New apartments bring new life to North Avenue
When Bruce Milyard and his partners purchased 2.2 acres on North Avenue off 28 1/4 Road in 2007, he had no dreams of community-wide revitalization. He was simply making a deal on an almost-vacant piece of land during a construction boom.
“It’s in an area of North Avenue that needs revitalizing,” Milyard said, “but I liked the location, and it was the right size.”
The site used to be the home of a car-wash business that had been closed for years prior to the property’s sale. Milyard’s company, Constructors West, began making plans for Peppermill Lofts, an apartment project that fit in well with the city’s comprehensive plan for North Avenue. At that time, there hadn’t been any new apartments built in the Grand Valley since 2000.
“Most of what was here was old and dated,” Milyard said. Although some of the existing apartment buildings around town are in good condition on the outside, Milyard toured many of them, and he found they were getting worn on the inside.
Then the economic downturn came to the Grand Valley, and plans for Peppermill Lofts were put on hold. In addition to the property on North Avenue, Constructors West was also involved in Corner Square — the retail-and-residential project at First Street and Patterson Road — where luxury apartments were planned.
Conventional wisdom might have cautioned against building luxury apartments in the midst of an economic downturn, but Milyard and his partners decided to take a gamble and build them in spite of the economy. They took advantage of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan to finance the construction, and today, those higher-end apartments at Corner Square — called Rya Suites — are full.
“People thought I would have problems leasing the units,” Milyard said. “My gut told me there was a market.”
After the successful launch of Rya Suites at Corner Square, Constructors West took another look at the property on North Avenue. Once again, the company took advantage of HUD financing for the construction. This time around, Milyard had to show that not only was the demand still high for multi-family housing, but that the proposed apartments wouldn’t compete with the recently completed apartments at Corner Square. A HUD loan also requires significant documentation to get through the lengthy process for approval.
Construction at Peppermill Lofts started in the spring of 2011. The city supported the company’s action and waived certain fees for water, sewer and underground utilities.
“It’s the first step in revitalizing the North Avenue Corridor,” Milyard said.
As part of the city’s revitalization hopes, the city was awarded a federal grant for more than $1 million through the federal Transportation Community and System Preservation program for work on North Avenue. The grant includes the design of a three-mile stretch of North Avenue from First Street to 29 Road, and actual construction dollars for the first phase of the project, which will run from 12th Street to 23rd Street. Construction will take place sometime in 2013.
Although Peppermill Lofts is not in the area included in the first phase of construction, this apartment project fit in well with the city’s goals for North Avenue.
There are four buildings at Peppermill Lofts, and each building has nine two-bedroom units and three one-bedroom units. The upper floor units all have private balconies, and all units have a large exterior storage closet, washers and dryers and off-street parking.
“We decided we would not get Energy Star certification,” said Milyard, who added that the company used the same techniques and materials it had used for Rya Suites, which do have Energy Star certification.
At Peppermill Lofts, walls and floors have extra sound-proofing, appliances are all energy-efficient, air infiltration is reduced and blown-in cellulose insulation not only cuts energy bills, but also reduces noise.
Because of the HUD loan, Milyard said there is a misconception that Peppermill Lofts is subsidized or lower-end housing. Neither is true, and while the North Avenue apartments are less expensive than Rya Suites, they are comparable to other apartments around the city. Rents range between $775 and $900 per month, depending on the number of bedrooms and whether the unit is a ground-floor or upper-level unit.
Maxim 4000 began leasing the apartments about three weeks ago, and some tenants have already moved in.
“The demand has been strong,” said Dax Marutzky with Maxim 4000.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Peppermill Lofts on Aug. 16 at 4 p.m., and an open house on Aug. 18 from 1 - 3 p.m. For more information or a tour of the apartments, contact Marutzky at 683-2595.