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Rory Turner: Adding urban flair while keeping the Valley pristine

By on February 16, 2017 in Business Profiles with 0 Comments

By Cary Ordway

For a guy who grew up on a chicken farm in rural Pierce County, it may seem some­what ironic that this is the man who is having the time of his life bringing Big City amenities to North Central Washington.

Rory Turner arrived in Wenatchee back in 1995 and saw that it was good — very good. The sunshine, the clean air, the mountains, the recreation, a community chockful of salt-of-the-earth, hard-working people that he was proud to start calling his neighbors — it was all here.

The only things missing were some of the small niceties that you get living in a more urban environment. You know — the di­versity of restaurants, the vibrant nightlife, a core downtown area that beckons residents to bring their families down to enjoy all the activities on a warm summer night.

“We kind of missed that ur­ban-ness,” said Turner, who could see how adding those simple amenities could still allow the Wenatchee Valley to retain all of its existing charm and allure. “And we thought why don’t we become a part of that change?”

Until Turner moved to Wenatchee he had lived almost his entire life in the Sumner area, a 45-minute drive southeast of the Seattle ur­ban culture. It was rural, all right, but Turner was fast becoming a highly successful commercial real estate developer, an occupation that satisfied his passion for cre­ating something out of nothing. Over the past 25 years Turner has been creating partnerships to buy historic buildings, renovate them and populate them with just the right mix of tenants.

Through the late 1990s and up until 2011, Turner and his wife, Laurel, worked on projects as far from Wenatchee as Michigan and California, all the while keeping a home base in North Central Washington. But the Michigan project and just the logistics of working so far from home finally convinced the Turners to focus more on projects right here in Wenatchee and Central Washing­ton. It was time to actually join — and give back to — the commu­nity Turner loved so much.

Turner signed up for just about every board and association that has anything to do with local planning and business devel­opment, eventually becoming president of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce. Last year he was elected as a Commission­er for the Port of Chelan Coun­ty. He has been involved with creating such local amenities as Pybus Public Market and, over the past few years, Turner has grad­ually put together deals that give him an ownership stake in eight Central Washington buildings — five in Wenatchee, two in Douglas County and one in Ellensburg.

The buildings offer retail and office space and all have what you might call an urban flair. One of his properties, for example, is the Wenatchee Hotel Building that now houses the India House Restaurant, Sidecar Lounge and Cupcake Blues — all the types of places you might find in the Big City. It’s all in keeping with Turner’s philosophy that a vital downtown is a key to the city’s overall economic success. “It’s the heart of the community,” Turner explains. “If that’s not healthy, the commu­nity’s not healthy.”

Among other proj­ects, the 63-year-old Turner also has made “healthy” improvements to the Exchange Building and the Fifth and Mission Center, and is currently renovating the Dore Building on Wenatchee Avenue. Near the convention center, the Dore Building will be rebranded as the Metropolitan Building and will have six tenants including the new Wenatchee Visitor Center. In addition, Goodfellow Brothers has purchased the top floor to use as its corporate headquarters, even­tually expecting to employ more than 40 people at that location.

Turner’s knack for restoring his­toric buildings has been getting statewide attention. Last year he received the Excellence on Main Award from the Washington State Main Street Program for his work in Wenatchee and a highly suc­cessful restoration of the Historic Ellensburg Elks building. The latter was purchased for $300,000 and will likely lead to as much as $7 million being spent on develop­ing six businesses, including two restaurants, and potentially a nearby boutique hotel.

Turner has learned over the years that, in this type of business, he needs to be much more than just a landlord. It’s all about finding good business ideas and tenants that will mix well with each other. Turner will mentor and guide his tenants to help them create a unique environment that will attract customers and lead to long-term success.

“Too often,” Turner says, “land­lords take the send-me-the-check position. But the challenges of starting these businesses are huge and the last thing you need to be is adversarial with your landlord.”

We asked him where he gets his real estate “smarts.”

“It starts with being passionate about your community,” Turner said. “With commercial real es­tate, you have a civic responsibil­ity. The wrong decision can really set a community back.”

You might say Rory Turner is on a roll. The projects are coming fast and furious, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Spend some time with Turner and you get the impression he’s really quite grateful for his business success and especially pleased that he’s reached the stage in life where he’s able to indulge his passions rather than worry about making ends meet. He’s having an especially good time with his current project, the Metropolitan Building, which he says will help transform Wenatchee’s down­town core.

“This has been so much fun to work on because all of this activity just kind of came out of nowhere,” he said. “We feel like we are helping change Wenatchee forever.”

(Rory Turner’s company, Com­mercial Real Estate Services, is the asset manager for Turner’s various enterprises. He is also the managing partner for 135 Hold­ings LLC which has ownership in some of the buildings. Laurel Turner is the Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center in Wenatchee and holds numerous positions in the region related to homelessness and services for those in need. The couple has three grown boys, four grandchil­dren and two on the way.)

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