Grant turns old buildings into new housing

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EL DORADO, Kansas — From 1884, when the Ellet Opera House was built by a Civil War general, to now, the years have not been kind.

Much the same at the Gish Building from 1917 where apartments had become unlivable, but now, the landmark has been transformed.

“There are five apartments. This is one of the small studio apartments,” said Dave Sundgren, El Dorado developer.

Low-income housing made possible by a half-million dollar federal grant.

“On a total project cost of $750 or $800,000, that grant really helped. It made things possible that we couldn’t have done it without that. It just wouldn’t have been feasible at all,” said Sundgren.

Like preserving the original hard wood floors, high ceilings, even screen doors.

“And if you look at those, they still have the original steel screens. I don’t think you can even buy those anymore.”

Features that put the Gish Building on the National Register of Historic Places.

The grant is also helping the Opera House renovate into 11 low-income apartments.

“We hope to keep them in a range that not only a senior citizen can afford but a young couple,” said Dick Morris, WM Projects.

But the work is taking much longer as developers restore the 25-foot ceilings and ornate windows.

“Never in the our wildest imagination did we think it was going to cost this much money,” said Morris. “Everything had to be redone.”

But he believes it will be worth the wait.

Since El Dorado needs more affordable housing and both buildings are bringing people back to the downtown.

“It was built in 1917 so in another four years, it will be 100 years old, and we hope that we’re going to start the second hundred years in pretty good shape, and hopefully, it’ll make it another 100 years!” said Sundgren.

Rent at the Gish Building will range from $500 t0 $800.

The Opera House Apartments should be ready by the end of the year.

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