Communities around the perimeter of Joint Base Lewis-McChord
- Written by Kelly
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About the area; close to the gate:
The closest communities to the I-5 gates are Lakewood WA, Dupont WA, and Steilacoom WA. All three are varied communities, with home prices ranging from 200k+/- thru several million. Steilacoom is a little known community on Puget Sound, make sure you drive out to visit...it's minutes from post.
About the area, north of base:
The communities north of Joint Base Lewis McChord include of Tacoma, and its suburbs. The cities of Puyallup, Graham, Spanaway, and Lakewood are all considered to be suburbs of Tacoma.
Out the back gate, the towns of Roy, McKenna and Yelm are also very accessable and have become very desirable areas for military relocation buyers moving to Washington. The most popular area south of post is Lacey, followed closely by Yelm, Lacey is about 10 minutes from the main gate. The northern edge of Lacey is referred to as Hawks Prairie, which has a fairly large military and retired population. Yelm is located to the south and east of post, and was recently referred to as the fastest growing town in the state. Yelm is about 14 miles from Lacey, and can be accessed by following hwy 507 from Roy, or via the Nisqually Valley south of JBLM. Adjacent to Lacey is Olympia and Tumwater. Olympia is the Washington State Capital, and is also home to a very large military and retired military population. Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater have essentially merged into one large community.
Lakewood Washington is best know for it’s proximity to JBLM, and for American Lake. There is a large military population in Lakewood, of both home owners and renters. In recent years, Lakewood has become a little less popular because of folks wanting to move out into the more rural areas surrounding JBLM. Lakewood is still a very convenient commute to anywhere on post. Lakewood is 15-20 minutes to anywhere on post.
Tacoma is located north of Ft Lewis on I-5, and is a large city. Typical of any large city, it offers resources too numerous to list….shopping, site seeing, and jobs to name a few. The Tacoma area is also known for lots of traffic, especially on the I-5 corridor. A large percentage of homes that we sell in the Tacoma Area are to folks who have a spouse of family member who will work or commute to the north of JBLM. Tacoma commutes vary from 15 minutes to over an hour…as mentioned earlier, traffic to the north can be miserable.
Puyallup is a suburb of Tacoma, but is much less hectic. Traffic getting to Puyallup can be difficult, but with the new Cross Base Freeway being built across Spanaway, commute times will be reduced drastically. Expect a 30-45 minute drive to most areas in Puyallup, with the only options currently being I-5/Hwy 512 or surface streets. 30-45 minutes to Fort Lewis, a little less to McChord. The Cross Base Freeway will shorten the drive for some in the near future.
Another suburb of Tacoma (and Puyallup). Graham is a growing community with lots of reasonably priced new construction homes. Some of the best new home prices in the area can be found in Graham…the trade off is traffic and congestion. 25-45 minutes to Post.
Spanaway is one of a couple areas that is considered to be “just out the gate”. Spanaway is adjacent to McChord Field, and is very convenient to post…and will be even more so with the cross base freeway. Home prices in Spanaway are very reasonable, although that will most likely change (to the benefit of those who already own there), and traffic patterns and acessability improve. Right out the back gate of McChord, 15-30 minutes to Ft. Lewis.
Roy and McKenna are great small agricultural towns separated from the freeway by JBLM. There is actually a gate that comes out into the town of Roy (not on any maps), that makes getting anywhere on post no more than a 15 minute drive. Roy is very popular, and desirable homes on the market in Roy don’t tend to last long. In addition to the old town of Roy, there are also numerous “pocket” communities with Roy addresses within a 5 mile radius of town. 10-30 minute to anywhere on Ft Lewis, a little more to McChord.
Yelm has become the most desirable community in the Ft Lewis area for those looking for small town appeal, that is a little off the beaten path. Yelm has been considered to be the fastest growing town in Western Wa for the past several years. Still primarily an agricultural town, with a large military presence, you couldn’t ask for a nicer place to live. When I started in the real estate business, Lacey was the most popular area. In the last few years, Yelm has become number 1. Yelm is 20-30 minutes to anywhere on Ft. Lewis or McChord.
Lacey is the closest city to the south of Fort Lewis on I-5. I lived in Lacey prior to my retirement from the Army, and my kids attended Lacey/Olympia Schools. The North Thurston School district is a good one. Lacey is another rapidly growing town, with lots of recreational and employment opportunities. Several large corportations have recently moved their shipping and import centers to Lacey from California (Target and Home Depot are a couple). And there are lots of opportunities for employment. Lacey is the #2 or 3 most desirable community in the JBLM area. 10-30 minutes to anywhere on Base.
The boundries of Lacey and Olympia can run together, and be a little confusing. There is an area called “Hawks Prairie” which is just south of post and considered to be Lacey…but it has an Olympia mailing address. Olympia is the seat of the State government, and is a beautiful city dating to the mid 1800’s. The downtown features lots of street front shopping, a large port and marina, and is well known for it’s large farmers market. Olympia is also the jumping off point for a drive up the west side of the sound…or a trip to the coast. 20-40 minutes to anywhere on Base.
Tumwater is a sister city of Olympia, and again the boundries run together. Tumwater is especially well known for the Olympia Brewery (now shut down), and for it’s historical attractions. While Tumwater is a bit of a drive from post, it is a nice place to live and raise a family…and there are lots of new construction homes on the market. 30-40 Minutes to anywhere on Base.