5 Years After Blast, Fire Kansas Town Begins Downtown Rebuild

August 28, 2014

A $3.5 million project to rebuild a downtown block of a central-Kansas community officially gets underway this week, five years after an explosion and fire damaged several businesses.

A groundbreaking ceremony is being held for the redevelopment project in Anthony, where the July 8, 2009, blaze began after a trash truck broke through pavement in an alley and severed a gas line, which exploded. The fire eventually destroyed or heavily damaged six buildings on the block.

The project, called “Anthony 100,” is expected to last a year. Plans are to build a two-story, 41,000 square-foot building with nearly a dozen storefronts, which will be completed by individual property owners, The Hutchinson News reported.

The project is being funded by a special 2 percent sales tax levied on the downtown area since 2011 and by individual property owners, who will receive low-interest loans to finish the spaces.

The design will retain much of the historic look of the downtown but “be new and fresh,” said developer Jeff Jones of Wichita-based Tru-Building Inc., which designed the project with SPT Architecture.

While developers have talked to several potential tenants, only one owner has committed to opening a retail space, Jones said.

It took nearly a year to get funding to clear the lots, with the process slowed by legal technicalities and disagreements on how to proceed. Jones became involved in the effort about 18 months ago, when he was in Anthony working on other projects.

“There was so much turmoil on how things were going to have to happen; just a lot of different beliefs and opinions on how it should be done,” Jones said. “I came in with a fresh perspective. I met with the property owners and tried to come to solutions that would meet their needs.”

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