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City backs Zarah Hotel grant
Project would built apartments in historic building
zarah hotel
The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved helping Great Bend Economic Development Inc. apply for a state grant to help renovated the Zarah Hotel.

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Approved the resignation of Fire Chief Luke McCormick.

• Approved the city’s applying for a Moderate Income Housing Grant on behalf of  Great Bend Economic Development Inc.

• Approved a bid from Venture Corporation of Great Bend for $925,900 for the 2023 Street Resurfacing Project.

Project limits are approximately 13 blocks.

• Approved the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association Operating Agreement.

• Heard a report from Interim City Administrator Logan Burns. He focused on the progress with the new Justice Center and pending legislation in Topeka that could impact how the city regulates zoning in its three-mile extra-territorial coverage area.

• Heard a report from Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Arnberger. She focused on the Ignite entrepreneur program, the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the progress on the new childcare facility.

• Held a 30-minute executive session to discuss contract matters and consultation with City Attorney Allen Glendenning that “would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship.”

• Approved a tree trimmers license for Greg Boys.

• Approved the Independence Day and the Great Bend Batcats fireworks shows.  

• Approved the change of date for the next regular council meeting. The meeting falls on Presidents Day, Feb. 20, which is a holiday observed by the city. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

 • Approved abatements for trash and refuse violations at: 1220 Jefferson St., Valerie Jo Hardy; 1202 Morphy St., Billy Byington; 505 Morphy St., Erika Elliot;  and 212 Chestnut St., Sandra F. Bank Alarcon.

• Approved an abatement for motor vehicle nuisances at 1227 281 Bypass, David and Katie Smith.

Maybe the third time is the charm.

The Great end City Council Monday night approved a resolution allowing the city to apply for a Moderate Income Housing Grant on behalf of  Great Bend Economic Development Inc. Intended to help fund the Zarah Hotel apartment project, GBED unsuccessfully applied for the grant in September 2021 and August 2022.

“You have heard from me before on this,” she said. This does not  require the city to put in any additional funds, but the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation requires the grant to pass through a sponsoring governmental entity.

GBED  is proposing the city apply for these funds and allow them to be used  towards the building of affordable housing in the historic Zarah at Main and Lakin in Great Bend. The building is owned by the Mytown organization and this is its project, GBED is merely helping facilitate it.

“The good thing about us coming to you this time is that the project has expanded, so with the extra time that we have to put into this, there are more units that are able to be completed,” she said. Now they are looking at 24 units when before they were looking at 15-17.

Project details

Basically, this grant is what the KHRC calls “gap funding,” Arnberger said. It will help leverage $1.425 million to help offset the multi-million-dollar project (an exact estimate has not been released).

A lot of this money will come back to the community in the form of tax credits, she said.

“Kansas has this big influx of resources in the income band from 60% to 150% of median household income,” said Justin Pregont. Working with Mytown and GMLV Architects of Wichita, he is the owner of Pomeroy Development, an Atchison-based firm that specializes in renovating historic properties. 

These resources target a specific income level, he said.

“These are folks making $50,000 to $70,000,” he said. “For a lot of reasons, the employers are really are hearing from their potential employees that they don’t like the housing options in places like Atchison , Hayes, Great Bend and Fort Scott, and that problem really spoke to me.”

Looking at the Zarah, it is downtown and near a brewery, wine-tasting business, coffee shops and a movie theater. “That’s a really rare thing in rural Kansas,” he said.

As for the planned units, there will be some studio apartments renting for around $800 per month, one-bedroom apartments renting for around $1,000 and two-bedroom apartments renting for around $1,200.

But, “rent is mostly a function of market and affordability,” he said. So, these new have to be considered affordable, meaning the tenants can’t be rent-burdened (the rent can’t be greater than 30% of their income as tracked by the KHRC).

Although most of the units will be “rent restricted,” Pregont said there may be a couple available to tenants who exceed the income guidelines.

There was a question from the council about the availability of parking.

“We had (research firm) Downtown Strategies come in and do a full consultation,” Arnberger said. They counted the available parking in lots and along the streets, as well as the number of businesses and proposed projects, and determined there was adequate room, for now.

Zarah tenants will not have designated spaces, she said.

However, down the road as the downtown develops more, there may be a need for additional parking, she said,

According to the KHRC, the Moderate Income Housing program serves the needs of moderate-income households that typically don’t qualify for federal housing  assistance. MIH grants and/or loans are awarded to cities and counties for down payment assistance or to develop multi-family rental units, single-family for-purchase homes, and infrastructure in communities with populations fewer than 60,000 people.