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Larned conducts housing ribbon-cutting
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LARNED — The wind was howling, but Larned Mayor Bob Pivonka celebrated the long-awaited $3.2 million City of Larned-sponsored housing project with a ribbon cutting Monday.
“It’s a beautiful day in Kansas,” Pivonka said.
The historic ribbon-cutting culminates the home stretch of a $3.2 million housing project that has built 10 duplexes and 20 rental spots at K-156 and Morris.
The 3-bedroom rental duplexes with single car garages will occupy 1,200 square feet per unit. The estimated value of the duplexes is more than $130,000. They are targeted to rent for $875 a month. Interested parties viewed the duplexes Monday.
Larned, with hundreds of Larned State Hospital employees who commute, is not unique in Kansas with a need for affordable housing, but the city’s full commitment in a multi-million-dollar project is rare.  Larned used a $400,000 grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Commission to help with infrastructure and development.
“There’s been a need for housing in our community,” said Larned Mayor Bob Pivionka. “We got this thing started with the help of a $400,000 grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation. It’s been a long process and the council should be commended.”
Garden City native Dennis Mesa serves as director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation. KHRC is a self-supporting, public corporation which serves as the primary administrator of federal housing programs on behalf of the state of Kansas.
Mesa said developing affordable housing in smaller Kansas communities continues to be a challenge. Mesa’s son-in-law’s brother is Shane Sundahl, Larned Middle School principal.
“This is one great day and I am very proud and honored to be a part of this,” Mess said. “This will allow families to call Larned their home.”
Larned City Manager Lane Massey has already heard from taxpayers who approve of the housing project after originally opposing it.  There were several building delays, but city officials wanted to wait until all of the 10 duplexes were basically completed. Interior safe rooms shelters are built in each duplex. Sod has been laid for half of the housing project.
“The project took longer than we hoped, but it has come together really well,” Massey said. “They are really nice units to rent They feature nice amenities, plenty of parking and everything is brand new. They are quality units.”
Massey said the city accepted most of the financial risk. The city owns the property and develops road, sewer and water infrastructure. The city has 20 additional acres to purchase for future development. Future development is likely to be rewarded with some city-based incentives.
“There was a housing need and our city council stepped up and acted on it,” Massey said. “They stuck with it knowing we needed housing. No one wants to spend $3 million on a project. The best-case scenario is all these units are rented and we’ll move onto phase two. Ten years down the road, we want to look at this as a successful project. We hope to capture some new families and people who work at the Larned State Hospital every day.”
Massey said it’s common for smaller communities to face contractors and tradesmen to work.
“Every project has its ups and downs. Once you get the infrastructure in place, that’s the biggest hurdle and biggest victory,” Massey said. “Now, we need to get the word out that these duplexes are available to rent. A family could have their holidays here.”
Larned First Ward city council member Charles Spina recently resigned to accept the responsibility of overseeing the housing project.
City manager Massey, and city staff members Austin Battin; Alan Taylor, street superintendent, Frieda Smith, code enforcement, and their crews have invested time in the project.
Anyone with questions can contact Spina at 620-285-8500.
Matt Gillam, Leawood’s Overland Property Group, said Larned officials accepted all of the risk by issuing a $2.5 million bond to cover construction costs that the city hopes to recoup once the duplexes are rented.
Leawood’s Overland Property Group, LLC, served as developer. Overland Park’s Property Group’s 40 developments feature more than 2,000 units and $250 million of affordable and market-rate apartments.