By CRISTINA JANNEY
A proposal to turn the former St. Joseph Parish Center in Hays into apartments will come before the Hays Area Planning Commission in August.
The commission will hear a joint application from the Catholic Dioceses of Salina, which owns the property, and developer Todd Co. LLC to change the zoning on the property from public institutional zoning to multi-family residential zoning.
Developer Justin Pregont of Atchison said he is tentatively planning for 12 units in the former parish center, but that can't be confirmed until the design phase of the project is completed.
The limestone building, 210 W. 13th, was built in 1907 and was used as a school and administration building for years. The building has not been used for more than five years.
The parish center is under contract, but the developer has not closed on the sale.
"There is a reason why this building has been for sale for a year," Pregont said. "Doing this type of project is extraordinary difficult. The margins are thin. Everyone is aware that construction materials are not exactly becoming more affordable."
Because the parish center is listed as a historical building, it could qualify for state tax credits. The property is also within the Neighborhood Revitalization Program area and is eligible for tax rebates for 10 years.
"When you access the historic tax credit programs, it's great because it provides some equity to your project and makes things possible that wouldn't normally be possible," Pregont said, "but it also comes with extraordinary requirements in terms of historical preservation, construction quality and construction oversight."
Pregont said he renovated an historical building in Atchinson into the 1913 Apartments. The building was constructed in 1913 and served as a boarding house and YMCA.
Today the building consists of 17 units, including studios, one bedrooms and two bedrooms. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pregont said he is unsure what size of apartments the parish center will be able to accommodate and if they will be one- or two-bedroom units.
Pregont has not determined the layout or the amenities available in the units, but he said he is planning an elevator in the three-story building. He also said he would prefer each unit to have laundry hookups.
He also has not determined the rents on the units. He will be applying for Moderate Income Housing funds through the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation. He said he can't develop the project without that funding.
"The reason why development doesn't happen in communities like Hays and Atchison to the same volume it does in Kansas City is because if you build a project in Kansas City or Wichita, you can get $1,900 in rent and get your money back and things work.
"In smaller communities, that is not what people can pay for apartments."
Pregont said he likes the Hays market and will be working with Grow Hays on the Moderate Income Housing application.
The zoning request is the first step in a significant process to develop the parish center, he said. The application window for the Moderate Income Housing funds opened Friday and ends in September. An announcement on application awards will be made in December.
"[There are] a lot of moving pieces to it," Pregont said. "There's the financing side of things. There's the zoning. There's the design. There's the historic component. If all of the those circles overlap, we hope to have a project, but I don't want to over promise and under deliver."
City planning staff has recommended approval of the rezoning request.
The planning commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 in the commission chambers of the Hays City Hall. The commission was scheduled to hear the request Monday, but the commission canceled the meeting because a quorum was not available.