Apartments to go up near research area in north Richland

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 7, 2012 

An "urban chic" apartment complex designed for professionals and students will be built near a new retail hub in north Richland, officials announced Thursday.

Doug Perry, managing director for Innovation Center at the Tri-Cities Research District, said at the retail ground-breaking ceremony that construction of a 160-unit apartment complex off Innovation Boulevard will begin in October.

Bringing a bank, gas station, restaurant and apartments to the research district is part of making the 1,700-acre area a success and a place where people work, live and play, Perry said.

The research district, which was formed in the early '90s by community stakeholders, includes adjacent properties owned by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University Tri-Cities and the Port of Benton.

It's one of 11 innovation partnership zones in the state, and its goal is to attract research and development jobs to support all of the Tri-Cities.

Innovation Center at TCRD has taken the lead in developing the research district.

The company is owned by investors Wayne Perry and Cal Cannon, former executives of McCaw Cellular Communications, which became part of AT&T Wireless.

It will take about five months to finish the two retail buildings, each about 4,500 square feet, Perry said. A drive-through bank likely will be home to a new Gesa Credit Union, while the other building is being built on speculation.

Each retail building is expected to cost about $1 million, officials said.

Jim Sheehy, Gesa's chief financial officer, said the area is growing, and they already have customers in the area who now have to drive 15 to 20 minutes to get to their nearest bank.

Greg Perry, managing director for Innovation Center and Doug's brother, said they also hope to bring in a national coffee chain. Although Starbucks coffee was served at the ground breaking event, no chain has committed yet to opening at University Square.

The master plan for the University Square retail development also includes a gas station, a hotel, and five other retail buildings.

The research district has the numbers, the enthusiasm and energy that makes a compelling story for development, Greg Perry said.

About 17,000 cars pass on Stevens Drive daily, and another 10,000 on George Washington Way. That is about half of the traffic on the Las Vegas strip, Greg Perry said.

There are about 7,000 workers within a one-mile radius, as well as the 1,500 students who attend WSU Tri-Cities.

About 51 percent of residents in the area leave daily for services like coffee and food, and about 90 percent leave the research district weekly, Doug Perry said.

The apartment complex will be built in two 80-unit phases along Innovation Boulevard, Doug Perry said.

The design is unique, with each L-shaped building including 40 apartments, 11 garages and 28 storage units.

The "urban chic" complex will focus on attracting professionals, but also likely will house some students, he said.

The plan is to make it no frills, both with amenities and pricing.

The first phase should be finished summer 2013, Doug Perry said.

If it is a success, they will start the second 80 units right away. And they could add more if they see a need.

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