Stroke Awareness Oregon:

Redmond Economic Development Inc.:

A successful Bend developer sees big potential in her neighbor to the north.

“I believe Redmond will probably pass Bend to become the largest city east of the Cascades (in Oregon) in my lifetime,” said Lawnae Hunter, 69, owner and principal broker at Plus Property Management.

Hunter sees strong leadership coming from Redmond, where Plus also has an office, and said the city is working to improve the quality of life for its residents.

“They’re working hard on attracting new employers,” she said. “They’re working hard on creating affordable housing.”

The strong signs she sees from Redmond is why Hunter is going forward with developing three speculative industrial buildings at NE Jackpine and NE 11th Street. After years of shrinking industrial vacancy in Redmond, Hunter’s 42,436-square-foot project is one of several industrial spec developments in various stages of planning.

She bought the 3½ acres the buildings will sit on before the Great Recession, but said the demand is now there to build them. Hunter said ground will be broken on the first building at the new complex in September and it will be available for businesses to move in starting in November.

The three planned buildings range in size from 13,206 to 16, 024 square feet.

“We’re just starting our marketing push,” said project manager Jonathon Keith, a broker at Plus.

A different look for industrial

Hunter, a 40-year veteran of the real estate business, plans to make her aptly-named Red Barn Industrial Center stand out. The project, which is intended to honor Redmond’s agricultural history, will feature a red facade and even have silos standing above the rest of the buildings.

“I am probably a bit idealistic about architecture and quality buildings,” Hunter said. “I believe, as a developer, I have a responsibility to produce something that is going to be an asset to the community in the way it looks. These are buildings that are probably going to be there 50 years. If I build square boxes, that probably isn’t going to look good in 50 years. You need to build nice things because people are probably going to look at them for a long time.”

Hunter would even like to see local communities have a development review committee to help ensure that quality projects are built.

“I believe, as a developer, if I can spend just a little bit more money on my projects, that equates to a much nicer looking building that is going to be a credit to the community,” she said.

Hunter’s company is using construction materials that won’t fade as quickly. It is even using specially designed loading areas for trucks and making it easier for them to back up and move out when making deliveries.

Hunter has previously developed large office buildings, subdivisions, senior homes and multi-family units. But this is her first foray into heavy industrial, which can include everything from a manufacturing facility to a brewery to auto repair.

“I’m kind of bringing that perspective to industrial,” she said.

Redmond building industrial inventory

The new projects are welcome after Redmond saw a drastic decline in its industrial vacancy rate from 29 percent in 2011, down to 3 percent last year, said Redmond Economic Development Inc. Senior Manager Jon Stark, referencing Compass Commercial figures. While that recently went up slightly, the vacancy rate is still below 4 percent.

“Which means that demand is substantial and supply is limited,” he said.

A Redmond-based real estate agent is seeing some new deals for industrial in Redmond, as well.

Bruce Barrett, a commercial broker with Windermere Central Oregon in Redmond, said he has worked on several industrial deals recently. Among the deals are relocating an engineering firm from Prineville to 3,000 square feet of leased space near Redmond Municipal Airport, as well as leasing space to a new dental appliance manufacturer in an existing building on Umatilla Avenue, he said. The company plans to build out 4,000 square feet of previously unfinished space for research and development and light manufacturing and shipping.

In addition, he sold two acres on Lake Road to an asphalt equipment company from Bend, which plans to build a new steel building and move to Redmond, he said. Barrett also leased industrial space on Deerhound Avenue to a Klamath Falls HVAC business, which is opening a Redmond branch.

“My experience is that there is a modest interest from new companies considering coming to the area and Central Oregon companies interested in moving to Redmond,” Barrett said.

Redmond is seeing results from a 2016 tour REDI did with a dozen developers, in which they were shown potential industrial sites and told of the need for such projects, Stark said. An increase in rental rates has also helped entice property managers to see more potential profit.

Redmond now has 22 buildings totaling 223,000 square feet of spec development planned by eight different developers within the next two years, along with another 120,000 square feet of owner-occupied projects, Stark said. Some will serve local companies looking to expand, while others will try to lure new businesses to town.

“Depending on your timeline to get in, we’ve got a lot of choices,” he said.

Stark said he is confident all the space will be leased.

“I’ve had conversations with a number of real estate brokers throughout the region,” he said. “There are opinions out there that if we built 300,000 square feet, it wouldn’t be enough.”

While industrial work is becoming more automated, it can still make an impact on local employment. According to statistics from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, heavy industrial provides an average of one job for every 549 square feet of building area. That could mean more than 500 employees in the new space if 300,000 square feet of industrial is built.

Looking to serve as an example

Hunter looks to customize her building for users. They have the ability to provide space from 2,000 square feet up to the entire building.

“We’ll get a variety of industrial users,” she said. “We have the ability to create the size and space they want.”

That includes allowing for different size office spaces inside the buildings. Even trucks will have easier access.

“Some of these projects have no way come in and back out an 18-wheeler,” she said. “They, literally, have to make a U-turn inside the project.”

Hunter and Keith say they will charge market rental rates for their buildings.

While initial plans call for doing the project in phases, Hunter said that could change depending on demand.

“If I find there are enough tenants for the first building, I might do buildings 1 and 2 at the same time and follow up with building 3,” she said.

Hunter expects interest in Red Barn to be high.

“We’ve already gotten some initial inquiries,” she said. “We’re very pleased with the level of interest and the size of space some of them are interested in.”

Hunter hopes to show a woman can do well in the male-dominated world of industrial development.

Hunter lost the use of her left side as a result of a 2015 stroke. She is the cofounder of Stroke Awareness Oregon, a nonprofit organization that provides information on the causes, symptoms, treatment and recovery from stroke.

Hunter, also a member of the Oregon Real Estate Board, would like to show what people with disabilities are capable of..

“I believe strongly in public service,” she said. “I have always believed people have to give back to the community in whatever way they can. For me, it’s educating people about stroke.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,