HARRISONBURG — Four months ago, Erik Inglis thought he’d be spending several nights this week at a hotel.
But with a last-minute push — and minus some finishing touches and a major appliance — the first apartment residents of the Ice House were able to move into their new digs Wednesday afternoon.
“I figured it wouldn’t be done on time,” Inglis, a 23-year-old James Madison University graduate student, said of the newly, but not fully, renovated living spaces in the former Cassco ice plant downtown. “I’m fairly impressed they got this much done.”
The first tenants moving in to the $10 million mixed-use development’s 34 apartments marked the beginning of a new phase in the life of the building along South Liberty and West Bruce streets.
JMU already has offices in the building, and developers are hoping to finish most of the remaining commercial and office space by the year’s end.
Ice House developer Barry Kelley, principal broker with Matchbox Realty and Management Services, said it was important for his Kelco Builders to complete the apartments in time for residents to move in before classes begin at JMU next week.
The building is fully leased, and most of its residents moved in Wednesday.
“We’ve been working on this for quite a while,” said Kelly, who was on hand with several members of his staff during the move-in. “We try to address problems and concerns quickly. As much as you try, you never get everything right.”
Occupancy permits for the apartments were obtained Monday, Kelley said, but work on the living space will continue for some time.
While a few apartments have refrigerators, he said most tenants would be without the appliance until Friday morning.
They were ordered two months ago but are a brand-new model, and production issues apparently delayed most of the order.
A sign of how new the residential units are, the smell of fresh paint permeated the third and fourth floor as tenants moved in.
Baseboard was not in place along the hallways. Numerous other telltale signs of construction-in-progress were visible.
But inside — except for the missing refrigerator — the units seemed mostly complete.
“I’m very pleased with the way it turned out,” said Liz Huber, 22, who joined Inglis, her boyfriend, and their dog Maddie in a third-floor apartment. “I like it. It’s very modern.”
Huber, who earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at JMU in May, said she was “very nervous” when she signed on to live in an apartment a few months ago that was little more than a concept at the time.
Inglis said their one-bedroom unit was larger than he expected, but Leanna Smithberger apparently felt a bit cramped in her studio apartment.
“It’s a little less space than I thought I’d have,” the 22-year-old said. “But I have a great view. Most of my apartment is windows.”
Smithberger, who is about to begin graduate work at JMU in communications and advocacy, said she was the first apartment tenant to sign a lease for the Ice House.
When she first saw where she’d be living, there were no walls and a construction stairway was in the middle of her fourth-floor space.
But because she’d lived in a Matchbox complex before, she said she had faith that “it would be pretty.”
The project was aided by a $500,000 grant Harrisonburg received from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Revitalization Fund.
The fund provides money to assist the redevelopment of vacant and dilapidated industrial and commercial properties.
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or email@example.com