Emporia Main Street Development Group, LLC announced a major new addition to downtown Emporia.  The Chelsea Lofts, a new mixed use development containing nearly fifty residential units and 1,500 square feet of commercial space will locate in the 1000 Block of Commercial Street.The “U” shaped development will address Commercial Street with a minimal set back and contain two rear facing wings that surround a central courtyard area.
The City of Emporia planned to remove five dilapidated housing structures to  create a public parking lot immediately east of the building development and engage in various infrastructure upgrades to facilitate additional growth in an area commonly referred to as the “Black and Gold” zone.  The planning process for a parking lot and alley upgrades preceded the development negotiation.  Parking expansion and infrastructure upgrades were identified within the Community Initiated Development plan adopted in March of this year and were part of the City’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP).  The planned infrastructure upgrades will now immediately facilitate a large scale redevelopment that the improvements were meant to stimulate at a future date.

Cory Haag, the managing partner in the development group, worked with Emporia Main Street, the City of Emporia and Emporia State University to build a cohesive development that met the vision set forth in the recently adopted Community Initiated Development Plan proposed by Emporia Main Street and ratified by the City of Emporia in March.  The Emporia State University Master Plan adopted in May reflected a desire for mixed use development on the northern blocks of Commercial Street.  Both plans encouraged investment in the Black and Gold Zone.  Haag said “I’m excited about the growth at Emporia State University engineered by Dr. Shonrock, and I think now is the time to invest in redevelopment that supports the continued growth of ESU.”  The Chelsea Lofts will bring excitement to the Black and Gold District which is vital to both Emporia State University and Emporia Main Street.
The Community Initiated Development Plan was adopted by the Emporia City Commission in March of 2014.  The CID represents a master plan for downtown, including infrastructure improvements, design guidelines, market opportunity identification and incentives available for developers.  Emporia Main Street Director, Casey Woods, stated “we didn’t want the CID to represent another plan sitting on a shelf gathering dust.  We wanted to make sure we could execute the vision in the document, and thanks to the investment made by the Haag family and the support of the City of Emporia, we can see the CID becoming reality.”  The Emporia State University Master Plan also identified mixed use development in the “Black and Gold Zone”. and the two plans independently showcase opportunities for downtown redevelopment.

The Haag family worked with the Emporia City Commission and City Management via assistance provided by Emporia Main Street to facilitate the development process.  The project required a Master Development Agreement, which represents a new process for Emporia designed to make development negotiations faster, easier and more transparent for developers and community officials.  “The CID plan identified development opportunities in the northern part of Commercial Street, and the City of Emporia committed to enhancing the infrastructure in the area to allow for the development of projects like the Chelsea Lofts.  This project will remove a lot of dilapidated houses and replace them with something that will benefit downtown.  This is a win for Emporia, for ESU and for Main Street“, said Haag.

The City of Emporia made the “Black and Gold” zone a priority for redevelopment during their goal session in 2013.  Lyon County and the City of Emporia recentlyissued a joint proclamation identifying Emporia as a “University Community”, and stated their intentions of developing programs and incentives that can aid in the growth of Emporia State University and facilitate better connections to the community.  The Chelsea Lofts is one example of the culmination of governmental and private efforts to enhance a major community asset; Emporia State University.

Many locally elected officials worked diligently to encourage a new development emphasis, and the community will soon see results of the added emphasis on redevelopment through the Community Initiated Development Plan.  Commissioner Steve Harmon stated “This partnership project brings vitality, energy and traffic to the Black and Gold District and north central Emporia.  This is a great example of community initiated development.  I am excited about the future of the Black and Gold district.”  Commissioner Danny Giefer added “(I am) excited about working with a local developer on this project in our black and gold district. This should have a positive impact on Emporia State ,the north end of commercial and Emporia. Hopefully this’ll be the start of more development in that area.

The mixed use building will cost between $3 and $3.5 million to construct, representing the largest ground-up private new construction project in the history of downtown Emporia.  The residential density created by the project could have positive impacts for existing businesses and encourage more area redevelopment.  Woods, stated “we know that people that live in downtown environments spend about 40% of their disposable income in the downtown commercial area.  That means over $300,000 in spending for downtown businesses just from tenets of the Chelsea Lofts, and we anticipate more new businesses and living opportunities as a result of this project.

Demolition of existing structures has begun, and construction of the Chelsea Lofts will begin in the spring of 2015.  The expected completion date for the new mixed use development is early summer of 2016.  Once construction begins, Cory Haag will begin the process of recruiting retail tenants to the first floor of the mixed use development.  Haag said “with the proximity of the Chelsea Lofts to ESU and the mass residential units overhead, I believe that the commercial units are a great opportunity for a local business or franchise to locate in downtown.

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For more information about this project and others downtown, check out this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!