Apartment 203 has a new ceiling and hardwood floors, along with marble countertops and new blinds. It has a wooden smell, like that of a brand new home.
It is difficult to tell that this is where the Sacajawea Apartments fire started.
More than two years have passed since the July 2013 fire displaced the building’s 150 residents, but the 60-unit building is finally open again.
Owner Linda Guo said people started moving in Dec. 1. They are filling apartments from the top down, with the 12 sixth-floor units now occupied.
She expects rentals to pick up after the holidays. The only advertising she has done so far is online.
“I think they eventually will come,” Guo said.
The second-floor studio apartment where a candle started the blaze was the only unit with fire damage, Guo said. But others had floors, doors and other items replaced because of smoke and water damage.
“This building is concrete, built in 1968, so the fire never got out (of the room),” she said. “But the smoke damage can go anywhere.”
The building offers affordable homes, with prices ranging from $500 for a studio apartment to $700 for a two bedroom, Guo said. Section 8 housing vouchers are also accepted.
The prices can be flexible, Guo said.
“If the client really has difficulties, we can work with them,” she said.
About half the building’s residents regularly used Lourdes Medical Center, across Fourth Avenue, before the fire. Guo said she hopes older residents will return, but so far most of the residents are between 20 and 40 years old.
Guo estimates that she’s spent close to $1 million repairing the building and getting it up to code.
Each room also has new smoke detectors that don’t allow residents to remove the battery. When the alarm sounds in one apartment, it sounds throughout the building.
The fire-related damage was repaired a year ago, but it took longer to get the building up to 2015 city codes, Guo said.
The state Department of Labor and Industries required that two electrical transformers in the apartment building’s basement be decommissioned and replaced with outdoor transformers, said Rick White, Pasco’s community and economic development director.
A Labor and Industries official told White that Sacajawea Apartments is only the second building in the state built since the 1940s that he has seen with transformers inside.
“The challenge was the age of the building,” White said. “The owners, of course, did not want to replace anything that wasn’t necessary, but damage to the electrical system was so great that it did have to be replaced.”
Elevator work also was needed, White said.
The building is safe and monitored 24 hours a day by Moon Security, Guo said.
“Right now, I am living in the building,” she said. “I interview every tenant and I make sure they are following the rules. When they see me living here, they feel safe.”
Guo also is looking to fill commercial space on the first floor, she said. Signs are still up for a deli, hair salon and Lourdes offices that were located in the building before the fire. But the businesses remain closed with no plans to return.
“Right now, we haven’t really advertised for the commercial units,” she said.