Apr 23, 2023

Victoria's St. John's Place receives grants totaling $1.35 million

Posted Apr 23, 2023 4:00 PM
St. John's Place. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
St. John's Place. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

Hays Post

VICTORIA — Only 18 months ago, members of the Victoria community gathered to share ideas, stories and an overwhelming desire to find a use for the St. John’s Rest Home building after a decade of neglect.

In those intervening months, the nonprofit Victoria Community Coalition was created, the building was transferred to that organization, a name was created — St. John’s Place — plans were drawn, and countless hours of work done to secure funding for the project, which would create apartments, a child care center, a satellite museum for the Ellis County Historical Society and a community center in the over 40,000-square-foot-facility.

This week the project surpassed another major milestone, with two grant award announcements totaling $1.35 million dedicated to making those plans a reality.

Jeff Pfeifer, Victoria Community Coalition chair, who originally purchased the building for the project at a tax sale in 2021, updated the Victoria City Council at their regular monthly meeting Monday on the first grant announcement.

St. John's Place preliminary floor plan. (Courtesy image)
St. John's Place preliminary floor plan. (Courtesy image)

“We heard from (the Dane G. Hansen Foundation) on our grant application, and we were  awarded the full amount of $500,000,” Pfeifer said. “So that is huge.”

He said the award is a “good place to start” and will be used for Phase One of the project, that will create 12 apartments and the childcare center.

“We think that's going to be in the $3-3.5 million range,” Pfeifer said. “So, we still have a lot of room to make up.”

He also informed the council several other grant applications had been submitted.

“Unfortunately, we did not get the (Moderate Incoming Housing) grant, which you all applied for on our behalf,” Pfeifer said.

The coalition plans to reapply in June, he said.

“They're allowing us to apply three times this year and again next year,” Pfeifer said. “Obviously, we hopefully won't have to do it that often.”

During the meeting, he said the coalition was expecting to hear award recipients from another application submitted to the ARPA Building Opportunities for the Disabled and Elderly (ABODE) program, funded by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Executive Committee and approved by the State Finance Council to address housing issues faced by high-need populations, according to the office of Gov. Laura Kelly.

The wait was short.

St. John’s Place Apartments were announced as the recipient of $850,000 in an announcement from Kelly’s office Friday.

“Safe and accessible residential communities for elderly and disabled Kansans are necessary for living independently,” Kelly said. “These awards will increase housing options that meet the needs of these communities.”

The St. John’s Place grant was the only fund recipient in Western Kansas out of the $9.8 million awarded.

“All Kansans deserve quality housing,” said Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Commerce David Toland. “The ABODE awards will not only increase housing stock in communities across the state but will help improve the quality of life for thousands of deserving Kansans.”

Other awards included:

  1. Cottonwood Falls Housing Authority, Cottonwood Falls, $1,000,000
  2. Derby Senior Living, Derby, $1,500,000
  3. Maple Gardens Village, Wichita, $1,190,000
  4. Menninger Clock Tower Apartments, Topeka, $637,500
  5. Sunflower Flats, Manhattan, $1,500,000
  6. Villas at Pinnacle Pointe, Ottawa, $1,080,000
  7. Wiswell Farms Senior Villas, Spring Hill, $1,468,800
  8. WK Housing, Meade, $548,250

“ABODE applications included health and safety renovations to existing buildings or the construction of new multi-housing units that accommodate individuals who are elderly and/or disabled,” according to the award announcement. “Project design, engineering costs, and architectural designs were also permitted as eligible expenditures. Awardees will have two years to complete their projects and utilize all awarded funds.”

Kansas Legislature leadership praised the award.

“These ABODE grants will help counteract rising housing costs and help ensure elderly and disabled Kansans have a safe and quality place to live,” said Senate President Ty Masterson.

“High-needs populations already were struggling with housing access and availability before COVID-19,” said House Speaker Dan Hawkins. “The pandemic only intensified those issues. Using ARPA funding to help resolve them makes perfect sense.”  

Prior to the announcement, Pfeifer said he had hoped for an award from the fund.

“That's the one I would rather have at this point if I had to pick one or the other because that's a one-time thing,” he said. “So, I would rather take that and then get-go after the MIH again.”

Jeff Pfeifer, Victoria Community Coalition chair, discusses the future of the former St. John rest home with community members shortly after its purchase in 2021. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Jeff Pfeifer, Victoria Community Coalition chair, discusses the future of the former St. John rest home with community members shortly after its purchase in 2021. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

And while the two major donations are sure to kick start ongoing efforts, the coalition hopes other applications bring in further funding to fulfill the anticipated Phase One total.

“Another grant that we worked with the Ellis County Historical Society on applying for was –

"They call it the Sprint Grant,” Pfeifer said. “It's some COVID money for economic development through tourism. And the museum applied for a multimillion-dollar application. So even if they just get a portion of that, it would be huge.”

“We're still working, there are other grants out there for childcare,” he continued. “So, we're still going after them. And we feel like we're in a good place. … We can get an architect starting to move on the design now and just assume that the funding will come, and pray and seek it out. We do a lot of work seeking it out.”