PITTSBURG — Work began on Thursday to tear down part of the signage at the century-old Crowell Pharmacy building for a bigger project that will follow.

On Monday, PSU Director of Government and Community Relations Shawn Naccarato said the institution was given the “go ahead” for the $18 million project to redevelop four buildings on corner of Fourth and Broadway streets, which includes the Crowell Pharmacy and the building to the north. The approval at the end of January came from the Kansas Department of Administration last month and is the university’s last hurdle for the cooperative project, which is called Block 22.

“This could be the sort of the thing that is a spark for a fuse,” Naccarato said about the impact the project could have on future development.

Feb. 27 is the closing date for the four buildings: National Bank of Pittsburg and the building just north at 408 and 410 N. Broadway, along with the Crowell Pharmacy buildings at 401 and 405 N. Broadway. The purchase price of the buildings has not been disclosed.

Construction is slated to start in March. Once work is complete, in August 2018, the buildings will have 105 student housing units aimed at upperclassmen and graduate students, commercial and education space, and an area for PSU’s Center for Innovation and Business Development.

Naccarato said the plan is to restore the facade of the National Bank and Crowell Pharmacy buildings back to its prime. Although, no definitive plan has been set in stone, he said.

The cooperative effort partnered PSU with the City of Pittsburg and the principal investor, Vecino Group, which will use roughly $10 million in federal and state historic-tax credits along with new-market tax credits for equity in the development. The group will finance the remaining $5.5 million.

The city has agreed to a $1.5 million contribution, which will come from the revolving loan fund in two installments — $750,000 initially and another $750,000 once the project is complete. The money will not be repaid.

“If the city can generate a dollar by spending a dime, we feel it is a good investment,” Assistant City Manager Jay Byers said previously.

PSU originally were trying to fundraiser for the anticipated $1 million cost on its end. Naccarato said the university raised $1.2 million from four donors, but the extra money will go to unforeseen raises in their expenses.

The university will lease the properties from Vecino Group for 20 years with an opportunity to purchase after five years. In either case, the university will own the buildings at the end of the lease.

PSU’s Center for Innovation and Business Development offices will be on the lower level of one of the buildings. Additionally, there will be some commercial space which the university will sub-lease.

The university has already begun talking with Lindsey Kling about relocating her business — Root CoffeeHouse — to the former National Bank of Pittsburg.

Naccarato said the coffeehouse will be a good fit with the project. He said PSU may divide the ground floor at the former Crowell Pharmacy building into multiple commercial spaces.

He felt a restaurant or convenience store would be fitting.

 

PARKING OPTIONS

 

PSU Director of Government and Community Relations Shawn Naccarato said there has been concern about parking once the additional housing units in Block 22 are filled.

Not including street parking, Naccarato said there are 308 parking spots within a block-and-a-half radius of the buildings.

Some of the parking Naccarato mentioned is behind Harry’s Cafe and the Colonial Fox Theatre.

The City of Pittsburg will designate parking spots in those and other nearby parking lots for residents of the future housing units.

The city will also make repairs to the parking lots and add signage. Additionally, to mitigate the need for commuters, the city will offer a year-round shuttle service from the area to PSU. City Manager Daron Hall estimated the shuttle service would cost $15,000 a year.

“Anything we can do to be part of project and create the economic impact this will have and increase the university's footprint is something we want to be part of,” Hall said in the past.

— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at mstavola@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.