Point Ruston moving quickly to second phase

For the ever-optimistic Mike Cohen, managing partner of the Tacoma’s largest mixed use development project, Point Ruston, reality is finally matching his dreams.

Construction activity at the site of the former Asarco copper smelter near Point Defiance Park is moving swiftly into the development’s second phase as Cohen tries to meet a growing demand for more waterfront apartments, condominiums and retail spaces.

The Copperline Apartments, the first major building in the multi-phase development, is 100 percent leased. The 21 water-view condominiums in the first phase of the Copperline Condominiums are sold out. Of the 22 condo units in the second phase of the Copperline only six remain available.

Interest in the third condominium building that borders Commencement Bay which Cohen calls the Century Condominiums, is high. Construction on those units is still at an early stage, but interest from potential buyers has exceeded even Cohen’s most optimistic projections.

When Point Ruston sent out invitations to potential buyers for a July 17 reception unveiling plans for those new condos, Cohen expected a good turnout would be 50 or 60 people. So far, some 250 interested buyers have said they’re coming.

“We may have to put a cap on how many can come,” he said.

Residents are already moving into the first two levels of the first Copperline Condominiums building.

That residential building with sweeping views from Mount Rainier to the Olympics, has attracted buyers from a broad area.

While the units with their massive decks and unimpeded views are not inexpensive ($600,000 to $2 million), some residents considered them bargains.

Miste Durban and her husband sold their Bellevue home and moved into the adjacent Copperline Apartments while their condo was being built. Now they expect to move before the end of the month.

“There was nothing like these in King County,” she said. “Being on the 21st floor of a residential tower just isn’t the same experience,” she said. She and her husband frequently walk the length of Ruston Way and navigate the wooded trails of Point Defiance Park.

More man-made amenities are coming to Point Ruston to complement those natural ones.

A new restaurant and pub, Two Towns, plans a soft opening next week in the Copperline Apartments building. The establishment will have both indoor and outdoor seating in a family-friendly atmosphere. Mu Song, the restaurant owner, said the new eatery will follow some of the tried-and-true formulas he’s employed at his Olympia restaurant, Pints and Quarts.

Two Towns, named after the two cities, Tacoma and Ruston, where Point Ruston is located, isn’t the only restaurant activity that Point Ruston has seen in the last month.

The developer has already signed a sushi restaurant and a seafood house to occupy two retail spaces in the building where an 11-screen Century Theaters multiplex will play movies to the public. That theater building, also part of the development’s second phase, is due to open by May 1 next year.

Interest in restaurant leasing at the development has recently freshened, he said.

“It feels as if the dam is finally going to break,” Cohen said. Point Ruston saw proposals from three different restaurant developers last week.

On the theater site, construction crews have created the basement-level garage that will support the theaters. Those 175 spaces will be occupied by cars owned by residents of the adjacent Century Condominiums and of the 93 apartment units scheduled to be built above the theater.

Cohen said Thursday he wishes he had those apartment units available now because he could show them to the 50 tenants on the waiting list for Copperline Apartments. Those apartments and the adjacent condominiums will be finished after the theater, likely sometime in the later half of 2015.

Construction crews have excavated land across the street from the theater site and expect to begin construction soon on a 1,350-space, four-level garage scheduled to be built on that site. That garage will provide parking for the theater and for other retail shops and restaurants planned for the Point Ruston development.

Because that garage is being built on sloping land, its second story entrance will be at the same level as the theater plaza. It top floor will contain a grocery store and its associated parking that will be accessed at a higher ground level from Ruston Way.

Space in the big garage will be free to Point Ruston customers with merchant validations, said Cohen. Making the garages free to everyone would likely result in the garages being filled with summertime users of the Ruston Way waterfront and Point Defiance Park, said Cohen, leaving no space for Point Ruston patrons.

The garage structure will be ringed with retail shops.

Meanwhile, detailed planning for a Silver Cloud Hotel at Point Ruston is moving ahead. The hotel’s developers are expanding the number of rooms they plan to build and have added more amenities to the hotel plan, said Cohen.

The brisk demand for residences and retail spaces wasn’t always the story of life at Point Ruston. Cohen and his partners bought the former copper smelter site seven and a half years ago at the height of economic boom times only to see demand disappear when the recession hit. The development marched in place for more than three years while the economy caught its breath. Construction halted on the Copperline for three years at the garage level. When the high-rise Copperline building resumed construction, it reemerged as apartments instead of the originally planned condos.

Cohen said he saw the trends reverse last year when interest in the single-family home lots on Stack Hill overlooking the main Point Ruston development began growing.

“In 2012, we sold no lots on Stack Hill,” he said. “In 2013, we sold 18. I’m hoping that trend will continue for a long time.”