Jan. 12--PITTSBURG, Kan. -- The Block22 development in downtown Pittsburg recently received a financial boost from Evergy Inc., the parent company of Westar Energy, which donated $100,000 toward the advancement of the project.
Block22 is an joint effort by Pittsburg State University, the city of Pittsburg and the Vecino Group, a Springfield, Missouri-based real estate developer, that has restored and renovated four historic buildings downtown -- Commerce, Baxter, National Bank and Opera House Hotel. The design is a living-learning community as a hub for students, innovators and entrepreneurs.
The public courtyard between the Opera House Hotel and the National Bank buildings will display the Evergy name in acknowledgement of the donation.
Shawn Naccarato, Pittsburg State University's chief strategy officer, applauded how Evergy has viewed Block22 as a community project.
"We are incredibly grateful for Evergy's generous support of Block22," Naccarato said. "Block22 could not have gone from idea to reality without support from private donors and industry leaders such as Evergy."
This will be Evergy's first donation to Block22, which officially broke ground in March 2017. Gina Penzig, Westar's manager of media communications, said the contribution is a special gift to the community of Pittsburg.
Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light merged in June, which led to the creation of Evergy. Penzig said they expect to begin serving customers under the Evergy name in late 2019, but will continue operating under Westar and KCP&L for the time being.
The project has been progressing over the past year and is nearly complete. Students moved into their new housing units in August and six businesses relocated their office space inside of The Foundry in December. The Foundry is housed in the first floors of the former Opera House Hotel and National Bank buildings, and it features a public courtyard.
Root Coffeehouse and Creperie opened its new location in Block22 in December, as well. The coffee shop is the first of many restaurants to move into the space. More developments are expected this spring.
Three new restaurants -- Brick + Mortar, Juicy's and TOAST -- will be housed in the Commerce and Baxter buildings and will wrap up the final phase of the project. Naccarato said they're aiming to have the eating establishments open on the west side of Broadway by mid-April.
The total cost of the project is an estimated $19 million, which is financed by both private contributions and public funds. A bulk of the project, more than $10 million of the costs, have been paid through historic and new market tax credits secured by the Vecino Group. PSU and the city of Pittsburg have both contributed approximately $3 million toward the venture.
Shawn Naccarato, Pittsburg State University's chief strategy officer, said plans call for launching a Block22 podcast in early to mid-February. The podcast will include topics such as economic development, downtown revitalization and various feature stories from the community.
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