Growth spurt, building boom create a buzz

Stroll down Poulsbo's Front Street early in the morning and you'll find cozy coffee shops and Scandinavian bakeries offering a mellow way to begin the day. Just don't be fooled by that slumbering sense of small-town calm. As the morning fades, Poulsbo's pulse picks up.

There's a noticeable hum in "Little Norway" these days, with the vibe growing louder as residents and commuters get on the road.

Traffic has increased steadily along with Poulsbo's population. Since 1990, the city has grown 54 percent, to an estimated 7,490 residents. And the expansion is not going to slow down anytime soon — by 2025, that number is expected to at least double.

Close to ferries

A look at a map reveals one reason for Poulsbo's growth spurt: It's about 20 to 30 minutes from the Kingston and Bainbridge Island ferries.

With Highway 305 cutting through town, the Kitsap County community enjoys a direct connection to the Bainbridge ferry and to Highway 3, a main route to Bremerton and the Hood Canal Bridge. Shops line much of this artery, and the mix of consumers and commuters contributes to its often-clogged conditions.

Separated from this main drag by a few blocks, Poulsbo's waterfront downtown and Scandinavian-themed storefronts reflect a Norwegian heritage. Downtown retains a quaint feel, but density is increasing.

Construction of the colorful Poulsbo Place community has created an in-town building boom, with more than 300 housing units springing up within blocks of downtown.

The development's first phase, Poulsbo Place I, includes 180 tightly clustered Craftsman-style cottages.

Priced in the $150,000's when they were completed six years ago, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom houses now sell for $300,000 and up.

Plans for Phase II include 140 larger homes — three bedrooms and two and a half baths — at prices estimated in the mid- to high $300,000's.

New housing is also planned for the College Marketplace, a residential and commercial development that includes new Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores, with 420 multifamily units and 70 single-family homes on the way.

Increase in house prices

With its home prices nearly double from five years ago, once-sleepy Poulsbo is no longer the bargain it used to be, especially in its most desirable waterfront neighborhoods of Lemolo, Skandia and Virginia Point.

The median price of all homes — single-family houses and condos — sold in the Poulsbo area in June was $309,500, up 9.6 over the past year, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The inventory of available homes in Poulsbo has increased in recent months, and houses are staying on the market longer, so buyers may find the atmosphere friendlier than a year ago.

What's more, residents say livability is still good despite the increased growth.

"It's certainly gotten busier, traffic-wise," says Cathy Gunderson, who moved to Poulsbo with her family seven years ago. "But the things that I like about it haven't changed.

"I like that it has a downtown where I can walk to shops and the post office ," says Gunderson.

"I like that it's scenic, and the location is fabulous — we can get into Seattle easily and enjoy the city without any of the hassles of living there."


Population: 7,490 (2006 estimate).

Schools: Poulsbo is served by the North Kitsap School District.

Housing: Of the city's 3,122 housing units, 57 percent are owner-occupied, 38 percent are renter-occupied and 5 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Harrison Hospital, Bremerton; Stevens Hospital, Edmonds; Harborview Medical Center, Seattle.

Shopping: It includes the old downtown area as well as shopping areas at Poulsbo Village and along Viking Avenue, plus farmers markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Attractions: Poulsbo Marine Science Center is dedicated to the preservation of the Northwest marine environment. Liberty Bay Park, on the downtown waterfront, includes Kvelstad Pavilion and picnic areas. Frank Raab Park, at the top of Caldart Avenue, includes a youth garden, community P-Patch, picnic shelter, playground, stage and volleyball court.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf