East Bremerton: From the urbane to "The Brady Bunch"

If East Bremerton were a person, it would most likely be in therapy. Not that it's troubled. It's the multiple personalities that could have it headed for the couch.

As it is, this chunk of Kitsap County real estate seems to wear its identity quite comfortably, despite running a gamut of personalities from urban hip to rural bucolic with a number of character changes in between.

The strongest personality — confident, outgoing, urbane — is found in the neighborhood of Manette, which tends to overshadow all of the other areas. In fact, East Bremerton is sometimes said to consist of, essentially, "Manette, and everything else."

But that doesn't do justice to the attractions of the "everything else" places, namely Illahee, Tracyton and the Fairgrounds.

These are the "Brady Bunch" spots, as Karie Hoffman, a Bremerton-based real-estate agent, affectionately describes them. They're characterized by traditional, three-bedroom homes built mostly between the 1970s and '90s and favored by families with children at home.

Even so, each East Bremerton community has its distinct character. Tracyton is the oldest of the three, established in 1853 as a logging community. It tends to be more rural, and its west-facing location has views of the Olympics plus a generally brighter, warmer feel.

A contrast to Tracyton's open and sunny character is Illahee's darker side. Facing east and more heavily treed, Illahee's feel is more private and enclosed. Developed mostly in the 1970s and '80s, this area's homes tend to be larger (three to four bedrooms) and built on generously sized lots, some with water views.

The median price for a home in East Bremerton was $238,000 in October, up 19 percent over the past year, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The newest kid on the block is the Fairgrounds, named for the nearby Kitsap County Fairgrounds. Developed in the 1980s and early '90s, it offers standard three-bedroom homes on quarter-acre lots, as well as East Bremerton's easiest access to the retail center of neighboring Silverdale. Flashy it's not, but the Fairgrounds' feel is pleasant, functional and affordable. The Brady Bunch would fit right in.

And then there's Manette. Open, funky and decidedly un-Bradyesque, Manette offers an urban experience that's rarely found on the Kitsap side of the Sound. "Our own little Fremont" is how real-estate agent and lifelong Bremertonian Carol Sue Rogers describes it.

She also notes the area's dramatic transformation over the past 10 years. Its one- and two-bedroom, pre-1950s homes have been restored and its energy revitalized by an influx of young professionals. Enough longtime residents are still around to offer an interesting mix, but Manette's sprinkling of art shops and upscale restaurants reflects a younger crowd's influence.

Much of that younger crowd was drawn to Manette from Seattle, largely attracted by its location less than a mile from the Bremerton ferry terminal. That convenience factor took a hit three years ago when high-speed, passenger-only ferry service to downtown Seattle was discontinued.

The end of that service, which landed commuters downtown in 40 minutes, left a 60-minute car ferry crossing as commuters' only option.

The change has taken a toll. "It's a shame," says Rogers. "Ridership is down, and some of the people from Seattle that I sold homes to five or six years ago have moved back."

That doesn't mean Manette will lose its flair. While the other areas might stay comfortably low-key, Manette appears to keep putting the "personality" into East Bremerton's multiple-personality complex.

A Bremerton-Seattle ferry passes East Bremerton's Manette neighborhood, seen here from the Manette Bridge. Manette is known for its funky, urban character that some compare with Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. But the end of high-speed, passenger-only ferry service to downtown Seattle has reduced convenience for those commuting across Puget Sound. (PHOTOS BY ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

East Bremerton

Population: 18,000 (2006 estimate)

Schools: Most of East Bremerton is served by the Bremerton School District, while unincorporated areas of East Bremerton are served by the Central Kitsap School District.

Distance to downtown Seattle: One-hour ferry ride (20 miles) or about 70 miles by road.

Recreation: Illahee State Park, a 75-acre marine camping park with 1,785 feet of saltwater frontage on Port Orchard Bay. Other highlights include the Illahee Preserve Heritage Park, Kitsap Fairgrounds & Events Center, and Rolling Hills Golf Course.

Fun fact: The Bremerton Ice Arena in East Bremerton, opened in 2003, is the first ice arena in Kitsap County in 50 years.

— Seattle Times news researcher Gene Balk