Upscale living for renters taking shape on Pasco waterfront

Some of the finest homes in the Tri-Cities line the Pasco riverfront.

Soon, renters will be able to call the Columbia River shoreline home too.

The first 60-unit phase of a 288-unit luxury complex opens to residents in September at 2120 W. A St. in Pasco.

Columbia River Walk, named for its intimate proximity to the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, will cater to “middle to high income” renters with units offering river views and upscale amenities such as a clubhouse, pool and spa, dog park, cable and internet service included and a rooftop deck. The building roof is designed to support a solar array as well.

It is the first new apartment complex in Pasco in several years and the first in the Tri-Cities to be sited immediately next to Army Corps-owned land on the river.

Columbia River Walk is being built by Zepgon Investments, which is led by general contractor Jesus “Jesse” Zepeda. Zepeda is partnering with Rigo Rangel of Tri-Cities Engineering for the ambitious undertaking.

Zepeda bought the property about 15 years ago with the intent to develop an income-producing apartment project. The sleepy stretch of West A Street offers easy access to Highway 395 and Road 20 and the Tri-Cities Airport.

He built an office and yard for Generations Plastering, the umbrella for his general contracting business, on the site and reserved a parcel on the west side for potential commercial business.

“I saw the vision, that it could be an investment,” he said.

Tight rental market

It took time and the right combination of low vacancy rates and financing to bring it to life. The Tri-Cities’ tight housing market, fueled by more than five years of job gains before the Covid-19 crisis hit, drove up demand for all types of housing along with rents.

The Tri-City apartment vacancy rate was 2.5 percent this spring, when the University of Washington Center for Real Estate Research conducted its biannual survey of property managers. The average apartment rent in the Tri-Cities was $1,022 per month.

Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate firm, estimates the Tri-Cities needs 500 new units per year just to keep up with demand.

”We just saw there was a need for these,” Rangel said.

The development began to take shape in 2018. Zepgon asked the city of Pasco to rezone the site from industrial to residential 3, allowing multifamily construction.

The city signed off. It issued permits for the initial 60-unit building, with a construction value of about $7 million, in December. The three-story building will offer six three-bedroom units, six two-bedroom units and 48 one-bedroom units.

Zepgon is seeking a higher density R4 designation for future phases.

‘Good project’ for the city

Rick White, community development director for Pasco, confirmed it’s the city’s first multifamily project in recent years and a welcome addition to the waterfront that could spark more development in the neighborhood.

“We think it’s a good project,” he said.

The new complex is east of the blue bridge and perched on the popular riverfront trail used by walkers, joggers and bicyclists. It has direct access to the trail across the canal. Zepgon wants to build its own bridge over a water-filled canal behind the levee, subject to Army Corps approval.

In the interim, there is a formal access point and parking at the South 25th Avenue trailhead to the west and a casual one at 20th, on the east side of the apartment property.

The Pasco Youth Baseball Complex is east of the site, as is the Tri-Cities Animal Control Services and Shelter facility.

Despite the area’s industrial and commercial history, it was ripe for residential development. The area was annexed into the city in 1962 and zoned for industrial use. The city’s comprehensive plan encourages higher density residential development at the area.

White called the area a “sleeper” for the city. The shoreline to the west of the blue bridge is dotted with upscale homes, while the stretch to the east is home to a manufactured home park, industrial and low-density residential development.

Pretty views, pretty rents?

Zepeda and Rangel say they intend to own the property rather than sell it once it is built and occupied.

FTI Management, a third-party property management company with 1,500 units in the Tri-Cities, will manage Columbia River Walk. The company declined to disclose asking rents but notes vacancy rates at the properties it manages are consistent with the rest of the Tri-Cities – between 2-3 percent.

There is nothing directly comparable in the Tri-Cities. However, Kennewick’s Island View apartments are situated near the river, with a view across Columbia Park Trail to Bateman Island. Asking rents are $1,211 to $2,221 per month.

The Nineteen, a proposed luxury project in downtown Kennewick, offers a hint at what today’s developers think tomorrow’s higher-income renter will pay to live at prestige properties. Construction isn’t expected to begin until later this summer, but the project advertises one-bedroom units with rents starting at $2,150 per month.

Columbia River Walk is accepting inquiries for the September move-in. Contact Linda Henjum at 509-792-1150 for applications and rental information.

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