Written by Bridget Butler-Sullivan
As a way to help modernize one of the Valley’s most beloved cities, local real estate development firm Apotek Moderna is integrating lofts into the heart of Kingsburg’s downtown.
“I think there is a misunderstanding about Valley towns that suggests they’re stuck in the past, when really you’d find the same microcosms of people in Kingsburg as you would in places like San Francisco,” said Jeff Harpain, managing member and financial manager of the company.
“We have a diverse cross-section of people waiting to live there — anyone from empty nesters to young couples. Really, anyone who doesn’t want your typical three bedroom house,” said Kjirsten Harpain, another managing member and wife of Jeff.
Apotek Moderna has started building a total of five lofts, all between 1,000-1,200 square feet. The four larger units will have two bedrooms and two and a half baths, complete with individualized kitchen, living and dining areas. The fifth will be a studio with full kitchen and bathroom, and to complete the building, Apotek is including a small lounge area available for all tenants.
These lofts are undergoing construction on the north side of Draper Street, between California and Marion streets, a location central to many of the city’s recent and current developments. Surrounding streets 18th and California were reconstructed this past year, and a new restaurant is set to open around the expected completion of the lofts in February 2018.
Jeff and Kjirsten, as well as Kjirsten’s brother and Apotek’s final managing member, CJ Brock, are making it a point to incorporate the town’s unique design into their project. “What makes this so innovative is that we’ve taken the loft concept and catered it towards the historical motif of a Swedish Village,” Jeff said.
This foundation goes far past just the physical aspect of the building. Apotek Moderna literally translates to “modern pharmacy” in Swedish, a name derivative of the building’s previous name, “Ostrom’s Pharmacy.” As noted by Kjirsten, both her and brother CJ still recall childhood memories of seeing the Ostrom family’s license plate, “Apotek,” as they drove around town.
Bouncing off of one another, Kjirsten and Jeff then said, “We want to continue the legacy of the Ostrom family. This project is being done out of respect and homage to the past.”
“We really love the project. We love Kingsburg, we love the people, and we want to do something nice for the town,” Kjirsten added.
Certain factors set Apotek apart from others interested in this sort of development, according to Jeff. As he described, there is a barrier to entry in the market. This project is very expensive, and Apotek has been able succeed, in part, because it works as an LLC (Limited Liability Company).
This structure allows the three to isolate any risk of liability in either their personal assets or separate businesses.
They have also reduced costs due to their professions. “The three of us make up a team of architect, contractor, and finance manager.
Traditionally, companies would have to outsource for these jobs. We are able to do them on our own, which means we don’t have to pay expenses such as architect fees and contractor markups. That’s why the project works.”
“The city is also doing its part,” said Kjirsten, a statement proven time and again in the past year. Beginning in April, the city hosted the Community Planning Assistance Team, a group whose goal was to help develop a revitalization plan for the city’s downtown corridor. According to Kjirsten, the team informed Apotek that enhancing the Swedish theme would be very popular.
Two months later on June 21st, Kingsburg authorized a public/private partnership program (P3) as an incentive for the revitalization of downtown. As confirmed by Jeff, Apotek will utilize this incentive, named the Upper Floor program, for their lofts. “City management is not doing these things randomly. It’s on purpose that they’re putting them together.”
The Upper Floor program provides city assistance of up to 50 percent of total development costs for rental housing above retail space, up to $100,000.
Other locations in the Valley have adopted plans to incorporate lofts into their downtown areas as well. Downtown Fresno has been the site of several loft projects. And Visalia natives Sam and Marlene Sciacca currently have five occupied units in the downtown area, with one more loft on the way. Their success has been great, with tenants lined up since construction began four years ago.
“I tried to imagine, ‘If I was living here, what would I want?’” said Marlene. “So, we made [the lofts] safe and luxurious, and even though it was a new concept for the town, Visalia is really liking them so far.”
Marlene continued, “There is absolutely a market in the area. People are very interested in walkability. Having that allows them to do things they typically wouldn’t if they lived in a neighborhood. They frequent shops and restaurants downtown, and it’s so convenient because they’re able to walk everywhere. That’s one of the reasons I believe that when people live in these areas, it is great for the city.”
Revitalization of downtown living is thriving in the Central Valley. First Visalia, then Fresno, and now Kingsburg. As put by Mr. Brock, “People’s mind’s are really starting to open up. It’s really helping to move away from cul-de-sacs and into downtown.”