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Downtown Reconstruction: First phase nearly finished

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While crews still have a few loose ends to tie up before next week, Waterford Commons will celebrate its grand opening next Wednesday, July 15. Helen Abraham, property manager, said the public is welcome to come out.

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The reception will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. A ribbon cutting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Abraham said tours will be offered throughout the evening. Refreshments will be served.

Although crews are still working, 29 of the building's 108 apartment units already have tenants living in them. Abraham said so far 62 units have been rented out. In addition to the apartment units there is 13,000 sq. ft. of commercial space available.

With construction nearly complete Abraham said the project has turned out beautifully. The apartments feature a wide variety of amenities including nine-foot ceilings, contemporary kitchens with cherry cabinetry and granite counter tops, full sized washers 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 a controlled entry system.

"It's a quality building. I haven't heard a negative comment," said Abraham.

The opening of the building will surely be bittersweet for the community. The controversial project has had its fair share of hurdles to jump.

Since the start of the process, the Waterford Commons project -- also known as Core Block East -- has been controversial. It began with the possible relocation of three popular local businesses. In spring 2007, a large crowd spoke against a plan that would move Haupt Antiek, Quilter's Haven and Music Magic to make room for the project. Responding to the pleas, the port authority adjusted its plans so the businesses could remain. None of those businesses remain on the property today.

The members of the port authority still wanted to move forward with the project in the area, so it 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 authorize the use of eminent domain, citing removal of blight and redevelopment as its reasons. The Hansens eventually settled.

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