Victory Plaza a win-win for Marion residents

One of the 10 duplexes in the Victory Plaza housing project along Eisenhower Drive. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
One of the 10 duplexes in the Victory Plaza housing project along Eisenhower Drive. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

Two long-awaited housing projects in Marion crossed the finish line in 2014: the Victory Plaza duplexes (along Eisenhower Road), and the rehabilitation of the September I Atrium building at 1500 E. Main St.

Tom Bishop, director of Homestead Affordable Housing Inc. in Holton, said the Victory Plaza concept was introduced in Marion through USDA Area Director Richard Boyles, who brought him to Marion to meet Lucas King, USD 408 industrial and agriculture teacher.

?Boyles, King and I discussed a building trades partnership with the school district, which resulted in a memo of understanding with the district,? he said.

The agreement included one new single-family home, one new duplex that is part of the 20 units at Victory Plaza and one completely rehabilitated existing home, Bishop said.

?All this was done with the students under the professional leadership of Luke King,? he said. ?Victory Plaza is open and occupancy is almost at full capacity with six apartments still vacant for elderly individuals.?

Marion City Administrator Roger Holter said the original $4.2 million industrial revenue bonds were city-sponsored, but the city doesn?t have any financial stake in the project.

The $4.2 million in IRBs was for the renovation of 20 units in September I, with seven of those being unsuitable for rent.

The other money would be used to build nine duplexes, or 18 more units, across from the Marion football field, he added.

Although Holter did not get involved in the Victory Plaza/September I Atrium building until May 2013, he said he reviewed earlier legal documents.

Background

?The Victory Plaza duplex project was actually launched in 2010,? Holter said. ?One unit was built and sat empty because part of the stipulation with the city was that (HAH) had to build a certain percentage of duplexes before (the city) would incur the expense of water and sewer lines,? he said.

By September 2013, the project started moving and in January 2014, full construction was underway.

Not only was the city?s public works and utilities department involved in those projects, Mayor Todd Heit?schmidt said in an earlier interview, they also took on some of the largest and most extensive projects in Marion?s recent history.

Bishop said before construction began, extensive market studies were completed. As a result, the state awarded the housing tax credits and the investors committing to the equity under the housing tax-credit program.

Victory Plaza sign
Victory Plaza sign

Ownership

Holter said Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owns the land, but the actual buildings are owned by HAH and its investors.

?On the legal documents, the city is shown as owners of the property as the tax-exempt entity,? he added. ?This was set up originally to afford them the tax-exempt process, but the IRS changed its taxation policy on Section 42 Housing from HUD to make it non-tax exempt.?

Bishop said that under the taxable bond financing, the city has title to the atrium 20-unit parcel and the Victory Plaza subdivision.

?We operate under the leasehold interest during the bond financing period,? he said. ?There are housing tax credits, HOME grants and a loan, which are all part of the financing package for these total of 40 units.?

?On a $4.2 million project, the sales tax is a sizeable amount,? Holter said.

Federally subsidized

HAH will be subsidized by the federal government for 15 years because it is providing housing for senior citizens who meet certain criteria.

Housing eligibility guidelines include senior citizens age 55 or older who meet certain income requirements and pay a fixed amount of $435 for two-bedroom duplexes, according to information provided by HAH.

?HAH is then paid by HUD the difference between that $435 amount and what the fair market value for a two-bedroom duplex would be?which is ongoing support developers get to put together this type of housing project,? Holter said.

Benefits to Marion

Communities benefit from these types of housing projects, Holter said. In Marion?s case the trend in the 1980s and 1990s was that senior housing was going to go to high-rise and major metropolitan areas.

?A lot of our lifelong residents were being pulled away to a metropolitan area, changing their complete lifestyle in many cases,? he said.

Through this program, though, seniors are allowed to stay in the communities where they may have farmed or lived.

?Quite honestly, this is very nice housing,? Holter added.

September I upgraded

Inside the atrium building, September I has 20 apartments that have one or two bedrooms, he said.

The atrium building received a total rehabilitation, including new kitchens, heat and air, baths, carpet and paint, plus electrical and lighting upgrades with ceiling fans, Bishop said.

Several apartments have a new floor plan: four two-bedroom units as well as one-bedroom units with several hundred more square feet.

The atrium building was built in 1987 and was known as September Apartments until the Homestead purchase in November 2013.

Additional space was added to the front of the building.

?Two little rooms coming out in front is how HAH converted four of the units into two bedrooms,? Holter said. ?Instead of a huge common area that existed, HAH made a smaller access hallway and added new living rooms and converted the old living rooms into a second bedroom.?

Holter said essentially eight two-bedroom units were added inside the atrium building in the process.

Other amenities

Bishop said the properties have a home energy rating system of 68.

?As we?ve developed affordable senior retirement communities around rural Kansas, we have continued to refine the plans and features around what today?s retirees are looking for,? he added.

Those features include garages, concrete safe rooms in each apartment, two bedrooms with walk-in closets, large kitchens with micro?wave range hoods and Lazy Susans in many kitch?en cabinets with eating bar.

?Many of our senior tenants are fully capable of independent living, but don?t want to worry about mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, so this type of maintenance-free community is attractive to them.?

In addition to the 10 duplexes and 20 units that comprise Victory Plaza and September I atrium building, the project includes a community building, community kitchen, exercise equipment, computer center, library and more, Bishop said.

Bishop said HAH acquired September II with 16 units and is working to secure the financing, grants and loans, to completely rehabilitate those apartments at a projected cost of $475,000.

?September II will be managed by HAH in concert with the other 40 units in Marion,? he said.

Gratitude

Bishop said he appreciates the community partnership.

?We believe all of this is set to meet the needs of seniors in the Marion County area for years to come,? he said. ?We also believe the residents have been most pleased by the units and we expect to soon have a waiting list as the good news of what?s been developed reaches more seniors.?

The current rent at the September I atrium building is $280-$330 for a one-bedroom apartment and $330 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Gas, electric and phone are the tenant?s responsibility. Water, sewer and trash are included in the rent.

For more information about occupancy standards and eligibility guidelines, call Terri Bradshaw with HAH at 316-680-7889.