Friday, March 9, 2012

Commencement Building Details (+ Photos)

Tom Elmer, managing director and CFO for new owners Onward Investors called yesterday to chat in depth about their plans for the Commencement building. He graciously provided these photos of a model unit as well. Mr. Elmer confirmed the occupancy goal  of mid-June. They will focus on finishing the top two floors first, then work their way down, finishing a floor every two or three weeks after that.

The other focus will be to finish the model unit (seen here) on the second floor along with a common area that will feature an exercise room, lounge, large patio and other amenities. The building will house an on-site sales office in the lobby, scheduled to open by April.

Mr. Elmer noted that apartment dwellers only need a couple of months lead time, unlike condo buyers who typically take a year or more to shop and finalize their decision. Thus the marketing of the building will begin in earnest in April (two months before the first new resident can move in).

The new owners will carry forward the same vision for the project, using materials left by the previous owners where they can. They plan on keeping the same color scheme and layout (for instance each apartment will still have its own laundry room), as well as keeping the Commencement name for the project.Most of the remaining work is inside, although there are some roof parapets to complete and exterior siding repairs. All the units are painted with the electrical stubbed in and most of the hardwood floors and tile work is done. The finish work varies by unit, depending on where the unit was in the sales process when the most recent bankruptcy hit.

The two current building occupants will remain as tenants. For now, the full building will be apartments. If market conditions change, the owners may consider "stacking" condos, similar to what Point Ruston is doing with their current building under construction. Under this scenario, the top floors would be converted to condos while the rest of building remained rentals. Mr. Elmer did not think that was likely, given the additional requirements that go along with condos. Their vision for this project remains high-end apartments.

Mr. Elmer confirmed that they have agreed to repave both parking lots and the alley around the school building. This was in exchange for staging material on the south lot and to meet some of the obligations of the previous owners. He was not sure of the timing for that work, but said discussions are underway with the town.

Mr. Elmer stated very clearly that "they are for real - with real money." They have the project capitalized and are excited to move forward. They are committed to being good neighbors. He hopes to overcome any lingering neighborhood resentments over time by staying connected and committed to the community.He points out that the building manager and maintenance folks will live close by and be neighbors. The marketing team will be involved with the local business district. For now, the project brings construction jobs and will eventually add new residents to shop our stores and build our tax base.

Noise and activity will once again be the norm for the neighborhood as construction gears up. With the sewer work and Point Ruston build-out underway, Ruston is 'the happening place' to be!

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