Kansas| Posted: 12/21/2005
Junction City’s city manager, Rod Barnes was concerned. An active member of the Historical Society in this town of 19,000 he hated to think that the downtown landmark, the Bartell Hotel, may face the wrecking ball. Redevelopment had found its way to Junction City and nearly every major building downtown had been rehabilitated. The fate of the Hotel was unclear, however, due to its large size and uncertain function. Demolition was a real possibility for the National Register-listed property. On behalf of the Geary County Historical Society, Mr. Barnes approached the National Trust, hoping its loan funds might be used to give the Hotel a second chance.
The National Trust’s Inner-City Ventures Fund (ICVF) responded with a $10,000 loan to the Historical Society to finance a one-year purchase option for the Bartell Hotel. This support enabled the Historical Society to protect the building from the immediate demolition threat and pursue financing for its adaptive reuse. Homestead Affordable Housing of Nortonville, Kansas stepped in as developer, with a plan to create 32 upper floor low- to moderate-income housing units and first floor commercial space for services compatible with downtown living.
The Bartell Hotel was constructed in 1879 and opened for business in February 1880. The Italianate red brick hotel quickly assumed landmark status in rural Geary County as a grand gathering place, a first-rate crossroads hotel, and a "commercial palace". It contained 66 sleeping rooms, a dining room, kitchen, parlors, and office space. It was known for its unique cuisine, featuring "Buffalo Tongue Dinner" and played host to such celebrities as Wild Bill Hickok, John Wayne, W.C. Fields, Gloria Vanderbilt and Sally Rand. The building’s construction was a reflection of Junction City’s aspiration to be a "Mid-Continental City" and the operation of this first class hotel was a fulfillment of that goal. The Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its association with the prosperous development of Junction City from 1880 until post-World War II.
With its $10,000 ICVF loan acting as catalyst, the Historical Society identified a project developer, Homestead Affordable Housing, Inc., a rural, nonprofit community housing development organization. Homestead assembled a varied financing package that included a $1 million Section 515 loan from USDA’s Rural Development program, low-income housing tax credits, federal and state historic tax credits, HOME funds from the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing and an Affordable Housing Program grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka. In addition, USDA pledged an annual award of $350,000 in rental assistance funds for the next 10 years. The Junction City Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Rebate helped leverage these funding sources. Project construction will begin in early 2004.
COMMUNITY AND PRESERVATION IMPACT
The rehabilitation of the Hotel into residential and retail space will secure the future of the building as a commercial and community fixture in downtown Junction City and help address a pressing need for affordable housing. The project is also an inspiring example of how broad based support can be built upon a foundation laid by a modest $10,000 loan.