La Cygne applies for grant to repurpose community center

Updated: Jan 7

LA CYGNE – The City of La Cygne has applied for a grant that, if received, would revamp and repurpose the aging La Cygne Community Building, which was built in 1969.

The grant is part of a new program by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The Historic Economic Asset Lifeline (HEAL) grant program was unveiled last month and is intended to revitalize underused, vacant or rundown buildings in rural communities.

The program, which could provide up to a $75,000 match for the renovation project, is designed to keep downtown buildings productive and provide spaces for new or expanding businesses.

The cost of the La Cygne project could be as much as $500,000. City officials are planning to use a variety of funding strategies to make the proposal work.

About $170,000 would come from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which would be used for replacing the heating/cooling system, installing broadband, and installing a permanent generator, according to the grant application.

Another $181,000 from the city’s capital improvement reserve fund would be used to improve the structure and upgrade the electrical system. The $75,000 grant would be used to install handicapped-accessible restrooms and building internal walls to create individual work spaces.

Additional sources of funding could be bonds or a tax levy. If revenue bonds were used, the community building would need to generate about $1,250 per month to cover principal and interest payments.

Wade said the city has been looking at renovating or replacing the structure since 2012, even taking initial bids on remodeling the building in 2013. While there was no decision to move forward with the project then, a public building commission survey in 2020 said a building like the center was still needed.

She pointed to public meeting spaces already in the city, such as the new addition to the La Cygne Library and a large community room at Labette Bank, but said sometimes those rooms didn’t fit the needs of community groups.

And with those new spaces available and residents and groups taking advantage of those spaces, the cost of maintaining the La Cygne Community Building remains constant – $10,000 to $16,000 annually. Those costs include utilities and building maintenance.

Currently the community building brings in $1,200 to $1,500 annually, significantly below the cost to operate it.

The city has been using the space more since the beginning of the pandemic last year. Using the large room for city council meetings has allowed city officials to keep their distance while conducting business. The building has also been used by the police department, Wade said.

And the city wants to continue using the building as a heating and cooling center for residents during times of weather extremes, she said.

The new plan for the building is to repurpose it to fit the needs of those who use it. Currently the fees for using the building are $40 for just the front room and $75 for the whole building. Most people who want to use the building just rent the front room, Wade said.

The new plan is to keep a larger meeting room, but create smaller spaces that could be used by home-based businesses for client meetings, entrepreneurs that wanted to display and sell product, and even larger indoor markets. That would allow for several groups to use the 5,000-square-foot building at the same time.

The building would be converted to include 10-foot-by-10-foot offices spaces with a desks, chairs, 4-foot-by-6-foot soundproof privacy pods, four- to six-person rooms for trainings or classes, 10-foot-by-10-foot vendor booth areas for activities like farmers markets or product sales, and a 25-foot-by-50-foot meeting room for up to 35 people.

The large kitchen would be replaced with a smaller kitchenette with a microwave, warming oven and plenty of electrical outlets for roasting ovens, which most groups use now instead of the commercial-size range. The restrooms would also be updated and brought up to code, Wade said.

While the building is structurally sound, there would need to be work done to the brick facade in front. And the west wall at the back of the building has some give to it that would need to be addressed.

However, Wade said, most of the work would be in framing out the new rooms and upgrading the interior.

The grant awards will be announced in January.

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