PITTSBURG — Four historic buildings in downtown Pittsburg are one step closer to a new lease on life today.

The $18 million project to rejuvenate four buildings at the intersection at Fourth and Broadway in Pittsburg is moving forward, Pittsburg State University officials said Friday.

The project — known as Block 22 — will include the purchase of the former 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 project is a partnership between the city, PSU and the development company Vecino Group. The Kansas Board of Regents — the governing body of the state universities — approved PSU’s $1 million portion at its Wednesday meeting, allowing the project to push forward.

“It really was an important moment to receive the support of the Kansas Board of Regents,” PSU President Steve Scott said.

According to Vecino Group Chief Operating Officer Mat Burton, the contract on the four buildings should close by the end of the year. Burton would not disclose the purchase price, but said all parties have agreed upon a price and closing is contingent on approval by the Kansas Department of Administration.

Burton, a graduate of St. Mary’s-Colgan High School and PSU, said he expects the department to approve the project before the end of the year and construction to begin next January or February.

Completion for the project is slated for Aug. 2018. When completed, the upper floors of all four buildings will contain a total of roughly 105 single-bedroom housing units for PSU students. The housing will be aimed at upperclassmen and graduate students.

There will be extra space dedicated for students and local entrepreneurs as well.

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

PSU is leasing the properties from Vecino Group for 20 years with an opportunity to purchase in five years. In either case the university will own the buildings at the end of the lease.

Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations, said PSU has fundraised over half over its $1 million contribution. He said PSU plans to raise the rest through private funding before the project begins.

In March, Pittsburg City Commissioners approved the city’s $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.

“If the city can generate a dollar by spending a dime, we feel it is a good investment,” Assistant City Manager Jay Byers said, adding the additional foot traffic downtown will benefit the nearby businesses.

The Springfield, Missouri, Vecino Group will cash in 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, Burton said.

The development group is undecided if they will do the construction or hire another company, Burton said.

The project stemmed from a 2015 conference on low-income housing credits attended by Becky Gray, the city’s director of housing and community development. A person Gray met at the conference introduced her to the Vecino group.

Burton jumped at the project, which he said he felt was both a good fit for Vecino and gave him an opportunity to give back to Pittsburg.

“This is the kind of project that would be a transformative project and be in a community that has given me so much,” Burton said.

The former National Bank of Pittsburg has been vacant for over a decade, Byers said, and the building to the north has been vacant for some time as well. Crowell Pharmacy closed its door earlier this year.

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