There’s an upscale housing boom in Clovis, but it’s not of the tract home variety

With the economy improving and the demand for apartments growing, the city of Clovis is undergoing a boom in new apartment construction.

Last year, the city issued building permits for nearly 400 apartment units. That’s in addition to the more than 400 units it’s expecting in 2019. The city’s planning department hasn’t seen this level of activity in several years.

“We have permits for probably 800 units right now,” said Doug Stawarski, a Clovis building official. “We didn’t do that many in the last nine years. And I anticipate we will see hundreds more units in the following year as well.“

What’s causing the flurry of new apartment activity? Simply put, the timing is right. A robust economy, new job growth and a demand for more housing options among young professionals has spurred developers to invest big time.

“We have a new generation of renters who are coming up that cannot afford to buy a home in Clovis but who want to live there,” said Robin Kane, a real estate consultant. “And that has started pushing rents up, making it also more attractive to builders to invest in new apartments.”

The average rent in Clovis is $1,041 a month, up 5 percent from the previous year, according to RENTCafe, a nationwide Internet listing service. In Fresno, the rent averages $990 a month.

“The amount of demand is still very strong,” Kane said. “And it needs to be supplied.”

And it isn’t just millennials looking for place, it’s empty nesters looking to downsize or families waiting for their new home to be built.

The market is so hot that it has even attracted first-time apartment builders like developer Jim Huelskamp, owner of Land Value Management in Fresno.

Through Land Value Management and a limited liability partnership, Huelskamp has been involved in several major real estate deals including the purchase and sale of Fig Garden Village shopping center and Sierra Vista Mall.

For Huelskamp and other builders, Clovis represents not just an underserved market for apartments but one with a pent-up demand for more upscale options.

At The Emerson apartments, 1170 Santa Ana Ave., just behind Sierra Vista Mall, 216 apartments are currently under construction. The complex will have one, two and three-bedroom units with rents ranging from $1,400 to $1,800. The development is also going to have a portion with three stories, a first for Clovis.

The apartments will include custom finishes ranging from granite counter tops, energy efficient appliances and wood-like flooring. There will also be a barbecue area, 24-hour fitness center, and pool. The apartments are expected to be available by May 1.

“The response has so far been very good and we have a good chance of leasing out the entire complex,” Huelskamp said.

In east Clovis, developer Mark VandenBerghe, of VandenBerghe Properties, Inc. is constructing 80 apartments at Temperance and Bullard avenues called Sunnyhills Apartments. The two-story apartment complex has options not typically found in apartments, such as attached garages that open into the resident’s home. Also available to all residents will be a package delivery locker area and a keyless entry system for the front door.

Rent will range from $1,450 for a one-bedroom with a garage up to $2,050 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit with a garage. Although the rents are on the upper end for Clovis, VandenBerghe said that hasn’t slowed interest in the project.

“You have a sophisticated market with a strong economy and people with the money to put towards quality housing,” he said. “And we are meeting that demand.”

Sunnyhills is expected to open Feb. 1 and the list of people who have put down a deposit for an apartment is growing. A sister project Harbor Pointe opened in 2016 at Temperance and Ashlan avenues with 48 units. Apartment manager Rebeca Inostroz said her tenants include young professionals, nurses, and families.

Developers to keep building in Fresno, Clovis

VandenBerghe, who is based in Danville, said his company has done business in the Fresno and Clovis area for 50 years. And he plans to continue building in the area. The company is working on a 500-unit apartment complex in the Copper River area of north Fresno.

Clovis planning officials said another reason for the growth in apartment construction is that they are stepping up the marketing of properties where apartments are allowed.

“We have identified some sites that allow for multi-family housing that were not clearly evident,” said Bryan Araki, Clovis city planner. “Now it is up to the developers.”

One potential pocket for more apartments is just west of Clovis Community Hospital near Temperance and Alluvial avenues. It is a growth area with several expansion projects at the hospital and the construction of new osteopathic medical school by the California Health Sciences University.

Developer Armen Basmajian has been waiting for the right time to build in the area and that time has come.

“This area of north Clovis was kind of quiet for a while but now there are a lot of things happening around here,” Basmajian said. “There are more people moving into the area because of the growth and they are looking for apartments.”

Basmajian plans to build 160 units in the Herndon and Temperance avenue area and is in the site plan approval process. He hopes to open the apartment complex by late summer or early fall of next year.

A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.