Builders pivot from commercial to multifamily projects

A group of Tri-City builders is turning its focus away from commercial development to focus on multifamily projects.

It’s a strategy that appears to be a smart business move for Urban Range LLC.

Four partners make up the LLC which brings together under one umbrella a group of experienced builders with businesses of their own: Britt Creer and Steve Tarbert, both of Ranchland Homes, and Colton Brady and Ken Holle, both of Urban Street Builders.

Creer has a flooring company and his teen kids clean houses. Tarbert has a construction cleanup business. Brady runs a trim business on the side. Holle’s wife Dana does floor plans and exterior design work.

The builders first came together as Red Mountain Construction to build 62 units, a mix of 32 townhomes and duplexes and fourplexes, off Belmont Boulevard in West Richland about two and a half years ago.

As Urban Range, they have been busy building four fourplexes behind the old West Richland city hall campus and police station off Van Giesen Street.

The city plans to move into its new $12.3 million police station at 7920 W. Van Giesen St. near Keene Road by the end of the year and that’s when Urban Range will move its offices into the old police station. A purchase-sale agreement for the property has been signed for two years, Creer said.

The partners have an office on Fowler Street, off Columbia Center Boulevard, in Kennewick, but a West Richland office makes better sense logistically for the partners and their four employees, Creer said.

Plans to build two duplexes adjacent the fourplexes, behind the nearby Circle K store, were on deck, with permits issued. Each side of the buildings will have 640 square feet.

The original plan also included building a strip mall and office complex off Van Giesen between Circle K and the police station, but with more people working from home it didn’t make sense, Creer said. The plans have been designed and approved but the project is paused.

“We’ll see what the smartest thing to do on Van Giesen is,” Creer said.

So the builders are focusing on where they see the need: multifamily housing.

“Residential and multifamily is not hard to sell. Our capital is better used to make sure people have housing,” Creer said.

That doesn’t mean he’s abandoning plans to develop the property.

“This needs something here but it doesn’t need to be just anything. We want the right stuff to come in. That’s what we want,” he said.

The west end

Across town, on the growing west end of the city, Urban Range has plans to break up 12 acres of commercial land at the corner of Van Giesen and Paradise Way and then sell them.

“It’s the highest profile corner in Eastern Washington,” Creer said.

“We’re not going to develop those commercial parcels because commercial isn’t very fun. Multifamily, that’s our focus.”

The team also is working on building 15 townhomes and 11 single-family homes – small homes under 1,500 square feet – in the Western Ridge development, also off Paradise. There will be nine threeplexes with 27 units.

An advantage of building a variety of multifamily homes in the same development is they allow families to stay in their neighborhood and keep their kids in the same school as they outgrow their starter homes, Creer said.

Across the street from the development, the partnership owns 17 acres and is building 57 fourplexes and 40 townhomes. The project backs up to Aho Construction’s growing The Heights at Red Mountain Ranch, which at full buildout will add nearly 800 new homes within city limits.

Five years ago Creer said he started buying land but the city didn’t have zoning requirements for townhomes. Creer worked with the city to develop them as they saw the need for townhomes as starter homes.

Creer, who was born and raised just outside of West Richland city limits, said he traveled for most of his career after spending 15 years as a project management consultant, mainly for the oil, gas and nuclear industry.

Creer said his job is to plan for five years out. Urban Range has projects underway in southern Utah and Deer Park.

In the coming year, it will begin building 12 fourplexes on about 3 acres in the Badger Mountain South development off Dallas Road in Richland.

“The parking lot and infrastructure are already in. We’re ready to build,” Creer said.

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