By BECKY KISER
"The RHID process is a marathon of meetings," Kim Rupp, Hays finance director, said during Thursday night's city commission work session, and it's again underway.
Commissioners discussed the financial incentives, including a Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID), that an Atchison developer is requesting of the city for the planned renovation of the vacant St. Joseph Catholic School, 210 W. 13th Street.
Justin Pregont, who is also the interim Atchison city manager, wants to redevelop the property into a 12-unit multi-family complex that would target moderate income housing. The project is estimated to cost $2.2 million.
Pregont told commissioners that in his spare time he has "fallen in love in doing real estate projects on historic buildings." The project is similar to one he completed in Atchison called 1913 Apartments that opened last July.
St. Joseph School, built in 1907-1908, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Because of the RHID request and historic registry status, additional requirements must be met for renovation.
Pregont is also asking for federal and state tax credits, as well as a $360,000 Moderate Income Housing Grant (MIHG) from the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation (KHRC). Only cities or counties can serve as the applicant for the MIHG.
An RHID is based on a housing needs analysis. The 2017 Hays housing study by the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute shows a deficit in multi-family housing, according to Toby Dougherty, city manager. "We have a negative balance of 87 units right now," he told commissioners.
Pregont estimates the RHID would generate approximately $450,000 in revenues over the 20 years.
Pregont toured the multi-story limestone building earlier Thursday as the sale becomes finalized with the Salina Catholic diocese.
Although architectural engineering is not complete, Pregont is planning for eight one-bedroom 770 sq. ft. units with an average monthly rent of $925 and four two-bedroom 1,000 sq. ft. units for $1,150 a month. Each apartment will have laundry facilities.
Renters would be required to have a minimum income, between 60% and 150% of median household income. That would be approximately $30,000 to $96,000 annually for a single person.
"Our primary target would be retirees," he said. Pregont expects other residents would be teachers and medical employees.
Commissioner Ron Mellick noted the income requirements would preclude most Fort Hays State University students.
The RHID would capture all eligible incremental property tax revenues within the RHID. Those revenues would be used to reimburse the developer for RHID-eligible expenses, an estimated $1.78 million, on a pay-as-you-go basis for a maximum term of 20 years.
Since the property has been owned by a religious organization it has been exempt from property taxes, Rupp pointed out.
All materials have been reviewed by the city’s special legal counsel, Gilmore & Bell, P.C.
Sandy Jacobs, mayor, said she is "extremely excited about the project."
"My two children went through grade school in that building, but more than that, my mother went to high school in that building.
"Not much has changed and nothing has changed in the exterior. We can pull out the old pictures of when Mother was in school," Jacobs said.
"The biggest thing me is how it's going to enhance downtown, having more people live in what we consider that district."
Having workforce professionals living there "is going to be a great asset to us," she added.
Jacobs thanked Pregont for making an investment in Hays. He, in turn, thanked the city.
"I work for a city so I understand the other side of this. I understand how important revenue is for cities," Pregont replied.
"To me, it's truly a gap-filler here.
"Without the incentives, I don't have a project, so I appreciate your openness to considering the request."
Commissioner Shaun Musil was absent from the work session.
Approval of the local RHID request and support of the state MIHG application will be voted upon at the Sept. 23 city commission meeting.
Prior to the work session, Mayor Jacobs proclaimed Sept. 17-23 as U.S. Constitution Week in Hays and posed for pictures with members of the local Courtney-Spalding DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Chapter.