Kathleen J. Bryan
Forum News Service
WILLISTON, N.D. — Raymond Melendez’s vision for Williston is to create a vibrant downtown and build community.
His Downtown Plaza project, 20,000-square-feet of mixed-use development in an existing building, will breath new life into the city’s historic district and serve as an anchor on Main Street.
“About 14,000 square feet was not being utilized, so we saw the vision of creating a true plaza in the downtown. The vision consisted of retail shops and Class A office spaces,” Melendez, 44, said.
Melendez, a developer and builder from Hughson, Calif., first arrived to western North Dakota in April 2010 to expand the metal building division of his company. What he saw was explosive growth and a need for multi-family and single-family homes in Williston, which would lead to the creation of a development company, Ventana Design and Development.
He commuted between North Dakota and California, where wife Karen and their six children lived, spending 18 months doing residential development.
Along with business partners, Melendez started purchasing commercial and residential property, he said, to help meet the need for commercial services and Williston’s housing need.
Karen and five of their children moved to Williston in January 2013, he said. They range in age from 16 to 23. One of their son’s is attending law enforcement training at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.
For Melendez, it’s about providing services that fill immediate needs vs. long-term solutions.
He said the Downtown Plaza, which he purchased in February, will provide a short-term need with an array of retail shops and 6,000 square feet of office space on the top floor.
Williston Economic Development Executive Director Shawn Wenko said Melendez’s project “really fits into our vision for the downtown. It’s exciting to see.”
Wenko, who remembers a quiet downtown after the boom of the ‘70s went bust, said the city’s center is a place where people will gather and patronize unique shops, restaurants, bistro and maybe even a old English pub as revitalization continues to flourish.
The Plaza’s former Castle Cafe was recently christened The Grill on Main and offers fresh food and daily specials, Melendez said, adding 400 square feet will be added with a Main Street entry.
Karen and daughter Megan Galt, 23, took over a home decor shop and are busy infusing it with their design aesthetic.
Come mid-October a health food shop and the relocated Lynden Chocolate and Candy Shop will open. A floral shop will be ready for customers in early November.
“We’ll try to have some synergy between businesses to maintain traffic flow through the plaza, which obviously generates dollars and provides the community with a facility they feel comfortable doing business in,” Melendez said.
The city has grown more diverse since 2010, he said. He notes his Mexican and Spanish roots with pride and tells his children to aim high.
“We’ve made a substantial contribution to this investment,” Melendez said. “With amount that we’ve committed to Williston, it’s really planted us here.”