By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
Project Change is living up to its name. In January, Great Bend Economic Development board members began discussing ways to make the biggest impact on local communities. One of the items that kept emerging: the hotel located at 3017 10th Street in Great Bend, next to the Event Center. So Eco Devo Director Sara Hayden contacted the owners of the property and made an offer. Now Eco Devo owns the property with the intent to tear down the decrepit hotel and sell the property for the construction of a new hotel.
"As that conversation kept progressing, the hotel kept coming up," Hayden said. "Like, 'Man I wish someone would do something about that. 'Gosh, it's fallen into such disrepair.' Finally, one of our board members said, 'Why don't we just shoot them an offer and see if we can buy it?' Everybody said there's no way they'd take that. It was decided, let's just go for it. Let's just try. The next morning I was on the phone with the owners, and we proceeded to work out a deal with them based on what we thought was fair for what the condition of the property was."
Eco Devo has not disclosed a purchase price for the acquisition but said, all things considered, the purchase had to be made.
"I know there are some people that are going to be concerned about the cost that went into this," Hayden said. "But, honestly, when we looked at it, there was no way we couldn't do something. The cost to our community to keep that property as it is now, to continue that deterioration, to continue the dangerous things that are happening in it, that cost was too great. We just couldn't do it. We had to be able to make a bold move and move forward on this property."
The ultimate goal with the property is to raze the current hotel and build a new one. But Eco Devo still has several legal hurdles to navigate before that can happen. Until then, it's all about shoring up the property to make it safe.
"If you've driven by the property before this point, you've noticed windows are broken out, doors are removed, etc, etc. it's been vandalized to the point of utter destruction," said Hayden. "We had to make sure we were keeping the community safe from being able to break into this, and getting hurt with all the glass and the different things that, unfortunately, are available in that property to cause harm."
Because of those legal obstacles, Eco Devo does not have a timeline for the destruction of the hotel or a resale of the land to a hotel chain. But Hayden and Eco Devo have their eyes on the bigger prize, which is creating more hotel rooms for a growing sector of the local economy.
"The biggest part of economic development is making sure we're putting solutions into place to enable growth for our community," she said. "One of those is hotel properties. We work very closely with the city, and with Christina Hayes with (the Conventions and Vistors Bureau), so we get to see firsthand how many wonderful things she's bringing to our Event Center and to our community, but we're also seeing firsthand how much she's not able to land or bring because there is no hotel property connected to the Event Center.
"Not only that, we have a hotel study that shows, data-wise, that because of all the incoming traffic, whether it be tourism-related, work-related, etc, we are seeing a lot of people come to our community, and we need more hotel rooms to be able to support that. This is in no way trying to put any of the existing hotels out of business. This is hopefully adding to the pool so we have more to pull from and we can all be more successful."
Follow progress on the project on the Eco Devo website.