The city of Fort Scott looks forward to new changes and developments as businesses and organizations express interest in both downtown buildings and other property around town.
During the Fort Scott City Commission meeting Tuesday evening, city staff gave reports of some of those interested parties and their plans for buildings such as Memorial Hall, the old La Hacienda structure downtown, the former Spoiled Brat building and a newly annexed piece of property south of El Charro.
In April of 2016, the commission had agreed to work with Last Farmhouse Films, Inc., as they considered renovating Memorial Hall and leasing it in order to promote arts in Fort Scott. Since that time, the group decided to look into purchasing the building outright because of the funding renovating alone would require.
The commission approved giving City Manager Dave Martin the authority to begin preliminary negotiations concerning the sale of Memorial Hall.
Director of Economic Development Rachel Pruitt also presented a project proposal for housing and retail that will go into the Union building in downtown Fort Scott, which formerly housed La Hacienda but in recent years has been vacant.
The Flint Hills Holding Group, which recently completed the apartments in the old Western Insurance building, is now interested in using the Union building, located at 18, 20 and 22 South Main Street, to house the Fort Scott Lofts, which will include 27, one- and two-bedroom units that will not be restricted to a specific age as they are in the Western Senior Living Center. The first floor will also have space for retail, a lobby and a fitness center.
“If we don’t do it, we’re going to lose these buildings,” Martin pointed out.
The structure is expected to bring in 40 residents downtown and 10 new jobs.
The project will cost at least $5.5 million, and the Flint Hills Holding Group requested a seven percent investment from the city, totaling about $400,000. The city’s commitment for funding will increase the chances for the project to be awarded housing tax credits from the state.
The city agreed to give their funding commitment to the project. The amount of money is already available in the economic development fund.
“It looks like a fantastic project,” commissioner Jim Adams said.
The commission also took steps to participate in the preservation of another downtown building, formerly the Spoiled Brat at 124 Wall Street, which has been a hazard for years because of an unsound wall.
Martin said the Horner family has shown interest in preserving the building for a business and second floor living space. Repairing the wall alone will likely cost at least $80,000. If the project becomes more expensive and extensive then originally believed, the potential owners requested that the city commit $30,000, the sum the city would have to pay to tear down the building if nothing is done to repair it.
“We will work very closely with them to make sure what they are doing is right,” Martin said, saying it will not be accomplished overnight as they seek grants and recruit contractors and others to help preserve the building.
The commission unanimously agreed to sign the property preservation agreement, expressing their financial commitment.
The commission also approved the voluntary annexation of about two acres of property located south of El Charro on the east side of Highway 69. Pruitt said a national retailer is interested in using that property for development, but wanted it to be part of the city before they invested.
The commissioners expressed their excitement at the potential projects that may be coming to Fort Scott in the near future. At a Chamber of Commerce event, Martin said they are trying to do the right thing for the city and its residents in each of these projects.