Eye Business Editor
WEST END ROAD – A project eight years in the making ground was broken last Wednesday on the Mill Yard’s pending 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse and sales facility at West End Road.
It’s a big move for owners Laurie Mark and Tanka Chase, who purchased the former undeveloped ag land across from Britt Lumber in 2002, intending to expand out of their 9,000 sq. ft. leased building in the Bracut Industrial Park along U.S. Highway 101.
Since then, the local and national economy has been riding a virtual roller coaster, where the construction industry has moved from boom to bust. But even more difficult has been landing adequate credit to fund the $2.5 million project. After working through several outlets, the Mill Yard switched to Redwood Capital Bank in the winter. And the Mill Yard switched back into gear.
“In the past, it would not have been the appropriate time,” Mark said of attempting to build during a down market. While the building industry hasn’t come anywhere near its late-90s giddiness, the owners see things improving. “And sometimes you have to go with your gut.”
Gut-checks aside, the City’s Community Development department stepped in after acquiring a $229,000 state redevelopment grant. Bringing in 15 workers, with the capacity to expand, to Arcata meshed with Director Larry Oetker’s mantra of “living wage jobs” in Arcata. Community Development was motivated to help jumpstart the project. “They have been wonderful to work with,” Mark said. “They have welcomed us with open arms.”
So why the move? “There’s no more playing chicken on the freeway,” Mark said. The building material wholesaler has been having clients and delivery trucks make an abrupt slowdown to in order to hit the mid-city turnoff on U.S. Highway 101. It’s dangerous. The comparatively easy State Route 299 location beckoned with street speeds at a mellow 25 miles per hour. Additionally, the Mill Yard collaborates on contractor needs with the nearby Almquist Lumber and Humboldt Fasteners. Giving builders a neighborhood cluster is advantageous for the industry.
Mark said Arcata’s renewed push to develop and beautify Valley West was attractive, as well. In particular, Mark applauded the pending Mad River Park on Zanzi property, calling it “a wonderful coup.”
The Mill Yard has been renting a cramped structure, blown by cold winds and marsh mud, the place is a dirtier than Mark likes.
In the interim, Arcata passed Measure G, the three-quarter percent Arcata sales tax used to fund Public Works and Arcata Police Department projects. Often working in big-volume sales on budgets, the Mill Yard was less enthused about the potential impact to sales. “It concerns me in general. You can’t keep coming back to us taxpayers. Have I lost sleep over it? No, I haven’t. It isn’t huge.”
Having dealt with late-night theft at the unsupervised Mill Yard for years, the recent addition of full-time APD staffing at Valley West – funded by Measure G Transaction and Use Tax funds, could end up protecting the new shop’s bottom line.
Construction on the Kash Boodjeh Architect-designed building is expected by the end of 2010.