Grand Island’s Railside district continues to grow and expand.

Over the last decade, the city’s downtown area, which was rebranded as Railside some years ago, has been revitalized with the success of new shops, such as restaurant and drinking establishments, antique shops, boutiques, the Grand Theatre and much more.

The old downtown has been transformed from abandoned buildings into a unique destination experience.

One of the longtime empty buildings was the old Sears store. The building itself dates back to the late 1880s. Sears moved into the building in 1955, but moved to the Conestoga Mall in 1979. Sears closed its doors at the mall earlier this year.

The building pretty well was left abandoned until local Grand Island developer Ray O’Connor purchased it. Under O’Connor’s direction, it has come back to life and now is home to several new businesses, including Zabuni Specialty Coffee, Boop’s Shooter’s Supply, and Arts and Drafts.

Recently Paramount Developments has completed its Easy Street Apartments at 411 Third St. and they are now being rented. The apartments are upstairs, and the street level part of the old Sears building will contain six to seven commercial office spaces for businesses. There is also an apartment dedicated to Airbnb clients.

The apartments are part of a trend of housing availability in the Railside district. Developers such as Paramount Developments have taken special care to design the living spaces to have a modern feel, but still carry a remembrance of days gone by when red brick was the dominant building material and the downtown was the community’s heart and soul of commerce and social gatherings.

The apartments have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, hypoallergenic carpeting in all bedrooms, wood-look luxury vinyl plank flooring in the rest of the apartments, more than 10-foot ceilings with fans in the living/dining areas and all bedrooms, and open floor plans.

Paramount Developments, LLC, is a partnership between Gary and Sonja Weinrich and Pat and Kris O’Neill. Separately, the Weinrichs own Weinrick Development in Grand Island. The O’Neills own and operate O’Neill Transportation and Equipment, as well as O’Neill Wood Resources.

Sonja Weinrich said Paramount Developments formed earlier this year. O’Connor contacted O’Neill for a bid for a demolition project at the old Sears Building. He was originally going to make the former Sears building into a home for community nonprofits. When that plan did not materialize, he turned the building into five different properties.

Weinrich said O’Neill became interested in the building as a development project.

“Pat called us, and we came and looked,” she said. “We were just going to buy upstairs space for apartments, but Ray (O’Connor) approached us to buy the lower part of the building. We decided to get into commercial office spaces.”

Under Weinrich Developments, Weinrich said, she and her husband own a lot of rentals throughout the community. They saw the opportunity to be part of the Railside district as an exciting opportunity.

“Ten years ago, this was a dying area,” Weinrich said. “Nobody wanted to be down here.”

She said watching how Grand Island’s downtown area was revitalizing by those who had a vision for the community persuaded them to be a part of that rebirth.

In developing the company’s downtown apartments, Weinrich decided to go upscale with the design, adding a fitness room and a lounge area for the people living there.

About six months after purchasing the location, their first client was Arts and Drafts, which moved into its space there in July.

Since finishing the apartments, Weinrich said, they have leased out 75% of the apartments. The commercial office spaces have just recently been completed.

“People like the downtown area,” she said. “There are all of the unique dining opportunities, the boutiques, and entertainment venues down here.”

For more information, contact Weinrich at Paramount Developments at (308) 218-9497.

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