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Weidner talks why they’re in Wenatchee

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Detail of an artist's conception of the Riverside and Ninth Apartments, now under construction in Wenatchee.

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WENATCHEE — Execs for the billion-dollar development company now building North Central Washington’s largest apartment complex say the rental market here begs for more upscale housing, particularly on the city’s waterfront and along its popular walking-and-biking trail.

We looked at supply and demand and the area’s very low vacancy rate, and it all added up,” said Greg Cerbana, director of public relations for Kirkland-based Weidner Apartment Homes. “We believe the Wenatchee area is ripe for apartments that are beautiful, accessible and innovative.”

The 312-unit Riverside and Ninth Apartments, located about 10 blocks north of downtown Wenatchee on the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail, will mix retail with residential, emphasize eco-friendly construction and introduce to the region the first “live-work” rentals that combine a downstairs office or storefront with an upstairs apartment.

The $30 million housing development joins Pybus Public Market in redefining how Wenatchee’s waterfront will evolve. City officials have said the Riverside and Ninth complex fits well with the city’s vision for a redeveloped waterfront, although they had hoped for a stronger retail presence since investing $10 million to upgrade Riverside Drive in 2009.

Construction of the new complex began in earnest two months ago with Molitor Development of Moses Lake as the general contractor. The first of eight buildings — a recreation center — is expected to be completed by early summer next year. The first apartments should be move-in ready by autumn 2014 with the project completed in mid-2015.

Weidner was attracted in part to the Wenatchee market because of the area’s extremely low rental vacancy rates. In September, the overall vacancy rates were down 33 percent from last year to just 2 percent. Vacancies for apartments fell 67 percent to 1 percent or less. Traditionally, vacancy rates have hovered between 4 and 6 percent.

The complex is the latest for Weidner, ranked as the 33rd largest apartment company in the nation with 214 complexes in seven states and four Canadian provinces. Weidner owns and manages nearly 38,000 units, with about 95 percent as residential rentals and the rest commercial properties.

Founded in 1977, Weidner Apartment Homes operated for about three decades in four states — Washington, Alaska, Colorado and Texas — with owner W. Dean Weidner content to expand within the territory he knew best.

But three years ago Weidner approved the purchase of his company’s first complex in Arizona, an acquisition that set off a spending surge that resulted in the buying of more than 10,000 units and the rise of Arizona to the company’s top investment area.

Since then, the Weidner company has expanded into other states — buying two complexes in California and, just two months ago, an apartment building in Minnesota.

Expansion into eastern Washington began five years ago with the purchase of the Lionsgate Apartments in Walla Walla and construction in 2008-2010 of the Vintage Apartments in Moses Lake. The Wenatchee complex is Weidner’s third property in eastern Washington.

Everyone asks us, ‘Why Wenatchee? Why not build in Spokane or Yakima instead?’ ” said Cerbana.

The answer is easy, he said. “Spokane and Yakima are crowded with apartments, while the Wenatchee market needs what we provide.”

Cerbana said visits and vacations to the Wenatchee Valley have also sold Weidner executives on the area’s sunny weather, outdoor recreation and business community. “My kids do sports, so we’re here for matches and tournaments through the summer,” he said. “And (company founder) Dean Weidner has found downtown Wenatchee to be an inspiration for this new complex.”

In some ways, design of the Riverside complex will mirror downtown’s turn-of-the-century architecture — brick fronts, varied building heights, recessed doorways and windows — while incorporating design elements from other Weidner facilities, said Cerbana.

We want this complex to fit in and be a part of the community,” said Cerbana. “We’ve taken steps to make sure it becomes an asset — a welcoming place in a beautiful location.”

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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