Farmington's Restwell has been revived as the Farmington Efficiencies apartment complex
The first time Sayeed Haque saw what was then the Restwell Motel, he knew he had a lot of work to do. The roof was in dire need of repairs. The rooms were in rough shape and needed to be renovated. And there were only three tenants, one of whom had to be evicted because she hadn't been paying her rent.
The facility didn't have a very good reputation, either. Catering largely to short-term rentals, it was known for the trouble its residents caused more than as a place to get a good night's sleep. The woman who had to be evicted had also gotten in some trouble with drugs, Haque said. And in one 2001 incident, a fight between two residents over loud music ended with one biting the other's ear off.
That's long before Haque first laid eyes on the motel, which is now known as Farmington Efficiencies. He first came to Farmington in 2010, after his brother and a partner bought the business out of foreclosure. Haque came to Minnesota from New Jersey to manage it.
Haque knew something about rental properties. In New Jersey he managed some single-family home rentals. But this was all new to him. The problems and the kinds of people he dealt with were a big change.
In the months and years since he arrived, Haque has replaced the roof, renovated the rooms and changed out windows and doors. There is new siding on the building, new landscaping and a new three-sided wooden enclosure for the facility's trash containers. The parking lot has been resurfaced and there are new speed bumps to slow down traffic. There are marked parking spaces for the first time since long before Haque took over.
"It was in way bad shape," said Haque, who moved to the United States from India 10 years ago to be close to family. "We had to keep renovating it."
It's all been a learning process. Haque has moved away from the daily and weekly rentals that used to make up much of the Restwell's business. But even that wasn't always easy. Haque covered up the old Restwell sign with a new one that read Farmington Efficiency Inn, but that name still led to travelers stopping in looking for a place to spend the night. Haque hopes the newer name will help discourage that.
It's also taken a lot of work to overcome the Restwell's old image. Even with the improvements, people weren't always eager to rent at a place with a troubled past.
"What people thought about this place was really bad," Haque said. "They didn't want to come here. Now people know this place is nice."
In the course of 20 minutes Monday morning two tenants stopped into Haque's office. One came in to get her mail. Another stuck his head in the door and asked to talk with Haque when he was done giving an interview. Haque said he knows his tenants, and he works hard to weed out the kind of people who gave the Restwell a bad reputation. Figuring out how to do that took some trial and error.
"We had to go through so many people," he said.
The work isn't done yet, but Haque feels much better about the state of the business. The units are fully rented, in many cases to families. And Haque continues to take steps to make Farmington Efficiencies feel more like an apartment complex and less like a motel. The mailboxes will move out of his office soon and into the facility's laundry room, where each tenant will have a locking box instead of the shelf they have now.
"It's getting better day by day," he said. "I've tried my best to keep up with all this."