Downtown Vision eying a new location

5/10/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Bruce Glass and his wife, Beverly Schmitz Glass, weren't thinking of buying a building as the new home for Garden City's Downtown Vision, but the idea became more attractive after a proposal to put offices in the old American Legion building wasn't approved by the city.

The Glasses are in the process of buying the McAllister Building at 118 E. Laurel St. and renovating it into offices that could house not only Downtown Vision, of which Schmitz Glass is executive director, but also other nonprofit groups.

"This was kind of a good spot," he said. "We didn't go into it thinking we would ever buy a building, but circumstances came around and Duane really preferred to sell it to us so we thought, well maybe we could do it."

The building's owner, Duane West, offered to sell the structure to the couple last fall and they thought about it for a few months before making the decision to buy. Downtown Vision needs to move out of its current Main Street office at the Windsor Hotel due to an upcoming renovation project.

Because of its mission, Downtown Vision needs to be downtown, but preferred to not take up prime retail space on Main Street.

Glass has pitched the idea of renting space in the McCallister Building to Finney County Economic Development Corp., Finney County United Way and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.

"The city and county commissioners over the years have expressed interest in the groups being together, and kind of working a little bit better together," Glass said. "If they're in the same location but can still maintain their own identity, there's some advantages to that."

None of those groups have committed yet. Talks right now concern how much space each organization needs and how much space they can afford, Glass said.

Offices for the Chamber, FCEDC and United Way are currently located along Fulton Street. The FCEDC is located at 1509 E. Fulton Terrace, while the Chamber and United Way share offices at 1511 E. Fulton Terrace.

Officials with those organizations said Thursday that their boards of directors were still considering the proposal.

Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, said there hasn't been much discussion since the proposal was made at the last board meeting, though it may be discussed more at the FCEDC May 15 meeting.

"It would be an awesome location. As you know, we spend a lot of time at the city and the county (administrative centers), so it would be nice to be closer," she said.

However, DuVall said the current location on Fulton is fine, too. She said it will boil down to what the FCEDC board wants to do.

Susan Escareno, United Way director, said the board would be discussing the proposal on May 28, and being new to her job, she really couldn't say much about the organization's preference yet. However, in general, a downtown location could be beneficial.

"It might give us a little more exposure. I think the board would have more thoughts on that than I would right now," she said. "We're kind of connected with the Chamber here, and I know we'll kind of wait and see what we're going to do. That might determine a lot about what we're going to do. Right now, I just don't have an opinion either way."

Steve Dyer, Chamber president, said the Chamber's board rejected the plan when it was presented a few months ago, but will discuss it again at their next meeting.

"A lot has changed since then," Dyer said. "The plan has changed. The total layout has changed, and a lot of things with the building have changed. The pricing, the square footage. So that's why it's being revisited by the board."

Glass, an architect, has created many different plans for how the office space could be configured, depending on the amount of room each organization needs now and in the future.

"That kind of affects the way the plan lays out," he said.

Glass said he hopes to finalize the building's purchase next week. Once that's done, he hopes to secure rental commitments as soon as possible.

At least one or two commitments will be needed before the roughly $400,000 renovation could begin over the summer. If things move quickly, Glass thinks the building could begin to be occupied in August at the earliest.

"That building isn't really one big shell. It's almost four or five little buildings all stuck together," he said. "There are bearing walls in there that can't really move. Part of it is fairly open and flexible, but some of it is not, and so fitting the spaces is kind of a trick."

The first phase of the project involves renovating the eastern three-fourths of the property, not including Cliff's Barbershop on the corner, which will remain. A future second phase would include renovating the western portion of the property, which used to be a pool hall.

Glass said no decisions have been made about what to do with the former pool hall space, although it could be ideal for a retail business due to its proximity to Main Street and its open floor plan.

"There have been a couple of retail and a couple of service type businesses that have expressed an interest in it," he said. "It could be turned into offices, but because it's all open right now, the rent would be less if it were retail and you weren't building a lot of walls and doors."

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