Urban Redevelopment Discusses Value Added Construction

Former JC Penny Building

Former JC Penny Building

Discussion over funding a roof for a recently purchased downtown business and a new restaurant project was held by Lamar’s Urban Redevelopment Authority Monday, August 10. The Authority also decided to invite Prowers County Assessor, Andy Wyatt, to a future work session to discuss what constitutes added value to a property when basic infrastructure improvements are made to a building.

Shawna Hodge, Community Development and Urban Renewal Manager, presented the proposals to the Authority. The first was from Diana Lynn Fashion at 211 South Main Street, a woman’s clothing store which has been open since this past April. Owner Diana Woller is requesting $14,932 which will be added to her contribution of $3,733 for the cost of roof repairs and a new HVAC system, valued at $18,665. Hodge said some other work includes moving the location of the front entrance door and additional shading to alleviate interior heat buildup from the afternoon sun.

Councilman Oscar Riley asked why there were no local bids for the remodeling project, stating that the Authority has always advocated local business concerns on projects of this nature. Hodge said Woller’s father had extensive construction experience and when he became state certified, intended to do a large part of the work himself. She added that she will recommend that local bids be advertised and will bring them back to the Authority for review.

Loretta and Jim Smith

Loretta and Jim Smith

The second presentation covered the financial breakdown to transform the former JC Penny building at 116 South Main Street into a restaurant, pub and grill on the first floor, a banquet facility on the second floor and convert the third floor into a studio apartment. The JC Penny’s building was built in 1896 and offers 20,000 square feet of space. Over the past decade it has served as a used furniture and consignment store under several renters.

A community market niche assessment pointed out that a restaurant of this nature would be an added draw to the downtown community, as well as from outlying areas. The request is being made by Jim and Loretta Smith who have backgrounds in various businesses in Arkansas and Texas for grocery service, bowling alley and entertainment centers and experience in restaurant, catering and grill operations. The Smiths relocated to Lamar and currently own and operate Hook Towing Company.

The estimated investment on the property, including the $65,000 purchase price, totals $169,500. The estimated property improvements available for financial assistance include: roof rehabilitation, plumbing, three HVAC systems, electric, fire suppression and façade rehabilitation. The estimated cost of that project is $380,455. Other projects included removing the metal façade from the storefront to expose the original brick and stone structure from year’s past.

The Authority took no action on the restaurant proposal at this time, as the discussion centered on what renovation areas would and would not be funded. This stems from the Authority’s viewpoint of financing costs for solid and permanent infrastructure as opposed to improvements which would no longer be needed if a new business replaces the former one. Jim Smith, when asked what he considered the top three construction priorities, replied, “The plumbing re-routing, HVAC system and electrical work.” Those costs constitute almost $93,000. Smith added that some of the future funding decisions from the Authority would define the scope of work should the project move forward. He added that he is working with a finance partner.

Aside from the two proposals, the Authority Board wanted some input on how the county determines what improvements to a building constitutes an increase in value, if any at all. The general consensus at Monday night’s meeting was that increasing the square footage would add value while installing a new HVAC system or improved electrical lighting would not. Councilwoman Anne-Marie Crampton said she had been in contact with Assessor Wyatt who said he would be happy to attend a future work session to explain that process.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityEconomyEmploymentFeaturedLamarUtilities


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