by Chad Frey
Efforts to build as many as 300 new apartments in Newton are moving forward — with a groundbreaking date set. But there are a few details to get taken care of before that groundbreaking can begin.
"I am beginning discussion with Newton banks because I would like financing to be local," said Jason Van Sickle, owner of the development company behind the project. "I am also looking for local investors, this project is open for locals to invest."
The targeted groundbreaking, according to an agreement signed with the city, is April 1. The first phase of the project, located on the south side of First Street west of Boyd Street, is to have 95 units.
The need for more rental units was identified by the Kansas Rural Housing Coalition, an organization Van Sickle helped found. The coalition completed the first ever Kansas Housing Research Project in 2013. That project represented the largest housing study ever completed in Kansas — more than 700 reports totaling 60,000 pages of housing information, data and analysis.
Included in that work was analysis of Newton.
"Ten years ago communities were struggling with trying to get out from being bedroom communities," Van Sickle said. "A real focus began on attracting employers, and Newton was a real leader in that. … Now towns are facing a new phenomenon, that people are working there and living elsewhere. When someone goes home and spends their paycheck in another community, that is a problem."
He said building new rental units should help that.
The company plans a total of three phases, and nearly 300 apartments, on the 15 acres of property.
"If we can get the financing in place and we want to pull the trigger on it, we may do a couple of hundred units at the start," Van Sickle said.
Van Sickle will pay the city a total of $225,000 for the property, to be paid in three phases as the project develops.
Van Sickle did not seek any incentives or tax abatements for the project.
"I think we were able to craft an agreement that was good for the city and good for us as well," Van Sickle said.
Before beginning construction, he and the city will come to an agreement on a plan for the timing and assessment method for the extension of streets and utilities.