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It’s been a pit for years. This week, a $20 million project will start to fill it

Crown Group and its local partner, Boost Builds, break ground March 14 on Park Place a 104-unit apartment and retail complex at 650 George Washington Way in Richland.
Crown Group and its local partner, Boost Builds, break ground March 14 on Park Place a 104-unit apartment and retail complex at 650 George Washington Way in Richland. File

It’s been an agonizing wait for Richland’s eyesore “pit,” but the gateway site is about to filled by a $20 million apartment and retail complex.

For real this time.

The Crown Group breaks ground Thursday on Park Place at 650 George Washington Way, three months after a legal snafu delayed the original launch.

“It will be a great addition to downtown Richland,” said Kerwin Jensen, Richland’s development services director.

Jensen confirmed the city sold the property to Crown and its Richland development partner, Boost Builds. The $836,000 deal closed last week.

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Park Place apartments will feature 104 units, six retail spaces, underground parking and an elevator near the entrance to Richland’s Howard Amon Park. Construction begins March 14. City of Richland

Crown now owns the land and has construction permits in hand.

Mark Lambert, president of Chicago-based Crown, picked up permits to build the 104-unit apartment building and twin retail buildings last week, Jensen said.

Taking apartment reservations

In honor of the occasion, Crown posted a “Coming Soon” sign at the site and launched a website where it is taking reservations, parkplacerichland.com.

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The Crown Group of Chicago and its Richland-based partner, Boost Builds, break ground on Park Place, a 104-unit apartment and retail complex at 650 George Washington Way, at 1 p.m. March 14. Tri-City Herald staff

Park Place promises to usher in a more urban style of development — part of Richland’s vision of a walkable downtown with a mix of commercial, retail and residential neighborhoods.

With four stories, an elevator and underground parking, Park Place packs more units into less space.

It also won’t come cheap. The smallest studio apartments will lease for about $1,080 a month, excluding parking and utilities.

Richland ‘pit’ was bare for years

Thursday’s ground-breaking caps a four-year odyssey by the city and its partners to install a gateway-worthy development near Richland’s primary southern entrance at George Washington Way.

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Crown Group and its local partner, Boost Builds, break ground March 14 on Park Place a 104-unit apartment and retail complex at 650 George Washington Way in Richland. File/Tri-City Herald Tri-City Herald

The site languished for more than a decade after an earlier development stalled, leaving an excavated pit to mar the entrance to Howard Amon Park.

Richland selected Crown Group in 2015, agreeing to sell it the property once Crown secured financing.

Deadline after deadline passed as Crown, the city and citizens wrestled with the best use for the high-profile property site. The city altered the development agreement eight times.

Crown initially proposed an office and retail complex.

Public market rejected

Later, it teamed with the Tri-Cities Public Market Foundation, which wanted to thread a public market into the development. The city said rejected the idea to focus on the original more commercial vision.

As market foundation turned its attention to Pasco, and Crown retooled. It dropped office space for urban apartments. The city council signed off in 2016.

Plan in hand, Crown pursued a loan to build the $20 million undertaking, ultimately settling on private financing backed by the department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Crown Group and its local partner, Boost Builds, break ground March 14 on Park Place a 104-unit apartment and retail complex at 650 George Washington Way in Richland. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

It expected to close the deal and break ground in December, only to be delayed when loan underwriters discovered a previously unknown easement on the property.

The Army Corps of Engineers has since released the easement, which allowed Crown to close the loan and then buy the property, including a strip of land bordering Howard Amon for parking.

Two separate retail buildings totaling 5,000 square feet will accommodate up to six retail tenants, with storefronts facing George Washington Way.

The apartment building will cost about $13.25 million to build and the two commercial buildings will cost $950,000.

Fowler Construction of Richland is the general contractor. Construction will take about 15 months.

Richland typically budgets the proceeds from land sales to support future economic development or to park projects.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.
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