Freeway access a selling point for Newport Hills

When Tina and Dave Burrell decided to move, they didn't consider leaving Bellevue's Newport Hills neighborhood.

"We love it here. It is close to the freeways, yet it still has that tight-knit community feeling," Tina Burrell says.

"It is one of Bellevue's most popular communities," says Kelly O'Neil of Shannon O'Neil Associates Realty, adding that this is proved by the scarcity of homes for sale in the area at any time.

Among its many appeals, Newport Hills is centrally located, just southeast of the I-90 and I-405 interchange.

"The physical location is paramount. We have one or two stop signs and one traffic light and you are on the freeway going in one of four directions," says Steve Kunkel, president of the Newport Hills Community Club and a local builder.

The heavily residential neighborhood even has a shopping center.

Variety of merchants

There's a variety of merchants and services, including a Red Apple grocery, a Hallmark store, restaurants, gas stations, a hair salon and a bank. It is just a few minutes from Factoria Mall and about 20 minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Despite its upscale suburban image, Newport Hills has an old-fashioned, small-town feel, residents say.

It is the kind of community where people are out in their front yards or going for walks.

Residents know and help one another, she said, citing examples of people helping with home projects, bringing meals and cutting the grass for neighbors.

"There is a spectrum of ages that you don't get in a lot of newly built neighborhoods. There are little kids, teenagers and people who are like grandparents to our kids," says Tina Burrell, whose children are 8 and 10.

As in much of the Seattle area, real-estate prices in Newport Hills have appreciated in recent years.

The Burrells said they originally purchased a home in Newport Hills in 1996 for $189,000 and sold it in March for $517,000, moving to a home with a bigger yard.

Median house price

The median price of a home in the area that includes Newport Hills was $583,250 last month, up 26.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Newport Hills originally was in unincorporated King County. A mortgage company purchased the land in 1957 and sold building lots to 26 top Northwest builders.

"It started on a small basis. They were not sure how it would sell. It was surprisingly successful," says O'Neil, whose father, Shannon O'Neil, was then a top sales agent in the community.

Its proximity to Boeing's Renton plant made Newport Hills popular with Boeing workers, and it was marketed to families with the slogan: "Newport Hills, where it is fun for the family to live."

And it is still fun for families today, with a pool that is a popular gathering place, and activities sponsored by the community club.

Santa Claus tours the neighborhood every December, handing out candy canes and oranges. There is a Fourth of July picnic and children's parade, an Easter egg hunt and a car show.

Neat lawns and 1960s-style houses make up the Newport Hills neighborhood in Bellevue. A mortgage company purchased the unincorporated land in 1957 and sold building lots to 26 top Northwest builders. (AMANDA SMITH / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Newport Hills at a glance

Population: 5,000 (city's 2006 estimate)

Schools: Newport Hills is served by the Bellevue School District.

Distance to downtown Seattle: 10 miles

Recreation: Newport Hills Community Park, 6029 120th Ave. S.E., picnic area and play area, lighted soccer field, ballfield and restrooms, 7.82 acres. 31 regular parking spaces, plus two handicapped, also street parking.

Fun fact: Not to be confused with Newcastle. When residents of nearby Newcastle incorporated as a city in 1994, it was originally called the "city of Newport Hills." Because Bellevue had already annexed the Newport Hills neighborhood, the new city officially changed its name to "Newcastle" in the November 1994 election, to avoid confusion.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf