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Kendall Yards an instant hit

Sat., Aug. 9, 2014, midnight

Jim and Nancy Barthelmess moved into their custom-built home in Kendall Yards during the month of May. (Dan Pelle)
Jim and Nancy Barthelmess moved into their custom-built home in Kendall Yards during the month of May. (Dan Pelle)

Urban village is 100 percent full, and waiting lists grow weekly

Spokane’s mixed-use Kendall Yards development has become so successful that would-be homebuyers or renters have to get in line.

Vacancies or available homes are months out. The list of would-be buyers and renters grows by the week.

The 77-acre development, west of downtown on the north side of the Spokane River, has become Spokane’s buzzing urban village.

Developed by Liberty Lake-based Greenstone, Kendall Yards’ 118 houses or townhouse units are all filled, with only 23 new units coming online in the next four months.

Also filled are 118 apartments. The next batch of 50 apartments become available next spring.

“I think it’s successful because there are not that many choices for this kind of urban living in Spokane,” said Jim Frank, Greenstone’s CEO.

Overall, Kendall Yards has had 100 percent occupancy for nearly the past year, Frank said.

Despite the strong interest Greenstone can’t produce more units than its current plan, he added.

One reason is the company’s goal to build quality homes. The second reason is the challenge of building residential buildings in a development with diverse geography and varying home plans, he said.

“In a suburban development you can just do uniformly shaped lots, and the units pretty much all look the same” and generally pass code review quickly, Frank said.

In a complicated urban development like Kendall Yards, the units are treated, codewise, as commercial projects. That creates more detailed and deliberate reviews, Frank said, and adds to the time needed to build.

Even so, Frank looks out at Kendall Yards – once an undeveloped stretch of roads and weeds – and sees a lot of progress. “In four years, when you look at it, there’s a lot we’ve done there,” he said.

Frank said he’s delighted to see people wanting to live in a neighborhood where walking is considered preferable to driving, with social, architectural and economic diversity.

“For a lot of people, they want a sense of community with outdoor space on their porches so when neighbors walk by, they can talk or have them come in for a glass of wine,” Frank said.

Jim and Nancy Barthelmess get that idea. Both in their 70s, the retired couple recently left Salt Lake City to live in Kendall Yards. They hired local architect Chris Olsen to build a custom home on one of the five open lots inside Kendall Yards.

They moved into their home in May, enjoying great views of the Centennial Trail and the city skyline.

“One thing we wanted,” said Nancy Barthelmess, “was a front-door neighborhood. When we lived in Salt Lake, everyone went to their back doors and their yards,” she said.

They also enjoy walking to the nearby east half of the Kendall Yards project, with restaurants and retail locations.

Kendall Yards provided several open lots to builders like the Barthelmesses to provide more architectural diversity, Frank said.

“We don’t want to limit (housing options) just to people who can spend $400,000 for a home,” Frank said.

One downside to Kendall Yards’ popularity is the inability of visitors to find model homes or model apartments to review before moving in.

Because every space or house can be sold or rented, that presents problems for people like Gary and Marsha Wingate.

The empty-nesters grew up in Washington state, moved to South Carolina, then recently sold their home and started west, looking at their options.

On Friday they visited Kendall Yards, having heard it’s one of the city’s appealing neighborhoods, but they could only look at photos of apartments that won’t be available for another several months.

“It would be nice to get inside an apartment and see what it looks like,” Marsha Wingate said.

Frank acknowledged that’s a problem. But he sees no reason to keep a townhouse or apartment unoccupied just for show.

“I understand the concern,” Frank said. “We’ll have to add more video tours so people can get a better idea of the units.”

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