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Often-stalled Ruston luxury residential project opening Thursday

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on July 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
July 11, 2012 3:37 pm

A six-story luxury residential building overlooking Commencement Bay in Ruston formally opens its doors Thursday after struggling for years with development issues and financial problems.

The Commencement, now in the hands of its third developer, will open as apartments instead of condominiums as had been the original plan.

Dignitaries from both Tacoma and Ruston will attend the 4 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the structure’s completion.

The 62-unit building sits above the former Asarco copper mill site with water and mountain views.

Because it was designed originally as a condominium, the units are larger than usual apartments. Those apartments range from about 1,680 square feet to more than 2,300 square feet.

All of the building’s units except two sixth-floor units converted from what were to be the building’s workout room and its library, have two bedrooms and a den. The exercise room and theater were moved to a second-floor space.

The large size of those nearly-complete units was considered by some potential bidders for the project as a potential problem because the spaces couldn’t be economically subdivided.

But the Minnesota developer that bought the project from the bank that financed it said he thinks the larger, expensively finished units make the building unique in the Tacoma market.

“The units all have wonderful views. They’re built of concrete, so the sound insulation is superior to ordinary apartment construction, and the kitchens are furnished with granite countertops and high-end appliances,” said Tom Elmer, managing director and chief financial officer for Onward Investors LLC.

Each unit has a full-sized separate laundry room, not just a closet with a stackable washer and dryer.

The Commencement units will lease for $2,200 to $3,800 a month depending on their size and layout. When the units were being sold as condominiums, the prices ranged from $850,000 to $1.5 million.

The new developer has already signed leases with two tenants, former prospective condo owners who had moved into the building but hadn’t closed on their units before the bank foreclosed on the project. Nine other units have been reserved pending the building’s completion.

Elmer said he expects the Commencement’s target audience will be couples middle-aged and older whose children have left home and who don’t want to deal with the maintenance of their larger existing homes.

Because the units are offered for rent rather than for sale, those tenants won’t have to come up with a large down payment, and they’ll have the flexibility to move without the problems of reselling their home if they relocate to a warmer climate or move into an assisted living situation.

Although the average rents in the building are likely the highest in the Tacoma area, those rents are a relative bargain, he said, based on the size and the views the building offers.

The building was finished in a manner consistent with the original design, said Elmer. The structure’s original exterior cladding was replaced to avoid potential issues caused by the long lag in construction, and the two sixth-floor amenities units were converted to living units.

Minimal changes were made to the structure to allow the building to be finished without having to reapply for permits from the Town of Ruston.

BCRA, the original building architect, was retained to oversee the building’s completion.

Onward, which specializes in distressed properties paid a little more than $10 million for the semi-finished building.

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