By JAMES BELL
A project years in the making took a significant step forward last week with the announcement of a land donation from HaysMed that will be home to The Grove, a housing and community center development at the intersection of 27th and Canterbury.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams. “We've been talking about this for at least a couple of years.”
The impetus behind the project was a community economic impact survey highlighting the significant economic impact of retirement-age populations on Ellis County and the greater northwest Kansas region.
But work needed to be done to capture the potential economic influence of that population.
“We haven't done a very good job of building retiree appropriate housing, giving existing retirees an option to downsize if that may be the case, as well as attract retirees from other areas into our community,” Williams said.
And so the idea for The Grove was born, a development that would help address the ongoing housing shortage in Ellis County, the lack of childcare and create a new multi-use community center.
“We saw this acreage north of the hospital that was just a wheat field and thought, ‘What a great spot to put in a retiree-focused housing development, along with a community center that could house the Senior Center, which is currently housed out by the airport,’” Williams said.
“With that thought process in mind, it then evolved into the other thing we really have a problem within our community … child care.”
The combination of usage married perfectly into the idea that will move into the next development phase now that land has been secured.
Grow Hays announced the donation from HaysMed during Thursday’s City Commission meeting, followed by a statement from Grow Hays and the hospital.
“We deal with housing issues for our associates daily,” said Eddie Herrman, CEO of HaysMed. “The Grove will create much-needed housing for our community. The location, and its proximity to our facilities, will provide easy access for associates, patients, and all who choose to live there.”
“We believe that it's the perfect location and the right idea,” Williams said. “And so now we just need to execute. We've got an arrangement with the hospital for the purchase of the property, and they have agreed to generously donate the land that the community center would be located on. That's about a $250,000 value of that land, that they'll be donating. And so, we believe we've got all the right pieces in place, and we're ready to go.”
While planning continues, he said the community center would be about 14,000 square feet, with around half dedicated to a childcare facility.
The other half will house the Senior center and general community rooms that area residents can use for various activities.
“We need some additional space for those types of things,” Williams said. “This will fill that need.”
The housing development will also add to the available Hays inventory. Still, while there is a focus on age-appropriate housing needs, other market segments will also benefit.
“There'll be some multifamily housing, there'll be some duplex townhouse units, and then there'll be patio homes,” Williams said. “There'll be a good variety of housing to try and meet kind of all needs.”
Now that the location is secured, he said the planning work, including obtaining funding, will begin immediately.
“We hope that for the community center, we will start a fundraising effort, and we hope to get participation from the city, the county, local foundations and local individuals,” Williams said. “It's going to take everybody. It's going to be a real community effort to make all that work because it's a big facility, and it's a $4-4.5 million build.”
The first step is to begin the annexation process, as the land is outside the Hays city limits.
The land would then need to be zoned appropriately.
“We're hoping to get that done this spring in all the annexation planning and zoning and then start on some infrastructure sometime late summer, next fall,” Williams said.
“We're excited. ...We've got a great design and a great concept. And so we have a long road ahead of us because we got to raise a whole bunch of money to do it. But the plan is pretty well in place. And now we just need to move forward with it.”