Kennewick's Copper Ridge Apartments already has gathered a list of 150 people who might be interested in renting one of its new apartments.
A higher vacancy rate than the Tri-Cities has seen in more than two years doesn't seem to have affected the optimism of new apartment complex owners.
Darin Davidson, managing partner of the Inland Group of Spokane, said about 15 people a day are calling or dropping by Copper Ridge Apartments on the southwest corner of Southridge Boulevard and Hildebrand Road. And the company doesn't expect to open the first of its 232 apartments until August.
"It's certainly encouraging," he said. "We knew there was demand and the initial interest certainly is supporting the expectations."
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The Tri-City vacancy rate has moved away from the narrow percent 1 to 2 percent seen in 2010 and 2011 to 4.8 percent, which Glenn Crellin, associate director for research at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington, calls more normal.
It's the sort of vacancy rate that gives apartment managers and owners time to do maintenance while still getting new residents in apartments promptly, Crellin said.
The Tri-Cities' recent tight apartment market wasn't a surprise because of Hanford stimulus spending and the economic activity seen in the Tri-Cities during the recession, Crellin said.
Now, some of the temporary residents hired by stimulus dollars have left, which likely freed up some apartments, even if more hadn't been built, he said.
And more have been. The Tri-Cities has seen a 20 percent growth in apartments since 2000, Crellin said, with the number of units available for rent around 12,650 in March.
Since 2010, 13 apartment complexes with more than five units have been permitted in the Tri-Cities. Those complexes represent 1,279 units and are valued around $111.5 million.
Not all of those permitted projects have been finished.
At River Trails Apartments in Richland, co-owner Don Purdy said they are starting to prelease for some of the units opening mid-July.
Purdy said it still looks like a good market for apartments.
"We bet $20 million that we think it is," he said.
The latest apartment project is the $7.8 million Affinity at Southridge, also by Inland Group. The four-story building will be about 35,000 square feet.
The independent senior living facility will feature 150 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 500 to 800 square feet.
Davidson said the project for seniors 55 and older will be a unique environment with more affordable pricing.
"The community will be full of amenities including an indoor pool and a pub, media room, hair salon," he said.
It's being built at 5207 W. Hildebrand Blvd. next to Copper Ridge Apartments. Davidson said Southridge seems the place to be.
And Pasco has issued the first permits for Navigator Villas, a 176-unit duplex project on Road 68 and Powerline Road. So far, 20 units valued at nearly $2 million have been permitted.
The Tri-Cities was one of the few areas to show a decline in average rent in the recent survey, Crellin said.
But because the data is based on a survey, it is possible that more higher rent properties responded a year ago.
The average rent for the Tri-Cities was $728 per month in March, $50 less than a year earlier.
If you are interested in renting at River Trails Apartments, call 727-4914.
For Copper Ridge Apartments, call 222-1055 or go to www.copperridgeapts.com.