Apartment complex with river view eyed

Oregon developer could break ground by this summer

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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A Salem, Ore.-based developer plans to build 19 apartment buildings in Vancouver that will capitalize on Columbia River views and take advantage of the area's hot rental market.

The 320-unit Columbia View Apartments could break ground this summer as the latest project by Mountain West Investment Corp., residential and commercial developers who have focused more recently on the improving multi-family market. High demand for apartments, especially with views, is the main reason the company chose the 16-acre site above state Highway 14, south of the intersection of East Fifth Street and East Evergreen Boulevard.

A portion of the site is the former home of the Rose Vista Nursing Center, which closed and was torn down in 2005. The facility had started out as a hospital for Vancouver workers at the Kaiser Shipyard. Vancouver businessman Dave Christensen bought the property for redevelopment and still owns the site, being purchased by Mountain West.

"We anticipate closing on the property next month," said Hillary Banks, an assistant project manager for Mountain West.

The developers are seeking approval from Vancouver to build the project in two phases, starting with a 10-building phase with two common buildings along the southern portion of the flat site. A second, nine-building phase could start in 2015 on the northern portion of the tract, depending on the market for apartments.

"Nothing is finalized yet," Banks said.

The developers went through the city's rezoning process late last year to change the original plans for a condominium development on the site. With the market heating up for apartments, projects that investors are readily building and buying in Clark County, where apartment vacancies are down and rents are going up.

Market data shows a low apartment vacancy rate of less than 3.5 percent in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, according to data tracked by Portland-based Multifamily NW.

"We like the site and we like the market," Banks said.

She said rents would best be described as "market rate" for the units, which will range in size from a 725-square-foot one-bedroom to a 1,440-square-foot three-bedroom floor plan.

The first of the facility's commons buildings will include a game area and small movie theater, along with the business and welcoming center, Banks said. A second commons building will include a fitness center and an outdoor swimming pool, and the development will be gated and include a guard house off the site's East Fifth Street entrance, said Jon Wagner, a senior planner with the City of Vancouver.

He said planners with the city's development department have not yet approved the project, which has yet to go through an extensive engineering review.

"I think they will be able to break ground by this summer, but that's only six weeks away," he said.

Banks said her company has selected Salem-based Sharp Core Inc. as the project's general contractor. Mountain West Investment Corp. is involved with two other ongoing apartment projects. The company is just finishing up the second phase of a 180-unit project in Salem and moving forward with a large development of roughly 180 units in Tualatin, Ore.