A longtime Jefferson Park developer is taking on his biggest project yet.
David Berton, along with Realtor Kris Berton, and real estate investors Craig and Liza Evans, will break ground today on 72 new apartments at 2525 Eliot St.
As the neighborhood adds many new homes, Berton thinks he’s found a prime location between commercial strips on 25th Avenue, 26th Avenue and Federal Boulevard.
“Within one block there’s a supermarket, there’s restaurants, bars and stores,” Berton said. “It also has great proximity to the business district, Safeway and the bus lines.”
The five-story, $15 million project will take shape on a 0.37-acre property Berton has held for more than five years. He bought a note on this site and the nearby Granada Theater in 2008. After a complicated foreclosure process, Berton said he took ownership in about 2009.
Berton tried to lure a retail tenant for the Granada Theater, but eventually sold the building to a buyer that has converted it into a single-family home. Berton held onto the 2525 Eliot St. property, however, and has rented it out as a parking lot for several years.
While he’s been building and designing single-family homes, townhomes and commercial projects in Jefferson Park for 20 years, Berton said he’s never taken on a project this big. He and his partners also are going in without a big-time capital partner, Berton said, which made financing a challenge.
“This is our biggest deal to date and it took a lot out of us to actually make it happen and get the loan from Commerce Bank,” Berton said. “It took a lot of their confidence in us, a lot of our confidence in the market and, frankly, a lot of equity.”
The unit breakdown will come to about 65 percent one-bedroom apartments and 35 percent two-bedroom units, Berton said. Apartments will range from 550 to 950 square feet and Berton is shooting for rental rates around mid-$2 per square foot.
Plans also call for a fitness area, common room, bike-storage facility and an onsite leasing office. The building also will have a rooftop deck. Residents will park in a two-story parking deck, including one underground level.
Berton is hoping extra parking and a little bit of distance from the louder, more bustling parts of the Highlands will draw tenants.
“We think we’ll see young professionals who want to be in the Highlands area but want a little bit more quiet than you’ll find in the Lower Highlands, and maybe a little more parking,” Berton said. “But we think we’ll frankly get some seniors too, because of the proximity to Safeway.”
Berton’s firm, RealArchitecture, designed the Eliot Street apartments. Bristlecone Construction is the general contractor. The build should take about 16 months, putting the complex on schedule for a late 2017 opening.
Jefferson Park is booming with multifamily and single-family development. Riverpoint Partners is building 200 new units at Decatur Street and 27th Avenue. More than 300 apartments opened at 2785 Speer Blvd. last year and new townhome projects dot almost every corner of the neighborhood.
It wasn’t like that when Berton started working in Jefferson Park in 2005, or when he bought 2525 Eliot St. out of foreclosure in 2008. But he thinks the neighborhood finally is reaching its potential.
“I’ve been really trying to push this neighborhood for a really long time and it’s really coming of age,” Berton said. “Neighborhoods take time to have enough residential to build businesses, and once businesses start coming in, they need even more residential to support their business.”