Archive for Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Downtown Bonner building owner seeks grant for improvements

April 29, 2015

One of Downtown Bonner Springs’ biggest buildings — and possibly, its parking lot — could receive a much-needed upgrade later this year.

Kyu Lee, the owner of the building at 112 Oak St. that houses the Thriftway and Dollar General, is applying for Community Development Block Grant Program funding from the state with assistance from the city. The Bonner Springs City Council discussed the matter in a workshop prior to its regular meeting, agreeing that the city should support the grant application.

“This is vital for the downtown,” Councilman George Cooper said of the possible improvements.

The CDBG Program offers Downtown Commercial Rehabilitation grants for a maximum of $250,000, provided the property owner provides a 25 percent match, said Marcia Harrington, the city’s community and economic development director. With a need for roof repairs and some internal maintenance for the building, constructed in the 1960s, Lee plans to apply for the largest amount. Including his contribution, the total improvement cost would be $312,500.

Harrington said the rehabilitation grants do not allow for façade or other cosmetic improvements, which normally includes the parking lot. But it will allow for repairs that address property code violations, and the parking lot — often full of pot holes — has been considered a codes violation since before Lee purchased the property from Harvey Jacobson more than a year ago.

“Probably that’s the number one complaint we have of that business is the parking lot,” Harrington said.

The parking lot is heavily used by patrons of many downtown businesses, beyond Thriftway and Dollar General.

Harrington said a state official came out and looked at the property and recommended including the improvements in the grant application because of the codes violation loophole. She said even if CDBG officials decide the parking lot is not eligible, it wouldn’t hurt Lee’s chances of receiving grant funds for building repairs.

June 1 is the deadline for the grant application, and the city supports the application by working with a certified grant administrator and a licensed architect. Lee already has provided $5,000 to cover any up front costs the city incurs, so Harrington said supporting the grant application won’t cost the city anything but her time.

Should he receive the grant, Harrington said Lee would like to have the improvements done by the end of the year.

In other community improvement and economic development matters, the council also discussed the addition of a new Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.

The city created its first plan in 1997, providing new and rehabilitated properties a 95 percent property tax rebate for 10 years for housing properties or for five years for commercial properties. The program especially encouraged development of vacant lots in the older parts of town.

Since then, Harrington said 547 properties have used the program, and 355 of those are now paying their full property taxes. The current NRP will expire in August.

The city is proposing a new plan that would amend the current plan to allow senior housing tax credit projects to receive a 50 percent abatement for 10 years. It also would allow new construction duplexes with a minimum investment of $200,000 to receive abatements.

“We believe it’s benefited us and it’s going to continue to benefit us,” Harrington said.

Additionally, the council supported the Parks and Recreation Department’s plans to purchase a “drop" slide and a climbing wall, rather than spending a budgeted $90,000 on a new water slide for the Bonner Springs Aquatic Park.

Skip Dobbs, department director, said the city learned the original quote they received for the slide last year did not include installation costs or a water pump, an additional $20,000. So instead, staff looked at other pool improvements, hoping to increase attendance, which has dropped from an average of 532 patrons per day in 2010 to 300 swimmers per day last year.

Dobbs proposed a $13,000 16-foot-tall climbing wall, which angles out over the water so that climbers fall into the water, and a $35,000 “drop” slide, a short tube slide which ends about 5 feet above the water, giving the slider a bit of a free fall.

Both would be placed at the end of the diving well, which means the pool would have to shut down diving boards while the slide and climbing wall were in use.

“We’ll have to come up with a rotation schedule that our patrons are happy with,” Dobbs said.

The climbing wall could be installed in June, while the drop slide will have to wait until the fall because of the installation work needed and would debut in the summer 2016.

About $42,000 will remain in the budget with these improvements, and the parks advisory board will bring some other parks and recreation improvement suggestions to the council in the future, Dobbs said.

The NRP and the pool improvements will receive official approval at the council’s next regular meeting.


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