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Shorewood up for grabs

By Ruth Longoria

Shorewood Heights Apartments has long been a stepping stone to life on the Island, whether it's for young families, seniors or singles migrating here for that coveted 98040 zip code, the exemplary schools, SOV access, or just the safe Island atmosphere.

By far not the least expensive apartment complex on the Island, Shorewood has a reputation as an upscale-yet-relatively-affordable place to call transitional home.

That may soon change.

The talk that began circulating among residents recently as Shorewood management began a series of cosmetic fix-ups and repairs were confirmed last week. The complex -- which was purchased in 1998 for $54.75 million by HAL Real Estate Investments, Inc. as the state's then-highest priced ever apartment sale -- is again on the market. The property has since had building additions and renovations -- including a $23 million renovation shortly after HAL Real Estate Investments purchased the property.

HAL Real Estate Investments is owned by the former owners of Holland America Lines, who sold that company in 1989. HAL Real Estate has no connection now to Holland America, Holland America representatives said.

There is no potential buyer, yet, so representatives of Shorewood won't speculate on what will occur if, or after the property is sold. No asking price is being set for the property; however, Eastdil Realty, has been contacted to solicit offers and advise in connection with the sale, according to Dana Behar, a representative for Shorewood LLC, of which HAL Real Estate Investments is a division.

Eastdil Realty is the real estate advisory branch of Wells Fargo & Co., which has brokered several multi-million dollar property sales across the country

Although owners expect to have no difficulty generating offers for the property, it's not a done deal that the property will be sold.

``The reality is, if we don't get the right offers, we won't sell,'' Behar said.

Though some residents are concerned about the property being sold and turned into condominiums, whether the property sells isn't necessarily the deciding factor.

``The possibility to convert to condos has always existed, it could be converted either way,'' Behar said.

Shorewood Heights has been a significant part of the Island since the original structures were built in 1947.

In addition to being used as apartment housing, Island government was conducted from Shorewood's Building 15 before the City of Mercer Island moved into its current building at 9611 S.E. 36th St. Former finance director Joanne Sylvis remembered her experiences working out of an apartment at the complex. City documents and files were stored in boxes sitting atop boards across the bathtub of a unit she shared as an office with now-Deputy City Manager Deb Symmonds.

The complex also has housed businesses, such as a convenience store in what is now Shorewood's activity center. The convenience store was apparently owned and operated by world-famous hydroplane driver Bill Muncey until his death in 1981.

Now, Shorewood consists of 645 apartments. Base rents range from $899 to $1,436 per month, according to its Internet Web site.

Islanders Marvin and Vi Sacquitne began renting at Shorewood in 1998, down-sizing from their 3,300-square-foot home that Marvin built on Island Crest Way. The couple moved to the Island from Seattle on Oct. 4, 1947, when Vi, now-82 years old, was working for a Seattle dentist who lived on the Island. He recommended the Island, and the couple has never been sorry they moved here to raise their five children, Bob, Mary Alice, Bernadette, Anne and Joe. Though the children are all grown now and have moved to other areas of the Northwest, Bernadette (Sacquitne) Schneider is now a teacher at the Island's St. Monica School.

The family recently had a reunion at which 31 members of the family shared dinner in Marvin and Vi Sacquitne's two-bedroom apartment, which looks out on Lake Washington and the 520 Bridge. Marvin Sacquitne, 85, said his favorite thing about their Shorewood Heights apartment is the view.

During his first 25 years on the Island, Marvin was a volunteer firefighter, along with his longtime Island buddies Ed Maloof and Huston Riley. The men recall riding on the back of fire trucks on Thursday nights as they went through drills and learned the streets of what was then being constructed as Shorewood Heights Apartments in 1947.

``We had to know how to get somewhere in case there was ever a fire in there,'' Maloof said of the roads that circled through the complex. That possibility became a reality in about 1951.

Maloof, now 86, received a phone call at work (he was a teacher at Issaquah High School) and he rushed back to the Island because of a fire at Shorewood. Sacquitne was among those firefighters already inside the burning building. When Maloof got there, the blaze was under control, but a charred couch was being tossed out of an upstairs window. ``The fire started in the sofa,'' Maloof said.

A child playing with a lighter started the fire. ``It was one of the biggest fires ever on the Island,'' Sacquitne recalled.

The fire destroyed most of Building 8. That building -- which was since rebuilt and then remodeled -- is where the Sacquitnes now live.

Vi Sacquitne said she has wondered, when large groups of people came recently to ``admire the view'' and maintenance crews began a series of landscaping projects (such as adding gravel and bark to nearby areas) if there was a possible real estate sale in the works.

``They won't have any trouble selling it, this is a wonderful place,'' she said. However, although she and her husband have another year on their lease, she hopes whomever buys the buildings will decide to continue renting some units, even if others are turned into condominiums.

``We'll see what happens,'' Marvin said.

``And, it wouldn't happen overnight,'' Vi added. ``Of course, I'd surely like to stay, this has been home for us.''

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