In-fill apartment project brings needed units to central Kennewick

Jason Zook is best known in the Tri-Cities for Smile A Mile Painting, a residential and commercial painting business with operations in the Tri-Cities and Central Oregon.

Jason Zook

Jason Zook

But Zook has a background in construction and has always built projects for himself, something he treats as a hobby.

“I know the steps from the concept on paper to design through sweeping the carpet and making sure all the water is flowing in the right direction,” he said.

His latest project is a three-story, 26-unit apartment project at 3120 W. Fourth Ave. in the heart of Kennewick. Demand drove the investment in the $3.1 million project. The vacancy rate for Kennewick was just 1.2%, according to the most recent survey by the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate.

Pasco and Richland were similarly tight, at 0.5% and 1.7%, respectively, for all unit types.

“I have other apartments in town. I’m always getting calls. There’s just a shortage of housing,” he said.

The unnamed Zook project will be the first new multifamily construction in the neighborhood and will offer units at market rates, about $900 to $1,100 per unit.

“I can basically build the newest and nicest in the neighborhood because it’s 2020. Everything else is ’70s and ’80s,” he said in December.

Zook said the property was ready-made for a smallish, no-frills apartment project.

The one-acre property had single-family home on it but was zoned for apartments and had utilities at the site. The city was eager to see denser residential development, he said.

Zook demolished the home and upgraded the utilities to support the added demand.

The project consists of two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments. Zook said he is targeting the middle market. Units will have laminate flooring, carpeted bedrooms, “nice” cabinets and some hard surfaces.

It is unlike most apartment development in the Tri-Cities, which tends to cater to higher income demographics with riverside locations and luxury touches such as granite countertops and clubhouses with recreational amenities including pools.

Zook said the site is too constrained for a clubhouse. While the project is unsubsidized, he is committed to keeping rents in the midrange.

“We’re really excited about offering a new unit at this level because unfortunately there’s a lot of people out there whose only options are older units,” he said. “Rent has gone through the ceiling for them.”

He is targeting a summer occupancy and is taking reservations now. Zook and his wife intend to hold onto the complex as an investment and will manage it themselves.

Zook grew up building single-family homes with his father in The Redmond/Bend/Madras region of Central Oregon. He began in 2003 and ran into the teeth of the Great Recession a few years later. Bend led the nation for foreclosures when the housing bubble collapsed. Projects dried up so he turned to painting.

There was so much demand from customers wanting to change the color of their homes that he focused on that instead of building.

He has about 20 employees in Redmond and more in the Tri-Cities because it is a larger market.

“We are looking to other markets for expansion,” he said.

Call Preferred Rentals, 509-579-9393, for leasing information.

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