Parking missing piece for proposal

12/7/2012

Identifying parking obstacle for plan to convert Legion into apartments.

Identifying parking obstacle for plan to convert Legion into apartments.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Parking continues to be the biggest hurdle for developers who want to convert the old American Legion building in downtown Garden City into high-end apartments.

"Without parking, there's no point in going any further," Carlos Gamino said during an interview Thursday.

Gamino and his mother, Candace, own CSS Properties, LLC, and proposed creating an apartment complex out of the former American Legion building at 125 Pine St. The Gaminos' plan was the only one received on time earlier this year when the city asked the public for proposals for doing something with the building.

The Gaminos' proposal offers to pay the city $1,000 for the two-story property, which then would be renovated into either four three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments, or a combination of four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments. The sale won't be finalized until all the parking and zoning issues are worked out, according to Steve Cottrell, city engineer.

The city acquired the old American Legion building in early 2011 after giving the American Legion Post 9 the former Kansas National Guard Armory building at 405 S. Main St. The city acquired the former armory in 2010 from the state after it was closed.

The property needs to be rezoned before it can be converted to apartments, and part of the zoning requirements include identifying parking. While there are public spaces available nearby, the commission appears to favor the complex having self-sustained parking of its own.

Carlos Gamino said parking is the main issue for his project.

The Gaminos have tried to buy property from an adjacent property owner to use for parking, but so far the two parties haven't agreed on an acceptable purchase price. Carlos Gamino wouldn't say specifically how much the other property owner wants, other than it was "way too much money."

"I've been trying to work on him but so far it's been no, no, no," he said.

Kaleb Kentner, planning and community development director, said city zoning regulations require apartment complexes to provide a certain number of parking spaces based on the number of apartments. Generally, he said, the ratio is two parking spaces for each apartment.

While parking issues continue to be addressed, the property is scheduled to go to the planning commission on Dec. 20 for a hearing on amending zoning regulations to allow the first floor of the building to be used for residential purposes. City zoning regulations already allow residential uses on second floors.

"The interesting thing about that building is it's not a true two-story building," Kentner said. "It's kind of like a split-level house which gives it a unique twist. Part of it's underground, part of it's above so when you walk in the door, you go up or down to get to the upper or lower level, unlike most of the other buildings downtown where you walk in straight off the sidewalk front of the building."

When asked for comment about the project's status, Commissioner Roy Cessna said he is not yet concerned and was taking a wait-and-see approach as the Gaminos continue to work on parking and zoning issues. Cessna said allowing public parking might be something for the commission to consider in the future, but it is too early now to say what might happen.

Cessna noted that Candace Gamino told the commission on Tuesday that it might be possible to work out a lease agreement for parking with the adjacent property owner.

"There's some hurdles to cross but right now we're just waiting to see how it all plays out. Things are still kind of up in the air right now, it looks like," he said.

Commissioner Dan Fankhauser is optimistic that parking issues will be worked out and the project will move forward.

"I think we're heading in the right direction," he said.

Fankhauser said he has always thought that property would better be used for residential purposes rather than a commercial use mainly because the building's split-level design would create some problems for a business.

"I think we can get it worked out and get it back on the tax rolls. The city sure doesn't need anymore property," he said. "We're trying to get rid of some."

Carlos Gamino said he is "definitely" concerned about the project.

"For me it's more of a hobby. I really enjoy doing this kind of thing, but you can't do it if you're going to lose money," he said. "I really have no idea. It's going to be up to the commissioners. They can allow us to use public spaces if they so desire."

According to the Gaminos' proposal, the project would be financed through a loan and private savings. Renovation would take approximately six months from the date of the approval of the site plans. Carlos Gamino estimated the overall project could cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

Though the Gaminos' project is the only one on the table now, there was an additional proposal submitted to the city.

Finney County Economic Development Corp. and Downtown Vision offered to convert the building into offices but the commission rejected the proposal because it was submitted after the deadline.

The building, which was appraised at $383,800 earlier this year, is about 3,300 square feet per floor and is not currently ADA accessible.

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