Keeping up appearances - Ruth Longoria

With Island Market Square set to open by the end of the year and several other Town Center projects in various stages of design and construction, some downtown business owners are working fast and furious to keep up with their new neighbors.

Such is the case with Island House, the 79-unit senior citizen residence at 7810 S.E. 30th St. New bold lettering in front of the building is the first sign that Island House isn't fading into the background. Island House owners Steven Friedman, Leon Grundstein and Robert Spitzer recently refurbished the facility, at a cost of about $400,000.

``We want to stay on top of the curve,'' Grundstein said. ``The market has changed and with all the development in the Town Center we want to keep up to snuff.''

One way Island House is catching up with its new neighbors, and bringing a new service to the seniors, is through the addition of a business center. There residents will be able to connect with the Internet at new computer terminals. ``When you're a senior it's hard to travel, so to become Internet savvy opens up a whole world to them,'' Spitzer said.

Remodeling at the facility also includes a new media room, with a 56-inch flat screen television and theater seating for up to 16 people. And, there's an aerobics and exercise room, where seniors can take part in low-impact, seated exercises. In addition to painting the complex and putting in new carpeting -- in neutral tones with terra-cotta accents -- the dining room has new mission-style cherry wood furniture, drapes, and a separate dining area for up to eight people, that can be reserved ahead for family gatherings. ``We've tried to make this a comfortable home for all of our residents,'' Grundstein said.

The complex is about 92 percent occupied. Island House residents pay between $1,600 and $3,500 a month for studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, complete with maid service, full dining and concierge services, as well as transportation for shopping.

Island House was built in 1990 by the three men and Spitzer's parents, Jack and Charlotte Spitzer. Jack Spitzer has since died, but Charlotte Spitzer remains a partner in the business.

Because the owners are all Islanders, they said, they feel a connection to the residents and a need to make the facility a place they can be proud of. ``Some of my friends' parents live here, I have to make this a nice place,'' said Friedman, who grew up on the Island and graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1968.

``This is a major upgrade for us,'' Friedman said. ``But when folks compare services and price I think they will find that we're the wisest choice.''

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