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Big City Style Popular Even In Small Towns

You might expect fancy loft living in downtown Portland and Seattle. But how about this? Now there are lofts going up in downtown Yakima and Pendleton, Oregon!

Richland correspondent Anna King takes us for a closer look at how small Northwest towns are embracing downtown living.

This is Yakima. People come here for the wide open spaces, the fruit orchards, the wine, the ranches and the … downtown Lofts?

Yes. That’s right. The lofts.

Builders discuss progress on the lofts being built in downtown Yakima’s old Bon Marche building. The builders expect to sell each place for as much as a half-million dollars.

Crews busily cut lumber to frame up lofts inside the old Bon Marche building. The Bon was the last of three major retailers to close up shop five years ago.

Downtown Yakima became almost a ghost town.  But now Yakima entrepreneurs are reclaiming those old buildings and turning them into living spaces, small boutiques and hotels.

Bill Kloster, the contractor on the Bon project, is sort of like Bob Vila. He is taking something old and making it new again.

Bill Kloster: "We could never recreate this. We could never create this again. With the systems that we have. That’s why taking the old buildings and making them functional as living units with commercial on the main level is something that is happing all over the country and now it’s happening in Yakima."

Each of these 27 lofts will sell for between 300,000 and a half million dollars. And one of the architects, Gabriel Heys, says these places will be as swank as the old Bon days.

Gabriel Heys: "What we are going to have in the wine room is we are going to have lockers. Each owner will have access to one of those."

There will also be a large room that people can rent for parties. This project is part of something called Operation Downtown Renaissance. Yeah – in Yakima, a place known for apples.

There are street ambassadors who clean up debris, direct visitors and help vagrants get off the streets and into social programs.

Sean Hawkins is with the renaissance project. He says people who move downtown Yakima are finding the same amenities that larger cities are known for. But Yakima residents don’t have to deal with traffic jams.

Sean Hawkins: "There are a lot of the things that you will find in Seattle. We’ve got restaurants, bars, coffee shops, places to hang out, farmers markets, events, theater, movie theater, great bike trails nearby, a lot of the same amenities that are in many other cities."

Experts say it’s something that’s happening across the country. People are leaving the suburbs for city dwellings. And even small cities like Dayton and Waitsburg, Washington are part of the trend. Younger generations want to be near the action and babyboomers….

Margaret Gianotti: "I think people are tired of the ‘burbs and they want to maybe get back to some of that feeling of being connected with your neighborhood. Because you get stuck out in the cul-de-sac and you don’t even know your neighbors."

That’s Margaret Gianotti, she and her husband Bruce have decided to live smack in the middle of downtown Pendleton.

Bruce Gianotti leads the way up some creaking stairs to the century-old gymnasium that will become their home. Inside, the original locker-room still exists complete with built-in wooden lockers.

Bruce Gianotti: "This was used by St. Josephs Academy a school here in town, for basketball, boxing matches, badminton, gymnastics, dances. You can still see the outline of the basketball court on the floor."

Despite the excitement of the project, Margaret said there are a few things the couple didn’t think of when planning their move to the city. Like where to put their Webber grill.

Operation Downtown Renaissance

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