Mountlake Terrace now in sweet spot for affordability, easy commuting

Stan Krahn is the smartest guy in Mountlake Terrace.

At least that's the opinion of Jeanne Krahn, who, not coincidentally, also happens to be his wife. Then again, "if he's not the smartest, he's the best raconteur."

So we asked Stan why people choose to live in The Terrace, as old-timers call it.

"Affordable housing — that, and it's a good place to raise kids."

Stan's an expert on such matters. He and Jeanne raised 10 kids in Mountlake Terrace: three of hers, five of his and two of theirs.

"All together, we had kids in the Edmonds School District for 38 years," Stan said.

Mountlake Terrace, all 4.2 square miles of it, is tucked into a pocket east of Edmonds, north of Shoreline and south of Lynnwood.

The legacy of Mountlake Terrace and growing families goes back more than a half-century. Relentlessly optimistic and energetic, World War II veterans returned home, eager to build new lives and new families. They needed someplace cheap to do it.

Enterprising developers bought up land in The Terrace and plopped down cinder-block houses as fast as the concrete would cure. The vets paid $4,995 for two-bedroom, 640-square-foot homes.

"And for an extra $10 a month, the developers would throw in all the appliances," said Stan Krahn.

Things have changed. One of those houses, albeit with an extra bedroom tacked on, was on the market last year for $210,000.

Still, Mountlake Terrace, population 20,390, according to 2004 city figures, is attractive for new families.

"It's an up-and-coming area," said Sam Mostad of John L. Scott Real Estate, who handles property in The Terrace. "All the areas attached to Seattle are maxed out. There's no land left. Farther out, you run into traffic problems. Mountlake Terrace is right in the middle. It's a sweet spot."

Like almost everywhere in the region, housing prices have risen in The Terrace.

The median price of all homes in the area that included Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds increased 13.8 percent to $330,000 between April 2005 and this April, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Those figures aren't broken out for Mountlake Terrace. But according to Curt Gallagher of Rainier Title, 15 single-family homes sold in Mountlake Terrace in February for an average $267,255, up from $253,394 a year earlier. Six condominiums sold at an average price of $191,917 in February, up from $134,713 the year before.

The area began nurturing new arrivals a century or more ago. Back then, Mountlake Terrace was a pioneer community of sorts. Timber giant Pope & Talbot cleared the land and did something extraordinary for the times: Instead of walking away and letting the scarred land revert to the county in lieu of taxes, Pope & Talbot subdivided its holdings and sold off 10-acre "chicken ranches."

The clear-cut gave rise to the community's eventual name: With no trees in the way, you could see both Mount Rainier and Lake Washington — Mountlake. In spots, the land is flat, almost a terrace.

(Don't confuse Mountlake Terrace with Seattle's Montlake neighborhood, which has a name dreamed up by land developers ensconced in a downtown office building.)

The "light rail" of a century ago — the Interurban — reached north from Seattle to skirt The Terrace. Ranches raised chickens, mink and chinchillas, but also sent men and women 14 miles south to work and shop in Seattle.

Today, shopping is easier. Mountlake Terrace is within five miles of Alderwood Mall and close to the Highway 99-Aurora Avenue North business corridor.

Always a bedroom community, shopping and services have not congregated into a singular downtown, though there is a committee working on plans to recharge the "Central Area," at 232nd Street Southwest and 56th Avenue West.

Mike Gorena, co-owner of Nock Point Archery in downtown Mountlake Terrace, works on a bow inside his shop. The business has been in Mountlake Terrace for about 20 years.

Population: 20,390

Schools: Mountlake Terrace is served by the Edmonds School District.

Housing: Of 8,753 total housing units, 58 percent are owner-occupied; 39 percent; are renter-occupied, and 3 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Stevens Hospital, Edmonds; Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Seattle

Shopping: Alderwood Mall, Lynnwood

Public facilities: 12 parks and recreational areas totaling 262 acres; Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion, which features an indoor swimming pool, dance studios, indoor playground, rental rooms, racquetball courts and a gymnasium; Interurban Trail, a regional hard-surfaced, nonmotorized trail that follows the route once used by the Interurban Trolley that ran from Ballard to Bellingham until 1939. Portions of the trail have been completed through Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, unincorporated Snohomish County, Everett and Lynnwood.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf