Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buyer wants old city hall for venture along trails

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/4/2014

The former City Hall building at the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Ottawa likely could become the hub for what one rural Franklin County man hopes to develop into a series of bed and breakfast, residential loft housing and commercial businesses along the major trail systems in eastern Kansas.

Ottawa city commissioners were expected Wednesday night to approve the sale of the building for $50,000 to DLD Land Holding Co. LLC of Baldwin City.

The former City Hall building at the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Ottawa likely could become the hub for what one rural Franklin County man hopes to develop into a series of bed and breakfast, residential loft housing and commercial businesses along the major trail systems in eastern Kansas.

Ottawa city commissioners were expected Wednesday night to approve the sale of the building for $50,000 to DLD Land Holding Co. LLC of Baldwin City.

Richard Dietz, a rural Franklin County resident and a co-owner of DLD Land Holding, did not want to discuss specific plans just yet because the project still is in the preliminary phase, he said.

But the entrepreneur said he is excited about the opportunity to develop properties along the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail, which stretches 51 miles from Ottawa to Iola, and the 117-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail across east-central Kansas. Ottawa, which sits at the crosshairs of both trails, is ideally suited as a starting point for his development plans, Dietz said.

It would not be Dietz’s first venture in Ottawa. Dietz was one of the co-investors who purchased the former Swim for Life indoor pool building in June 2012 at 913 E. Wilson St., Ottawa.

As with re-establishing the indoor swimming pool, Dietz said developing housing and commercial properties along the trail system would tie into the healthful lifestyle ideals that he would like to promote and foster in the region.

“We will be working on some grant applications and a lot of other steps need to take place first — so this is all very preliminary,” Dietz said. “But I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

Bob Bezek, city attorney, told city commissioners at their study session Monday that this was the best offer the city has received for the former city hall building since it went on the market more than a decade ago. The city government moved its offices from the building in August 1996 to the current City Hall building at 101 S. Hickory St.

City commissioners were receptive Monday to proceeding with the sale, expressing a desire to see the vacant building being used again as well as put back on the property tax rolls. The city can continue to occupy the storage building on the property at 329 S. Walnut St. under the terms of the agreement.

If it opts to do so in the future, DLD Land Holding can take possession of the storage space by giving the city 30 days written notice to vacate.

The three-story red brick building at 123 W. Fourth St., which served for a time as the Ottawa school district central office, was constructed in 1911 and is listed by the Kansas Historical Society as part of Ottawa’s historic central business district.

“It’s a great building with a great history,” Dietz said of the century-old building. “Now we need to re-purpose it so it’s ready for the next 100 years.”

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