October 21, 2016 9:45AM
With unanimous support from the Kansas Board of Regents, a project to transform four historic properties in downtown Pittsburg into a “living-learning community” for Pittsburg State University students has taken a big step forward.
At their monthly meeting, held this week in Hays, Kan., the regents approved Block 22, which is a joint project between Pittsburg State, the City of Pittsburg and a private developer, the Vecino Group from Springfield, Mo.
The plan calls for the renovation of four mostly empty historic buildings at Fourth and Broadway, the heart of downtown Pittsburg. The design combines 105 beds of PSU student housing with dedicated innovation space and resources for both students and local entrepreneurs. The targeted student population is upperclassmen and graduate students.
In addition to the student housing, the living-learning community will also include offices for the University Center for Business and Innovation Development, a makerspace (a collaborative community workspace designed for creativity and prototyping), business incubator, co-working area, and a multi-function event and educational space. The properties will be operated and managed by the university, which will sub-lease a portion of the commercial space to further support downtown redevelopment and generate additional revenue to support the project.
The total cost of Block 22 is estimated at $18 million, of which the city would invest $1.5 million. PSU will conduct fundraising to cover its $1 million investment. The developer is expected to receive federal and state historic and new-market tax credits of about $10 million.
Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations and executive director of the Center for Business and Innovation Development, said the board’s support was encouraging.
“We’re very pleased to get the board’s support for this project,” Naccarato said, “but more importantly that they see the transformational potential of Block 22 for the university and the community.”
Naccarato said the next step is to gain approval from the Kansas Department of Administration. If all goes well, he said, the final touches on the project will be completed in December or January, with actual construction to begin sometime next spring.