to know their neighbors, Turley said.

Marine Hills is old enough to have a sense of community among neighbors perched on a steep hill above Puget Sound.

It is one of the older neighborhoods in Federal Way, which wasn't a city when the first wave of houses was built in the early 1960s.

The city was incorporated in 1990. The neighborhood was mostly developed by the 1980s, said Monte Powell, who moved there in 1961.

Now, nearly every possible spot in Marine Hills — which is off Dash Point Road above Redondo — is filled with a house.

Marine Hills is toward the water and a little north of The Commons at Federal Way, previously called SeaTac Mall. The neighborhood has limited street entrances off of Dash Point Road just west of Highway 99 near Sacajawea Park.

The neighborhood's population is about 4,000, said Patrick Doherty, Federal Way's economic-development director.

Home prices range from the high $200,000s and low $300,000s near the pool to much more farther down the steep hill, Turley said.

"I was looking at a flier the other day when I was walking," Turley said. "It [the home] was $1.1 million."

In contrast, another real-estate flier listed $325,000 as the price for a four-bedroom house tucked in the woods at the top of the hill.

Some houses are 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, Turley said. Others include intricate stained glass in double-entry doors and many windows to catch the sunlight, and there are plenty of water views.

The entire neighborhood looks tidy and nice because of covenants that are enforced, Turley said. Well-trimmed lawns and flat hedges show that homeowners obey the covenants.

"It's fresh in the sense that it was built by many architects and builders," said Powell, who raised five children in the neighborhood and is a developer, though not for Marine Hills. "It's not a tract development."

The community's pool brings in others from outside Marine Hills. Federal Way Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge's son spent summers at the pool as a swim-team member, lifeguard and swim teacher.

Burbidge agreed that the pool and tennis courts are a focal point for the community.

She said another unusual community amenity is the PowellsWood Garden, which is Monte and Diane Powell's private garden. They open it to the public for Mother's Day, a fall festival and three weekdays between April and October.

"It's just one of those special things someone chose to do," Burbidge said.

PowellsWood is actually seven gardens with more than 1,000 plant varieties, Monte Powell said.

He said he particularly appreciates the neighborhood's woods as well as the water and mountain views.

"I'm looking out the window now," Powell said. "The view is beautiful. A few whitecaps."

Eleventh Place South winds down toward Puget Sound in the Marine Hills neighborhood in Federal Way. The neighborhood is one of the city's oldest. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Marine Hills

Population: 4,251 (2005 U.S. census estimate)

Schools: The Marine Hills neighborhood is served by the Federal Way School District.

Housing: Of the neighborhood's 1,759 housing units (2005 estimate), 1,539 (87.5 percent) are owner-occupied, 132 (7.5 percent) renter-occupied and 88 (5 percent) vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way; St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; and Auburn Regional Medical Center

Shopping: The Commons at Federal Way (formerly SeaTac Mall), 1928 S. Commons, Federal Way (just off Interstate 5 at South 320th Street)

Parks and recreation:

• Dash Point State Park, 5700 S.W. Dash Point Road (Highway 509), Federal Way. The 398-acre camping park includes 3,301 feet of saltwater shoreline on Puget Sound

• West Hylebos Wetlands Park, 411 S. 348th St., Federal Way, has wetland trails and a boardwalk.

• Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center,

650 S.W. Campus Drive, Federal Way

• Wild Waves / Enchanted Village, 36201 Enchanted Parkway S., Federal Way

Miyoko Wolf