A 126-unit luxury apartment complex will open next spring behind West Park Promenade on Billings West End, and area retailers are salivating over the prospect of the added foot traffic.
The $18 million Avenue C apartment complex will feature a rooftop lounge, fitness center, pool, courtyard, granite countertops and nine-foot ceilings in the rooms and a short walk to shopping, developer Jim McLeod said.
“We just thought (the apartments and West Park) would complement one another, with the boutique retail, Lucky’s store, and adding some residential... This is going to be some of the nicest product in Montana,” said McLeod, managing partner of Missoula-based Farran Realty Partners.
The four-story complex overlooks West Park Promenade, an outdoor mall with a mix restaurants, shops, pubs, health and beauty services and anchors, including Lucky’s Market.
The complex will have studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Managers have not determined the rates, and prospective renters are already signing up, McLeod said. Construction began in the summer.
At other luxury apartment complexes in town, monthly rent typically ranges from $800 to $900 for one-bedrooms up to $1,300 to $1,400 for three bedrooms.
Renters will likely be a mix of aging baby boomers who want to move out of their homes and young, single professionals, he said.
“Avenue C is really for the renter by choice, people who are choosing to downsize (and want) secured access,” he said.
Billings has traditionally been a tight market for renters, largely because of short supply of apartments. The fall of oil prices has eased demand for rentals, but renters still often must scramble to secure a place.
On the high end, other new facilities are open or have been proposed.
The 216-unit InterUrban apartment complex is currently under construction on South 44th Street West and will come online in phases over the next few years.
In addition, the developers of the proposed $120 million One Big Sky Center say that downtown apartments are part of their plan. This project remains in the early stages and requires Billings City Council approval for up to $30 million in public funding for infrastructure improvements.
McLeod said that Farran believes Billings needs new luxury apartments in the center of town.
“We never go into a community without having the market research so we understand the economics,” he said.
Farran is financing the project with equity investors and business loans from Stockman Bank, McLeod added.
For West Park Promenade, the arrival of the apartments is a selling point to fill vacancies, including the soon-to-be empty Hastings anchor spot facing Grand Avenue.
Mike Kirkland, owner of Snoqualmie, Wash.-based MK Property Services, which manages West Park, said he’s hoping to find one large tenant to fill the Hastings spot, which will be vacant by the end of the month.
“The ownership is not just interested in filling a space, but is interested in creating a cross-shopping experience that enhances the community… We would rather keep it available for the right tenant, rather than bring in any tenant,” Kirkland said Wednesday.
West Park, which was redesigned as an outdoor mall in the late 2000s, has other smaller vacancies in the corridor leading up to the apartments.
Kirkland said construction likely slowed finding new retail tenants, but he expects interest will pick up when Avenue C opens.
“We feel it brings customer base, visibility, and circulation patterns that will enhance the experience at West Park,” he said.
Retailers there say they’re welcoming Avenue C as a new neighbor.
Time Out Sports is just a few hundred feet from the new apartment complex, and owner Cindy Thompson can watch the progress from her window.
The sports-apparel shop was one of West Park Promenade’s first tenants and has a lengthy history in the neighborhood. Time Out first opened in the former West Park Plaza in 1990.
Residents at the Avenue C will enjoy the neighborhood, Thompson predicted, and they’ll be good for retail business.,
“I just think being this close, they’ll come check us out,” she said Thursday.
Sarah Greengross, a Colorado-based spokeswoman for Lucky’s, said the new apartment complex is a good opportunity to increase in-store events.
Lucky’s already hosts several, including pumpkin painting for kids, community cookouts to benefit Billings TrailNet and backpack programs for Billings schools, she said.
Lucky’s, which opened in Billings in the spring of 2014, is aiming to be a community “hub” where people can gather, Greengross said.
“We’re really excited for the growth and opportunity, as far as reaching customers that live within a walking distance,” she said.
McLeod, the developer, said planning for Avenue C began before Lucky’s opened, but the two will dovetail nicely.
“That fits our demographic, folks that can walk out their front door, go do their grocery shopping, go out to dinner.”