The Lofts at the Zarah LLC and its parent organization MyTown are seeking a $1.4 million American Rescue Plan Act loan through the City of Great Bend to sew up funding for their $6 million project to develop the historic Zarah Hotel into apartments at the southeast corner of Main Street and Lakin Avenue.
This was a request made during a City Council work session Monday night following its regular agenda meeting. No action was taken, but the council was amenable to the idea and the matter will likely be on the agenda Dec. 18.
This is State of Kansas money from the COVID-19 recovery effort, and won’t cost the city a penny, City Administrator Brandon Anderson said.
Grant requirements mandate a local pass-through agent to handle the funding.
Technically, the $1,425 million is a Moderate-Income Housing grant offered through the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation. It will be requested and distributed to the city from the state as certain thresholds in the project are met by MyTown in the form of a low interest construction loan with the ability to become forgivable or paid back if the project is successful and timely.
The council applied for the grant on behalf of Great Bend Economic Development Inc. which was working on behalf of MyTown. This marked the third time GBED tried for the funding after being turned down in September 2021 and August 2022.
The council in May approved other MyTown requests, including a Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID) resolution and an industrial revenue bond (IRB) resolution. MyTown will receive a sales tax exemption during the construction of the project, and after completion, the bonds would be issued and MyTown would be responsible for paying for them.
“This project will be a comprehensive rehabilitation of the second, third and fourth floors of the Zarah building,” according to the proposal from Lofts at the Zarah. “Extensive demolition work is expected in order to re-purpose the existing hotel layout into attractive, modern apartments.”
The initial floor plans they’ve developed include four studio units, 15 one-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom units. Twenty two of the units are to be considered “moderate income restricted,” which is 60% to 150% of median household income, while six are outside that designation.
“Upon completion of the project, the Zarah Apartments property will create a multi-million dollar addition to the property tax rolls,” the proposal reads. “The current Barton County appraisal is just over $200,000, while we’d expect that valuation to be over $2 million upon completion.”
The scope of work will include all new electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fire alarm, fire sprinkler/alarm systems, finish carpentry, cabinetry and surface finishes.
The Zarah will be “designed to cater to young and mid-career workers in quintessential American jobs (nurses, teachers, police officers, social workers, etc.) as well as downsizing retirees that seek smaller, lower maintenance housing units,” according to the proposal. “While this project will provide 28 high-quality housing units in downtown Great Bend, the ripple effect of this project also means that at least a handful of high quality single family homes will open up from downsizing as our project achieves full occupancy.”
They hope to have construction completed by the summer of 2025 and start leasing apartments that fall.
• In June, GBED awarded a $265,650 loft grant to The Lofts at the Zarah. The funds came through a GBED program aimed at revitalizing the upper levels in Great Bend’s downtown area.
• $1.6 million - Permanent Financing.
• $1.3 million - State Historic Tax Credits (cash value).
• $640,000 - Federal Historic Tax Credit investor equity (cash value).
• $725,000 - Owner equity contributions.
MyTown is working with GMLV Architects of Wichita and Pomeroy Development, an Atchison-based firm that specializes in renovating historic properties, on the project. MyTown, an organization striving to fill downtown store fronts, has owned the Zarah since 2008.
The Lofts at the Zarah will include 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.
The Zarah Hotel was originally constructed in 1925 and was once considered the premier stopping place for travelers from Kansas City heading out West. The building has always featured retail on the ground floor, which remains true to this day.