Downtown development is filling up
Life has sprung up in the commercial part of the Waterford Commons building and after eight months of being open the once controversial downtown development seems to be finding its place in town.
Over the last few weeks three businesses have opened in the 13,000 sq. ft. of commercial space available in the building. VA Loans and Petushin Martial Arts both opened March 1. FTTH Communications has also taken over space in the building.
"We are pretty happy with the way things are going," said Wally Johnson, president of Stonebridge Companies, which built the development. "It's doing better than some of our other projects."
Johnson said several other businesses have shown a strong interest in the space available and that CB Richard Ellis, the leasing company Stonebridge uses to rent the property, is working with them to fill the rest of the commercial space.
Johnson said he hopes the commercial space will be filled in the next three or four months.
While it may have seemed to take a while to get the commercial space leased out Johnson said in the beginning the focus was on getting the 108 apartment units rented out.
"Most of the building is made up of apartments so that was our primary focus," said Johnson.
Property manager Helen Abraham said they have had great success in finding renters for the building. She said all but three of the apartments are being rented currently. She added that she only has two two-bedroom apartments available.
"We are 97 percent occupied right now. That's pretty good," said Abraham.
Abraham said the residents seem to enjoy living in the building.
"The residents are happy and excited to be here," said Abraham.
Waterford Commons officially opened in mid-July. The apartments feature a wide variety of amenities including nine-foot ceilings, contemporary kitchens with cherry cabinetry and granite countertops, full sized washer and dryers and large bathrooms complete with oversized bathtubs.
The community offers additional amenities including underground parking with a car wash, an outdoor pool, a 24-hour fitness center and controlled entry system.
While things seems to going along smoothly now, getting to this point has been a long road. The city-led project was controversial from the beginning and became quite contentious at times.
It began with the possible relocation of three popular local businesses. In spring 2007, a large crowd spoke against a plan that would have moved Haupt Antiek, Quilters Haven and Music Magic to make space for the project. Responding to the pleas the port authority, which led the way for the project, adjusted its plans so the businesses could remain. None of those businesses remain in the location today.
The members of the port authority still wanted to move forward with the project in the area, so developers progressed with a revised plan that involved 14670 South Robert Trail otherwise know as the Ratzlaff property, which was owned by Kurt Hansen and his wife, Patricia Walter Hansen.
The Hansens refused to sell and after two contentious public hearings the port authority decided with a 5-2 vote to take the land through eminent domain, citing removal of blight and redevelopment as its reasons. The Hansens eventually settled. The city acquired the land and sold it to Stonebridge.
While some in the community have welcomed the project with open arms, others still view it will distaste.