By Margaret Jackson

During the last six months of this year, the developer of northern Colorado’s largest master-planned community will have moved forward with $82 million in public and private projects — despite an economy that has many companies struggling to keep their loans current.

“There’s a saying: ‘Don’t wait for the storm to end. Learn how to dance in the rain,’ ” said Chad McWhinney, chief executive and co-founder of Loveland-based McWHINNEY.

McWHINNEY will break ground early next year on Lake Vista, a $45 million, 303-unit luxury apartment complex. The project — just west of Loveland’s Equalizer Lake, which is northwest of the Interstate 25/U.S. 34 interchange — has received low-interest, long- term financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lake Vista will be the first apartment project to be built at Centerra since the 168-unit Eagle Ridge in 2000. That complex, just south of Lake Vista, is 100 percent leased with a waiting list.

With the vacancy rate for Loveland at 4.3 percent, McWHINNEY’s timing to build more apartments is good, said Terrence Hunt of Apartment Realty Advisors.

“They’re getting ahead of the curve and beating people to the market,” he said. “If they have the financing, no one else is going to be able to compete. It is one of the healthiest markets in terms of occupancy on the Front Range.”

Among the projects McWWHINNEY has under construction is a 110,000- square-foot office building for Canada-based Agrium Inc., a retailer of agricultural products and services that plans to move three division headquarters to Loveland by the third quarter next year.

“It’s the biggest office project in northern Colorado in 10 years, in the worst economy since the 1930s,” said Jay Hardy, vice president and general manager at McWHINNEY.

Also under construction is a second Colorado dealership location for Mini Cooper automobiles, slated to open in the spring at the Motorplex at Centerra.

McWHINNEY plans to build a school for the community when it starts its next residential phase in 2012. Through an arrangement with the city, the company has set aside $15 million from its tax-increment financing revenue for the project.

Centerra currently has 1,200 residential units and 5 million square feet of commercial space. When the 3,000- acre project is built out, it will have 6,500 residences.