A faded photo taken 31 years ago shows Sister Rene Weeks standing in an alfalfa field west of the Dominican Sisters’ motherhouse in Great Bend. Soon the sisters would begin an ambitious undertaking, building Cedar Park Place, a housing complex intended primarily for low income elderly and disabled occupants.
This month, Cedar Park Place is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Manager Jana Murray shared some of the history.
When Sister Rene stood in that open field, it was possible to see the motherhouse and Central Kansas Medical Center. Two weeks later, Sisters Teresita Huse and Louise Hageman broke ground, and by Oct. 18, 1980, the first structure at Cedar Park Place was under construction. Construction on the Community Building got under way shortly after the start of the new year.
On Aug. 14, 1981, Sister Louella Staab and Sister Alberta Neises handed keys to Vera Campbell, the first resident of Cedar Park Place.
Years of planning took place before the groundbreaking. On Oct. 13, 1979, U.S. Rep. Keith Sebelius announced a loan of $1,775,781 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, owners of the property. Sister Jeanette Sulzman said the money would be used to build 63 ground-level apartments in 10 buildings, plus a community center where residents can meet to socialize.
Through the years, the complex has had three managers. Sister Regina O’Rourke served until 1989, when sister Mary Urban Hitschmann took her place as manager. Murray, who joined the staff as a secretary in 1992, was asked to be the sole property manager when Sister Urban resigned in 2003. Another key employee is Christopher Beck, who handles all of the maintenance. He has worked at Cedar Park Place since 2005.
Mercy Management was hired as the management agent in 1992, with the approval of HUD and the board.