When Ron Edwards returned to his Felida home from a trip to Europe in 2007, he wanted to bring back the feeling of the tight-knit community he’d just experienced.
“It’s kind of frustrating to always have to drive to Salmon Creek and Hazel Dell,” he said.
So Edwards, president of Western Properties II and vice president of Western Construction, is doing something to bring amenities closer to home. He purchased 1.3 acres on the northwest corner of Northwest 119th Street and 36th Avenue and is building Felida Village, three buildings with a mix of commercial and residential space.
“I’m trying to create something that people can walk and bike to — something for our community,” Edwards said.
Though the recession put things on hold for a few years, he’s back at work finishing up the project.
Each of the three buildings, which are two stories and 6,000 square feet, will have commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor. One of the three buildings is complete.
But before he even began construction, he needed business owners on board.
“I was determined not to build an empty building,” he said.
Amy Grabenkort, franchise owner of Barre3, was the first to commit.
“I needed a tenant, and Amy’s the one who took the leap of faith,” Edwards said. “She embraced my vision, and we went for it.”
Grabenkort said that when she first visited the spot, it was an open field. The more she learned about the area, she said, the more she knew it was the right spot to open her business.
“The more time I spent out here in Felida, the more I thought these are my people, this is my tribe,” she said. “There’s a strong sense of community here.”
Grabenkort said she and Edwards shared a vision of creating a gathering place for the community, which made the whole process easier. The fitness studio opened its doors in March.
Between each building, Edwards has built benches, tables and planters. A gazebo stands between two of the buildings and Edwards plans to put in a fire feature between the other two buildings.
“He’s gone above and beyond to make sure it was a place that was really a solidly good addition to the community,” Grabenkort said.
Since then, other businesses have followed suit. Edward Jones shares office space next to Barre3, Pines Coffee & Tea signed a lease to get its first brick and mortar in one of the spaces in the middle building, and Mt. Tabor Brewing will occupy the entire bottom floor of the corner building. Construction is expected to be completed this spring with the brewery set to open its doors by June.
Even though the hope was for the residents of Felida to walk, parking ended up being one of the biggest issues with the project, Edwards said. Though there are 54 parking spots to the west of the three buildings, Edwards said that the low number wasn’t appealing to businesses.
“There’s enough parking to meet the code but not enough to meet the need,” Edwards said.
He is in the process of purchasing the lot at the southwest corner of the intersection, where he plans to build about 50 more parking spots along with one more mixed use commercial-residential building.
“In the meantime, we’re going to put a farmers market and additional parking in the field around it,” Edwards said.
The buildings are part of the first mixed-use developments to be built in recent years in unincorporated Clark County. But the change to the Felida area is one Edwards stands by since it’s one he’s making to his own neighborhood — Edwards lives five blocks east of the new development.
“I think it’s enhancing the area,” he said. “This is an improvement for everybody.”
Milada Allen, president of the Felida Neighborhood Association, said that Edwards did a good job in terms of outreach for the community by hosting several meetings and making sure everyone was onboard.
“He told people ahead of time what he was planning to put in there,” she said. “He really involved the community. … people were very happy to learn what was going on.”
She said about 95 percent of the people she’s talked to rave about it, while 5 percent don’t like the fact that it’s two stories.
“It’s the first of its kind in the neighborhood,” she said. But, she added, “It’s just one of those quality-of-life things that people, when they see that, they want to move into our neighborhood.”